By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday disclosed that Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, as well as private companies and individuals are currently owing the Nigerian Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) about N98 billion.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Power, senator Gabriel Suswam (PDP, Benue), made this disclosure during the public hearing to probe the power sector privatisation and the fiscal challenges facing the sector.
According to him, the debt and lack of capacity to recover the debt were largely responsible for making the sector insolvent, adding that without the intervention by the government to keep the sector afloat, the energy sector will collapse.
According to him, “The problem is, the sector is insolvent. The Discos are unable to collect money, money from MDAs, owing N98 billion and individuals. There are a lot of issues and those issues must be aligned. And that is what we are trying to do in this public hearing.
“Once there’s money in the sector, the other potential investors will come in. The banks will be able to also put in more money, so that the sector will begin to run on its own.
“But where we are now, it will be unthinkable that government will stop providing the intervention. Once that stops, everything will collapse. We are spending huge amount of money paying for debt that is already owed.
“We must begin to focus on how to address the issue of infrastructural deficits in the power sector. Let us spend money on metering. Let us at least meter about 80% of those connected to the network and then be able to collect enough money to make the sector liquid.
The blame game among them has to stop. Once there is an alignment and proper coordination, that yes, if we generate 13,000 megawatts, and transmission is able to transmit at least 10,000 megawatts, and Discos are able to absorb the 10,000, and there is proper tariff, it makes the sector solvent.
“You would have discovered from what we have heard for the past three days that there is a serious misalignment in the power sector. The reason why, in spite of the huge expenditure, we have been unable to achieve anything because there is no proper coordination.
“We have listened to presentations from the government side and the operators and we have seen that there is no alignment anywhere and that is the problem”, he said.