By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday met with the Minister of Power, Mr. Sale Mamman and the management of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission over a viral video by Nollywood actress, Ada Ameh.
Ameh had in the viral video protested the poor electricity supply to Nigerians during the ongoing lockdown in major parts of the country to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
With the Speaker at the meeting was the Minority Leader, Rep. Ndudi Elumelu; and Deputy Minority Whip, Rep. Adesegun Adekoya.
While NERC was represented by its Commissioner on Compliance, Dafe Akpeneye, those that joined the meeting via virtual connection were Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele; and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari.
In his opening remark, Gbajabiamila expressed dismay over the barrage of calls and messages from many Nigerians through his social media account, reacting to the protest video and called for prompt action.
“It has become imperative that I urgently call for this meeting to find a solution to the poor supply of electricity during this lockdown period. If we ask people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at least we have to make their homes comfortable for them to stay.
“The complaints have just been too much in the last 24 hours. There are people also in the hospital now without electricity; we need to brainstorm over an urgent solution,” he said
On his part, Minister of Power, Mamman, highlighted the challenges encountered by power generating compaies (GENCOs) and the possible intervention of the leadership of the House of Representatives.
“We are aware of the challenges faced by Nigerians, so we have started talking to GENCOs, because they have been complaining that Discos are not paying and only about 20% of their dues are remitted.
“So, the GENCOs are facing technical and revenue shortfall. Consequently, they can’t as well meet their financial obligations to gas companies. The Discos also pay less of their generated revenue to GENCOs, because they complain about power theft by consumers, high technical costs, etc.
“The sum of N130 billion is what the government gives GENCOs to augment the shortfall of payments not fulfilled by Discos. We still have about N1.2 trillion payment shortfall in all. I have been begging the gas suppliers to please, in the interest of Nigerians, release gas to the GENCOs. The shortfalls are accruals from the problem of estimated billing, non-payment of bills by estimated customers, etc.
“What the NASS can do is to plead with CBN to help with funds to enable the Federal Government to augment the revenue shortfall to enable government pay gas companies and thereafter bring all the critical stakeholders to a table,”, the power minister said.
In his contribution, the NERC Commissioner on Compliance, Mr. Akpaneye, assured the Speaker and the leadership of the House that the commission is committing the Discos to a new guideline that shows empathy with Nigerians during this COVID-19 lockdown.
“All NERC Commissioners are in the Situation Room in our office monitoring GENCOs and Discos activities. We know the demand for this power during this lockdown is for residential, since most industries are on lockdown, so we are going to release a new guideline and sanction electricity companies that can’t show empathy during this period.”
Also speaking, the GMD of NNPC, Kyari hinted that the problem with the Trans Vocados gas line was resolved Wednesday morning and gave assurance of supply of gas to enable GENCOs to generate power.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, in their various contributions, gave accounts of complications arising from the non-fulfilment of financial obligations by the electricity stakeholders but assured of interventions in the interest of Nigerians who are observing the lockdown order.
At the end of the meeting, all the critical stakeholders assured the Speaker and the leadership of the House of their commitment to ensuring power supply. They, however, agreed to reconvene in the next few days to find lasting solutions to the challenges in the sector beyond the lockdown period.