Tariff reversal: Nationwide blackout looms, power firms warn

Tariff reversal: Nationwide blackout looms, power firms warn

Acting Chief Executive Officer/Head of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Anthony Akah
Acting Chief Executive Officer/Head of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Anthony Akah
Acting Chief Executive Officer/Head of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Anthony Akah

Tariff reversal: Nationwide blackout looms, power firms warn

The country may be thrown into a blackout in the near future if the advice by the Senate to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to reverse the new electricity tariffs is heeded, power distribution companies have said.

This is coming as NERC stated that it had not received any official communication from the National Assembly on the advice to stop the implementation of the revised tariffs.

The Senate had on Tuesday advised the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, NERC and the electricity distribution companies not to go ahead with the about 45 per cent increase in tariffs, but should revert to the former rates.

But the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors stated that the Senate intervention was capable of crumbling the power industry, arguing that the country risked future blackouts if it was forced to go back to the old tariff regime.

The Executive Director, ANED, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, told our correspondent that the Senate’s sentiment was not just against the electricity distribution firms, but the entire power sector.

He said, “There is a value chain in this business and the tariff is not just for the Discos. This increment in tariff is for the generation companies and the gas suppliers. The gas suppliers are not part of the power sector, but they will not supply gas to our power stations if we don’t pay them.

“So, we’ve been talking about appropriate pricing of this product, and now somebody is playing politics with electricity. It is unacceptable and this has a lot of consequences. The first major consequence is darkness. If there’s no way we can sustain the industry, it will collapse. And now, the generator mafias will be happy because their expensive trade will thrive.

“As it is now, I don’t know who the Senate is working for. If they are working for the Nigerian people, they will not be coming up with things that will have adverse consequences on Nigerians. We are not rich; we are not making profits; we are not smiling to the banks. We view their position with a very strong sense of pity for Nigerians who will bear the consequence.”

Oduntan said the Senate itself was highly indebted to the power firms and did not talk about clearing its debt to the companies before saying that tariffs should not be increased.

He added, “People talk of the Discos, but the power sector consists of generation, transmission and distribution companies. We are just the collection agency and I’m shocked that the Senate is not even referring to the debt owed the Discos.

“Many of them don’t pay their electricity bills. But all they are saying now is that we should go back to the dark ages of PHCN/NEPA and that is what will happen if they insist.”

On the way forward, Oduntan said the power firms were willing to engage the lawmakers, as he stressed that operators in the sector were to meet with the Senate on Monday.

“We are more than willing to educate them on this issue. But we are surprised, shocked and disappointed that even some of those that you have met and showed the figures still go back to their hallowed chamber and then talk as if they are in another country,” he noted.

Senior officials of NERC told our correspondent that the agency had yet to receive any formal communication from the Senate on the reversal to the former tariffs.

While the acting Chief Executive Officer/Head, NERC, Dr. Anthony Akah, stated that the commission heard the news from the media, another top official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said, “I can confirm to you that neither the CEO nor the commission have received any official communication on that issue from the Senate.”