Power system on verge of collapse, says Ajaero
The General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, at a training programme to equip young unionists into leadership positions, raised issues about the sector. GLORIA NWAFOR was there.
Power system in crisis
As we talk today the system is in crisis. The power sector will collapse soon if government does not have the political will to take a decision on what is happening in the power sector. No country in the world has developed with a private sector driven power sector.
Corruption in the power sector
The corruption in the power sector is second to none. Obasanjo government spent about $16 billion on power. If Nigeria has no pole or wire, with $16 billion, at the then international global practice of $1 per 1,000MW, we would have had about 16,000MW now but it went down the drain. Between that time and now, it’s still going down the drain. Nothing is working.
The operators of the power sector of Nigeria have killed us and they cannot help us because of selfish interest. By the time they privatised electricity sector in Nigeria, they sold it to themselves. That is the worst crime anybody could commit. As at today, you can’t ask them, who is the owner of Ikeja Electric or who is the owner of Enugu Electric? You can’t ask them. They use pseudo names to purchase those companies and there were three basic concepts that will require for privatisation to take place. The investor coming must have the financial muscle and have the technical competence, which means the capacity and experience in power sector before and the person must have the capacity to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). First and foremost, you must have a foreign partner, from where dollar will flow in. But since they privatised almost nine years ago, no single dollar has entered to this sector. Then they gave them clean bill that these people are technically and financially okay that they are going to bring in FDIs. As at today, all these indices came to zero, nothing.
Banks taking over DisCos
What we are seeing now is that the banks are taking over the DisCos. The banks that they collected loans from, but we warned them then that you can’t take a loan from a Nigerian bank, because there is no investment. They didn’t fault us in all their debates but they went ahead and gave it to their friends. As we talk, over six DisCos have been taken over by banks; Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Benin, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna, why? Because they collected loans from banks and they couldn’t pay back, the banks now took over. We have written to concerned authorities and we have given them ultimatum, and if answers are not provided, we are going to shut down this country. These investors used the DisCos as collateral, because you must collect loan before you buy the DisCos. But they collected loans; maybe they didn’t give collateral, but used shares of the DisCos as collateral. The CBN must tell us whether they collected loan as collateral or you provide collateral before loan, because DisCos can’t be collateral to loan collected before they bought the DisCos. This is how they are deceiving themselves. As we talk now, they are still talking left and right.
Banks running the power sector
We are saying it repeatedly that the banks cannot run the power sector. The banks lack the technical competence to run the power sector. As we talk now, the banks have taken over the power sector and they are not welcomed. Nigerians are asking on daily basis, why is the power sector not working? They have turned the sector to payment and voucher transactions. The power sector will not work. Let all Nigerians know today that the banks are running the power sector that they are running a highly technical area of power generation and distribution that they should not expect power and the occurrence of system collapse will continue because there is nobody to fix it. When they privatised, the government said they are going to review after five years. At the end of five years, we have written them letters for review but they have refused.
Why Siemens is not performing
They went and brought Siemens and entered into billions of dollars contract with Siemens and we told them that Siemens will not perform. The contracts given to Siemens, they didn’t perform and they have not refunded the money. They went ahead and gave them contracts to reinforce the lines to have the capacity to transmit about 7,000MW, whereas, we have reinforced the line to transmit 10,000MW, free money to Siemens. We have stopped talking in this country, because nobody is in charge in the power sector and as nobody is in charge, the power sector will not grow and as far as the power sector is not growing, no sector of the economy will grow. There is nothing you can do without power. If the economy must grow, the power sector must grow.
We said NEPA is generating 4,000MW, you have deregulated the sector, let them go and generate their own of 4,000MW, we are going to have 8,000MW. They said NEPA is ineffective, we said yes. If they bring their effective, 4,000MW with our ineffective 4,000MW, Nigerians will enjoy. You know what they did, they split one company into 18 entities with four executive directors by 18 entities, five general managers by 18 entities and their salaries were doubled. So everything scattered. The same 18 companies they created, still 4,000MW.
For NEPA they said it was inefficient, they went and bought it. They shared it and didn’t build their power plant. All the people they licensed, none of them built power plant. What we see is government building power plants and handing it over to them. Government is now the conduit; none of them has the financial muscle to build a power station. They are living on government’s patronage.