Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Abia suffers indefinite blackout

By Sulaimon Salau
23 April 2023   |   3:59 am
Some electricity consumers in Abia State have been thrown into unprecedented and indefinite darkness by the Market Operator, an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

[FILES] Electricity pylons<br />REUTERS/Neil Hall

Some electricity consumers in Abia State have been thrown into unprecedented and indefinite darkness by the Market Operator, an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
This development, according to stakeholders is a punitive measure against the country’s newest electricity distribution company, Aba Power Limited, over payment of statutory fees to Federal Government agencies.

The TCN, the country’s sole transmission firm, wrote a letter to Aba Power on April 19, 2023, with reference number TCN-MO-003-APL-049-VOL2-202, directing it to pay N869210.059.58 within 30 working days, but the same day the same company wrote a letter, with reference number TCN-MO-003-APL049-VOL-202,  to the Market Operator instructing it to disconnect Aba Power from the national grid from April 21, 2023.
“It is strange how the two letters emanating from the same source could contradict each other,” noted a former Executive Director of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) Engineer Ben Caven.
He said: “I want to assume that there is no sinister motive, but a situation where a letter was written on April 19, delivered the next day to an electricity distribution company and then cut off power supplies to the distribution company within a couple of hours the same day over a debt of N896m is unprecedented.

“I am distressed by the fact that the action took effect on a public holiday which began a long weekend.
“The persons who gave the directive could not respect the sensibilities of Muslims celebrating the Eid el Fitri, after 29 days of fasting.”
The Managing Director, Aba Power, Patrick Umeh, who was a commissioner with the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), denied that his company has been nonchalant towards the payment of fees to government agencies.
He said: “Despite the huge difficulties that confronted Nigerians between January and April as a result of petrol scarcity and the naira redesign which, in turn, affected customers’ ability to meet their obligations to us during this period, we were able to pay N50m to the Market Operator at the end of March.
“We also paid last month N500m to the Niger Delta Power Holding Company that sells electricity to us.” 

Aba Power became Nigeria’s 12th and newest electricity distribution company on February 16, 2022, when it paid $26m to the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) and Interstate Electrics to acquire the Aba Ring-fenced Area comprising nine out of the 17 local councils in Abia State, though full control of the area did not occur till six months later when it was allowed to collect revenue from customers.

For half a year, the company, according to Umeh, bared the brunt of paying for electricity and staff salaries alone without compensation to this day.
“Our monthly obligation to the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) came to almost N800m when we raised power supply to the ring fence from 25megawatts to 80MW”, said Umeh, who was also an executive with the Los Angeles Water and Power Corporation in the United States.
An energy consultant in Lagos who was a senior engineer with both the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the Texas Light and Power in the United States, Cliff Eneh, said that the punitive measure against Aba Power “is absolutely unfair because the authorities know that the new distribution company has spent millions of dollars to bring the dilapidated distribution infrastructure in the Aba Ringfence to world-class, thus making Aba, the capital of indigenous Nigeria’s indigenous technology, have new 1,500 kilometres of overhead wires, four brand new substations, and three refurbished ones”.
Eneh observed that the country’s other 11 distribution companies have not been switched off from the national grid despite repeated failures to meet their obligations to the TCN and the MO since they were established in November 2013.