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Group seeks reversal of power sector privatisation

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A non-governmental group, #Whereisthelight Movement, has called on the Federal Government to put an end to the power sector privatization agreement, noting that the exercise has failed to meet the nation’s power needs.

According to the National Coordinator of the Movement, Sina Odugbemi, since the power sector was privatized, the amount of energy distributed has remained almost the same, as operators in the value chain continue to show a lack of capacity to deliver value to consumers.

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Odugbemi at a press conference in Lagos noted that 60 years after independence, the situation has remained the same as the country still battles with 2,000 to 4000 megawatts (MW) of electricity for a population of over 200 million people, where about 46 per cent of Nigerians are not connected to the national grid.

“Electricity is a fundamental right of all Nigerians that must be fought for, protected and guarded jealously. We were told that privatisation will develop the power sectors and resolve the myriad of problems; more than seven years after privatization, the problems have increased.

“To make matters worse, the government has spent about N2 trillion bailing out the Gencos and the Discos since privatization, and has spent over $20 billion since 2005, and we are still in darkness. Hence, privatization of the power sector has failed woefully, and has made poor electricity supply become worse,” he said.

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Odugbemi also argued that the power companies who bought about 60 per cent ownership of the power sector both (generating and distribution) at a rock bottom price of about N500 billion for a sector that is worth over N6 trillion have failed to invest in the sector.

He maintained that they are only interested in stealing from consumers through unfair policies (outrageous estimated billing and high tariff).

He added that previous exploitative metering policies just like Meter Asset Providers regulation of 2018, failed because most Nigerians cannot afford the outrageous cost; saying that despite the government spending about N27 billion of taxpayers’ money, consumers were forced to buy meters for about N50,000 for single-phase, and about N90,000 for three-phase meters.

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“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just doled out another N18 billion to power companies as part of the Federal Government Mass Metering Programme. All these government’s interventions amount to fraudulently using public funds to bail out private power companies,” he said.

He said going forward the government must reverse the privatization policy to bring back the power sector under exclusive public ownership.

“Nigerians have witnessed both, that is, public and private ownership, service under the so-called private investors is worse. Considering the poor performance of successive bourgeois governments in Nigeria, we advocate the democratic control and management by workers and consumers in a more transparent manner.

“This is the only way looting of public funds, mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism and inefficiency can be put to check and sustain the growth and development of the power sector including guaranteeing uninterrupted and affordable electricity supply to all Nigerians,” he said.

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Accordingly, he canvassed the urgent need for the cancellation of all debts accumulated through previous outrageous and fraudulent billing, and a massive public investment in the power sector to guarantee uninterrupted power supply to all Nigerians, including those that are yet to be connected to the national grid.

In his words, “We demand the immediate release of all consumers being held in police stations and correctional centres, or being prosecuted on cases of avoidable clashes with Discos. Peaceful negotiation and resolution should be the way out. We demand a life insurance policy for TCN, Gencos and Discos’ workers that are regularly exposed to technical danger and mass anger in the course of performing their dangerous duty.

“We also demand a living wage to be paid to electricity workers and workers in general. Refund and compensation paid to all consumers that have been overbilled and underserved since this privatization fraud started.”

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