Anionwo: Enugu power distribution’s turnaround commitment
BACK when the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) was dominated by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), which operated as one entity responsible for generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Nigeria, the quality of service received by electricity customers across the nation was considered unsatisfactory. Investment in power infrastructure was minimal, as was customer service.
Ultimately, the Federal Government commenced a process of unbundling and privatizing most of the power industry. This process included separating PHCN into 17 successor companies; five generation companies, 11 distribution companies, and one transmission company; then awarded control of all generation and distribution companies to core investors who were assessed and determined to have demonstrated the best capacity to improve the performance of the sector.
In a landmark moment, the FGN handed over the privatized companies to the winning bidders on November 1, 2013 and it became easier for electricity consumers in Nigeria to hold someone accountable for the quality of service they received in their homes, businesses and communities. The electricity distribution companies instantly became the face of the NESI for all consumers and, by default, the entity responsible for the shortcomings of the entire industry.
If the gas suppliers to the generation companies fail to supply enough gas to generate sufficient electricity for the nation and some consumers have to go without electricity supply, the distribution company is held accountable. If the electricity generation capacity in Nigeria is inadequate to generate enough electricity for all consumers and some consumers have to go without electricity supply, the distribution company is held accountable. If the transmission company is unable to deliver all the electricity required into a licence area and some consumers have to go without power, the distribution company is held accountable. If a vandal steals equipment from the distribution company’s network and this leads to loss of electricity supply to its customers, the distribution company is held accountable. If the distribution company is unable to convert its distribution network, which has suffered from bad maintenance, poor design and corruption for decades, into a world class distribution network – with enough meters and transformers – within 18 months, the distribution company is held accountable. If the regulator approves an increase to the prevailing electricity tariffs, the distribution company is held accountable, even if the tariff increase will go to cover costs incurred by gas suppliers, generation companies, transmission company and the regulator.
Enugu Electricity Distribution Plc (EEDC), the distribution company with a licensce area that covers Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo State, was handed over to Interstate Electrics Limited on November 1, 2013. IEL’s bid was selected as the winning bid for EEDC because it presented the best turnaround plan and loss reduction commitment in accordance with the established terms of reference based on the assessment of the responsible agencies and constituted authorities. IEL promptly reinforced the management of EEDC and immediately embarked on its turnaround plan to address all the issues that it is being held accountable for. Under IEL’s ownership and the new management team, EEDC has made significant improvement in the electricity distribution network and business for the benefit of all customers in the Southeast. It has dramatically improved the quality of staff, implemented a rigorous training programme, and enforced its #1 policy of integrity strictly. As a result, performance is now being measured closely and continuously improved. Outages are less frequent and fault clearance is attended to more quickly. Over 400 new transformers have been installed. Procurement practices are all competitively bid with awards only going to qualified companies who win on the basis of price and quality. The company is in the final stages of planning a comprehensive meter deployment that will give all its customers reliable prepaid meters, with most of them having two-way communications capability.
It is unfortunate that a losing bidder in the EEDC privatization transaction has refused to accept its fate but has resorted to court action to challenge the new management’s efforts. This same bidder also lost the bid for another Generation Company for reasons bordering on conflict of interest and has remained obsessed with its loss of EEDC. This obsession drives its propaganda and media attacks aimed at stopping the objectives of the new management. While this matter is being addressed in the court of law, certain critics have also commenced unfair public harassment over IEL’s ownership and acquisition of EEDC without regard to the improvements the new management have made in the performance of the company and its demonstrated ability to improve the company.
Nevertheless, EEDC needs to continue to assure its customers that as it moves further in the implementation of its turnaround plan, under the supervision of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, they will enjoy improved service and more reliable electricity supply in their homes, businesses and communities.
• Anionwo is Head of Communication, EEDC, Enugu.