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DISCOs adventures, consumers’ agony and Osinbajo’s strategy

By Matthew Ozah
21 August 2019   |   3:39 am
There has not been a good performance indicator on the DISCOs operations across the country since they scrambled for the partition of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

Electricity bill. PHOTO: Technology on Board

There has not been a good performance indicator on the DISCOs operations across the country since they scrambled for the partition of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The difficulties in accomplishing their task suggest that the DISCOs may be facing some hurdles hence the low performance that has characterised their sojourn. Perhaps, it could be that the DISCOs were blinded with profits from the venture than thinking of facing challenges or they are simply being rewarded for shoddy preparations.

At the moment, the heaven is preparing to dry its tears and the window of the scary and oppressive heat from the harmattan haze is jarring up to afflict Nigerians in the coming months just as the rain is doing currently.

A distress situation one may say due to the extraordinary heatwave that comes with it and especially so with the global anxiety from climate change. But, sad as it may be, the succour that would have come from 24 hours electricity supply has been defeated by the inefficiency of the GENCOs and DISCOs involved in electricity generation and distribution across the country.

Without any iota of doubt, electricity is in many ways a nation’s key roadmap to development. Therefore, at birth, GENCOs and DISCOs were seen as a rescue alternative for Nigerians from the perpetual darkness and inefficiency that was associated with PHCN, a government-run institution which usually allows the people to suffer unbearable electricity blackouts daily.

But, ever since the DISCOs came on board, their performance has been absolutely slight all over the country and Nigerians have continued to agonizingly live in the darkness just like in the days of PHCN. Despite the primary purpose of electricity as a window of development in any country, such an opportunity continues to slip from Nigerians due to poor leadership at all levels.

Understandably, governments past and present have done a good job to provide electricity by devoting a huge amount of money into the power sector. However, the burden becomes a double-edged sword on Nigerians whose taxes go down the drain on ‘white elephant projects’ and government explains it away with flimsy reasons.

On several occasions, the masses ask questions about misappropriation of public funds with no genuine response from the corridors of power and ignorantly the people move on hoping for a better future. There have been reports of an allegation of billions of naira on electricity projects. Such misappropriation of public funds leads to anxious speculations among citizens. However, the hint that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) desires to probe an alleged $16 billion failed power projects under Obasanjo’s administration is a storm in a teacup, as that won’t produce electricity.

Each time there is a lack of accountability in government, the air is usually thick with anger whenever Nigerians discuss the politics of embezzlement as it relates to electricity or any other sector. The masses suffer continued exploitation by the DISCOs over the monthly ‘crazy electricity bills’ as payments for darkness. This is sad. The other day, women from Unguwan Doma community in Kaduna state protested against the continued hardship the community has been going through in the hands of KEDCO.

According to the leader, Mrs. Jemimah James “They (KEDCO) bring electricity between noon and 4:00 pm, a time they know the majority of us are not at home. They will not bring it back till around 11:00 pm or midnight when we are already sleeping. What type of action is this?…we are still paying for the electricity we did not consume. We can’t make this again, enough is enough”.

In reality, Nigeria’s troubles with electricity supply reflect in the state of development across the country. Investors’ tales of woes are equally very pathetic as a majority of them complain that their businesses are failing as they rely mainly on petrol or diesel to run their generators. Those who can no longer cope fold up their businesses or move out of the country to neighbouring Ghana where electricity has been stable for about two decades.

It is indeed paradoxical that a popular prejudice says that government-owned institutions are not well administered. Therefore, the government must privatise and put such public institutions in the hands of the private sector. But, with the unfolding poor performance in the case of the GENCOs and DISCOs, such action becomes complicated as it has revealed in the last few years how electricity supply has nose-dived drastically under the management of the private sector.

To some schools of thought, this is a circle of racket that the government cannot completely wash its hands-off. Notwithstanding the above, the ruling government speaking through the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo while inaugurating the 2x60MVA, 132/33KV substation and associated 132KV transmission lines constructed by Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) in Abeokuta said: “The distribution capacity of the 11 DISCOs are significantly low, hovering at around 4,000 megawatts with a peak of about 5,400MW…it is evident that despite all the efforts that have been put into trying to expand the grid, the structure of the market today cannot deliver on the government’s promises to provide power for domestic and industrial use. A substantial change of strategy is necessary…”

No doubt, the DISCOs themselves have braced up and started applying their own operational strategy. The DISCOs have their ears on the ground and once a very important personality visits a particular neighbourhood, they unleash a 24-hour electricity supply in the entire area until the personality leaves. That was the predicament Daura community is facing and while hosting the community leaders of the five Local government areas that are under Daura during the just concluded Eid El-Kabir celebrations, one of the leaders, Mohammed Saleh informed President Muhammadu Buhari that “Anytime he is around, we enjoy 24 hours power supply. But, if he is not around, the power supply is not always stable”.

The shabby performance of the DISCOs is further complicating the issue of electricity in the country. It is even more complex and hard to understand where to begin the change of strategy that Osinbajo talked about. Does he really mean it? The government must ensure that the electricity issue is taken seriously to raise the pressure on the DISCOs to work harder and be more efficient. Without mincing words, when it comes to the treatment of Nigerians as it concerns the provision of adequate electricity supply, the people will not hesitate to refer the leaders of this country, both past and present as evil. It is relevant to note that the other component-the transmission company is solely in the hand of the federal government. Doubtless, the DISCOs to are pointing at its inefficiency to explain theirs. People do not need the lamentation of GENCOs, DISCOs and TCN, they need electricity.