Free electricity supply: Beneficiaries to be identified

April 17, 2020
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Concerning free electricity supply, the House of Representatives and stakeholders in the power sector, on Thursday, unanimously resolved to set up a joint implementation committee on the proposed two-month free power supply to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians, as part of the stimulus package aimed at alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was reached during a meeting held at the instance of the House leadership with the Minister of Power, Mr Mamman Saleh; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), James Momoh; Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Mrs Marilyn Amobi, as well as representatives of Distribution Companies (DisCos), who underscored the need to identify who will bear the burden of cost of electricity for the period.

In his remarks, Speaker, House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, said the panel’s mandate was to work out modalities for the proposed two-month bill waiver for the most vulnerable people in the country.

He said the panel is also expected to identify the group of Nigerians to benefit from the free power supply, the number of households connected to the national grid, as well as find the way forward for regular power supply to Nigerians after the COVID-19 crisis.

Gbajabiamila said the essence of the meeting was to proffer means of alleviating the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians during and after the crisis period through the supply of power.

He said: “We are here to find out how we go about it. I’m happy that in my previous engagements with the NNPC GMD, he was very interested.

“Whatever the issues are within the power supply chain, they have to be dealt with and set aside, but how we deal with the issue at stake is why we are here today.

“This is not about technicalities or blaming any part of the power supply value chain; it is just about how we find a solution.

“The objective is very simple: we are asking people to stay at home for several days or weeks, so we need to make their stay at home comfortable. We need to help the poorest of the poor at this time in Nigeria.

“So, the mandate is very simple with all the stakeholders here. I believe that the best stimulus that we can give our people right now is the supply of electricity to the very vulnerable households.

“Even if we agree that this proposal as an investment scheme according to the power sector stakeholders, I think we need to keep our eyes on the ball. What is that ball? Get to the end-user, who is the beneficiary of that investment scheme.

“I wouldn’t want to look at it as the DisCos or GenCos or even the Transmission Company as the beneficiaries. For me, the ultimate beneficiary is the Nigerian people.”

Gbajabiamila expressed his disappointment over the failure of NERC to ensure the establishment of the Power Consumer Assistance Fund as provided in the Act.

He said the Fund would have served the purpose it was meant for, if it were in existence at this time. After being informed that the fund had not been set up, Gbajabiamila, citing Section 83 of the Electricity Power Sector Act, said: “We have broken the law because the law mandated it; it is not optional. It is the Act that mandated its establishment.”

In his remarks, Saleh said the executive arm was ready to contribute its part to the success of the proposal, saying: “We will give all the support as well as technical advice towards the realisation of this objective. We are ready whenever our input is needed.”

Kyari, who observed that the issue of gas supply to the GenCos is critical to power supply in the country, said the proposal is workable if the issue of who is to carry the burden of cost and margins in the supply value chain is settled and agreed on by all the parties.

He said note had to be taken of the actual beneficiaries of the two-month free supply palliative, because not every Nigerian falls into the category of the poorest, adding that the existence of the industrial sector should be of concern at the end of the crisis period.

The NNPC boss said though 100 per cent uninterrupted power supply is impossible because not enough power is generated due to the COVID-19 crisis, he assured that gas supply would not be an issue, as 100 per cent supply is guaranteed once the debt issue is addressed.

Also at the meeting were the Leader of the House, Honourable Ado Doguwa; Chief Whip, Honourable Mohammed Tahir Monguno; Deputy Leader, Honourable Peter Akpatason; Deputy Chief Whip, Honourable Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Minority Leader, Honourable Ndudi Elumelu and the Chairman, House Committee on Power, Honourable Magaji Aliyu, among others.

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