Power outage stops Senate power probe

THE second day of the ongoing Senate probe into alleged corruption in the power sector was on Wednesday disrupted by power outages that happened from time to time.

There were power cuts two times within the space of six minutes between 2.20pm and 2.26pm. A third outage occurred at 3.12pm.

At a point, the chairman of the Senate committee handling the probe, Senator Abubakar Kyari, asked the chief executives of the power generating and distribution firms present at the venue, “Are you tired? Are you guys calling your people to do this?”

Moments after Kyari spoke, two subsequent power outages occurred at 3:26pm and 3:31pm.

The probe panel members were forced to receive presentations using lights from media cameras and rechargeable lamps.

A committee member, asked the DG of the Beureu of Public Enterprises, Benjamin Ezra Dikki  to “tell Nigerians how much Nigeria’s power plants were sold because during Tuesday’s hearing, the committee was told $USD 8.23bn was what was spent on these plants prior to the privatisation.’’

In response, the Director-General told the committee he needed time to present the figures as to how much it cost to privatise the power plants.

He said he could not give the figures at the sitting because he did not know how much it cost to build the plants.

“I will make available the documents later,” the BPE DG answered.

Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali, had denied speculations that the Federal Government was planning a wholesale privatization of the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

He said, “I want to correct an impression, government has no plan to privatise TCN; what we are doing is to work out an arrangement so that the market will pay for services.”

Representatives of the various generation and distribution companies, who made submissions at the hearing, complained about the difficult business environment in the country.

They said that they had been running at a loss because they were not allowed to charge tariffs that would help them recoup part of their investments in the sector.

Making a submission on behalf of the distribution companies, the Managing Director of Enugu Distribution Company, Mr. Robert Dickerman, said he and his colleagues had been running at a deficit of “N20bn per month” because over 50 percent of electricity consumers had no have meters while about 30 per cent were not even on the billing system of the service providers.

“We are also aware that some of our staff collect N5, 000 from consumers who are stealing power to write off some bills, we are working to stop all that,” Dickerman said.

He also expressed regret  that the N100bn subsidy injection promised by the Federal Government had not been provided.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ibadan Electricity Generating Company, Mr. Adeoye Fagbembi, who made a presentation on behalf of the six GENCOs present at the hearing, also complained the huge losses he said they had been recording.

However, the BPE DG said the Central Bank of Nigeria had paid N5bn out of the N100bn promised by the government.

He agreed that the operators had been running at a loss.

According to him, between 40 to 60 percent of power generated is lost to transmission because of dilapidated infrastructure and obsolete equipment.

Dikki explained that government had envisaged the losses to be incurred at the initial stages, and that’s why  it was included in the performance agreement reached with the investors.

In his presentation, the Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Sam Amadi, denied allegations that the TCN would soon be completely privatised by the government.

He said government had no such plan because of the sensitivity of that particular component of the sector.

At the end of the day’s session, the chairman of the Senate panel told reporters that the committee would investigate the immediate and remote causes of the power outages, which disrupted the day’s session.

“The power outages experienced here today further underscores the relevance of this committee at this critical time but we shall investigate whether they are deliberate or not,” Kyari said.

He added that proper public hearing proper on the sector would hold in due course

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