COVID19: Taking A Toll On The Power Sector As NNPC, Rejects House Proposed Two Months Electricity Bill Waiver Palliative For The Poor And Vulnerable Nigerians

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By Stephen Ubanna

Given the peak power generation in the country as at January , 2020, of about 4,406.8 megawatts, Mamman  Sale, the minister of Power , was optimistic, that hopes of achieving a stable power supply in the country would be achieved.  

His optimism was based on the fact that  the Presidential Power Initiative , PPI, to modernise   the National Grid  launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, which culminated with the signing of a  working agreement  with Siemens, a multi-national  power Company has begun to yield result. The  Katsina born Nigerian President had phased the country power  generation based on the working arrangement  with the company  from 5 MW, 7MW to 11 MW by 2023.

Gbajabiamila: Seaker House Of Representatives

The President  had those that cares to listen that  the Nigerian Electricity  roadmap  was meant to solve  the existing challenges in the nation’s power sector and expand the power generation  as Siemens moves to implement  the aggreement. The outbreak of the Wuhan Town of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus, popular, Covid 19, named  after the year it became manifest and was  reported to the World Health Organisation, by the Chinese government, to take immediate  action appear to have taking  a toll on the power generation in the country in spite of the implementations of roadmap on electricity generations  for the country by Siemens as agreed with the government.

Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National  Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, may have been forced to speak out about the adverse effect of the health crisis on the power sector when he disclosed  that ’ not enough  power is generated  in the country now  because the outbreak  of the COVID 19’’ , when Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, proposed  a two-month free power supply  to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians as part of the stimulus package  aimed at alleviating their financial burden in this trying and difficult times.

As a prelude to implementing the proposed free power supply the House and Stakeholders were said to have agreed  to  set up  a joint implementation Committee  to work out the modalities  for the proposed  two-months electricity bill waiver for the poor and the vulnerable Nigerians. The Committee was said to have also been  given  a mandate to identify  the group of Nigerians to benefit from the facility and the number of households connected  to the national grid in order to find a way out of the current unstable power supply in the country.

Not that at a recent meeting with those involved with the country  power sector including the distribution Companies, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of House of Representatives had informed them  that  he had called the meeting to find a way  of handling   the House  two months proposal for a free two month power supply to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

James Momoh: Chairman/CEO NERC

 The big wigs at the all important meeting include   Sale, the minister of Pwer, James Momoh, Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC,  Marilyn Amobi,  Managing Director, Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading plc, NBET, and Representatives of the 11 Electricity  Distribution Companies operating in the 36 states of the Federation  and  Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

There may be a problem to the implementation to the House proposal for a  two-months  electricity  bill waiver for the poor and vulnerable Nigerians. This is because  Kyari , the GMD, of NNPC, was said to have made it clear to the Speaker and others at the meeting that it may not be possible grant such waiver for now because  of the  cost of supplying gas to the generation Companies to do their work.

The NNPC , boss,  had said  that the House proposal  could only work out   if the issue of who  bears the cost and margins in the supply chain of gas which is critical to the power sector could be settled  and agreed by all the parties once and for all.

The NNPC helms man position may have forced Gbajabiamila, the House Speaker to lash out at Momoh, the NERC,  CEO, over the failure of the Commission  to set up the Power Consumer  Assistance Fund, PCAF, noting that ’ if it had been set up as mandated by Law, the fund  would have served  the purpose  it was meant for’’ to defray the cost of  gas supply to the DISCOS, in order to give poor and vulnerable Nigerians the proposed two months free electricity supply.

This may have informed why the aggrieved House Speaker declared: I think  we  should look into setting up the fund because  we don’t know  when this problem will come up  again.  He stressed that setting up the fund was not optional on the part of the Commission. ‘’ it is the Act that mandated its establishment’’, he remarked. According to him, ‘’this is the kind of time the fund  was  anticipating  to help out in the country’’.

Sale, the minister of Power  may have gladdened the heart of the Class of Nigerians who are expected  to benefit from the House proposed two months electricity bill waiver when he said the executive  arm was ever ready  to contribute its part to the ‘success of the proposal’.  ‘’We will  give  all  the support as well as technical advice towards the realisation of the House proposal, he said.

Appealing to Nigerians  not worry about the delay in setting up  the PCAF by NERC,  to address the current challenges necessitated by COVID 19 disease, he disclosed that ‘’the executive arm government are ever ready to make its contribution whenever invited to do so’’. This is good news to Nigerians if the minister could keep to his words.

Indeed, this should encourage the NERC, Authorities to hasten  efforts  to start  preliminary discussions on how  to set up  the PCAF, without further delay to be able to meet its Constitutional responsibilities in terms of crisis of this magnitude in the country in the future.

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