Nigeria Big International Electricity Consumer Debtor Nations

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By Elizabeth Chukwuma

While Nigeria Electricity Consumers over the years enjoying unstable power supply, the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company, NBET, the market operator of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, at the instance  of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory  Commission, NERC, have been making bulk purchase to satisfythe neighbouring West African countries of  Niger, Benin Republic, and Togo. The Nigerian government may have given the nod to NIBET to export  electricity to these countries to prevent Benin and Togo, from daming their own part of the River Niger, where the country have the Kainji and Shiroro Dams for generating  electricity.  

The NERC and the NBET, may have adopted the trading approach as a way to generate foreign exchange but it has turned out to be a drain on the country’s resources.  Instead of the three West African countries classified as International Customers in the nation’s power sector to settle their bill as at when due, they have allowed the officials of NBET, to chase them around to recover the huge debt owed the country.

Informed NERC , sources told The Value News that between January , 2019, and now, officials of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity  Trading Company had made several attempts to get the Niger’s Power firm , Societe Nigerienne Electricity,  Communaute Electrique du Benin and and Compagnie Energie Electrique du Togo, CEET,  to pay the  over N97 billion owed Nigeria.   

Aliyu: Minister Of Power

Indeed, the latest report of the NBET, shows that’’ the Special and International Class of Customers  did not make any effort to service their debts’’ despite repeated  pressures being mounted on them from several quarters to do so in order to sustain Electricity supply . Past and present minister of Power,Abubakar Aliyu, were said to have taken up the matter with their Counterparts in these countries benefiting from the export  of electricity  to ensure timely settlement of their bills for the electricity purchased from Nigerian but that was how far they could go.

The debt owed Nigeria by the three West African countries may have become too embarrassing that the NERC, Authorities had to speak out, perhaps to draw the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, to take up the issue with Presidents, Patrice Talon of Benin Republic, Mohammed Bazoum of Niger and Faure EGnassingbe of Togo to facilitate the payment of the debt

.  The Katsina born Nigerian President may not be in a hurry to force the countries which economies  are in a sorry state  because of the adverse effects of the Asian country of China  emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, to settle their Electricity supply bills to avoid spoiling the  robust relationship that have been existing with the countries  over the years.

The aggrieved NERC, officials,  had said in its recently released second quarter  Report of 2021,  that Niger, Benin and Togo and some other Special Customers which were issued  a total of N770 million  by NBET, did not make any payment, let alone settling the first quarter outstanding payment that runs into billions of naira.

A NBET official who spoke to the Magazine, had said that that the three West African countries and other Special Customers also owed the country  a total of N29.97 for the Electricity supplied  them from January to September 2019, alone.  NBET, it was said to have  sent an invoice   to Nigerienne de’electricite to pay a total bill of  N3.01 billion in the first quarter of 2019,  N3.69 billion , in the second quarter  and N4.1 billion in the third quarter but the country had failed to make any payment but accumulating more debts.

Asimilar invoice were said to have also been sent to Commmunaute Electrique du Benin and the power firm in Togo to pay N9.74 billion  for power supplied in the first quarter of 2019, N16 billion in the second quarter and N27 billion in the third quarter.

 It was learnt that when the debt became too pronounced and NIBET threatened to stop further electricity export to the countries until the backlog of debts were cleared, Niger and Benin Republic, paid $5.27 million and $1.39 million in the first quarter of 2020, respectively, to defray part of their outstanding debt of N13.22 million on the invoice issued them for electricity supply from January to March  2020.  

Eweluwa: CEO, NBET

 Nnaemeka Ewelukwa, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, is optimistic that‘’ the outstanding Electricity bills owed the country by these member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, would be paid ‘’ when things begin to look up for the economies of these countries, as the COVID 19 had played a great  role  in the non-remittance of Funds  experienced by NBET’’.

As a prelude recovering the huge debt owed the country by the three West African countries and the other Special NBET Customers, the NERC, had set a’’ minimum remittance threshold, MRTs,  for the 11 Discos,  having adjusted  their Tariff shortfall’’.  The Commission had said that the 11 Discos need ‘’to improve on their performance as none of them were said to have met the minimum remittance threshold.

The Commission noted that whereas  that the  11 Distribution Companies,  were expected  to remit N130.66 billion  to NBET in line with the minimum remittance threshold order,  they merely remitted N91.31 billion  or 44.03% of the N207.43 billion invoice from NBET in the first quarter of 2021.   It stated that  in the second quarter of 2021,  a total invoice  of N259.70 billion  was issued to the 11 Discos,  for energy received  from NBET and for service charge by  IMO, but out of which  the sum of N130.11 billion was settled

.According to the NERC,  the liquidity challenge currently being faced by NBET,  was partly informed by ‘’the  non- implementation  of cost effective tariffs, high technical and Commercial losses exacerbated  by energy theft and consumers apathy  to payments under the widely  prevailing practice of estimated billing’’.

 The Commission noted that the situation was made worse  by ‘’the severity  of the liquidity challenge  in NESI, as reflected  in the settlement rates of energy invoices issued by NBET to  each of the Discos  as well as  the non-payment  by the Special  and International Customers’’.                                 

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