(By Joe Effiong)
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has warned electricity distribution companies (DisCos) in the country to stop pressuring the federal government over outstanding debts allegedly owed them by its ministries, departments and agencies (MDA), indicating that the debts would only be paid upon proper verification.
Fashola also advised the DisCos to pursue the debt issue in their capacities as Distribution Companies and not under the aegis of any association since the privatization exercise that led to the transfer of the power distribution assets was not held between the federal government and any association but 11 individual companies.
The Minister, who said this at the opening session of the 10th Monthly Meeting with Power Sector Operators in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, expressed his disappointment that the companies had placed advertorials under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distribution Companies, which failed to tell Nigerians the whole truth about the debts, pointing out that the DisCos had so far failed to provide details of such debts for verification.
Describing the advertorials (titled “MDA debts not yet paid” with other sidelines such as “MDA pay your debts so that we can serve Nigerians better”) as a blackmail against the federal government, Fashola declared, “Let me say without any equivocation that government will not succumb to this blackmail, at least not the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“I think that advert should have told the Nigerian public that at our meeting in Sokoto, we provided an online platform where we asked all the DisCos to submit details of their debts to that platform so that we can verify it. I think that advert should have told Nigerians how many DisCos have complied with that instruction. That advert should also have told Nigerians how much was owed and to which DisCo.”
Noting that government would not succumb to blackmail, Fashola again declared, “It is important to remind Nigerians that the privatisation exercise did not vest the DisCos in an association instead it was vested in 11 individual companies”.
“So while I respect the rights of association, indeed our Constitution allows freedom of association, the Nigeria government will not pay its debts estimated to be about N100 billion under the aegis of an association. That is not how to resolve debts. Every DisCo knows how much power it supplied. Debts are not calculated by estimates. It is either N100 billion or less than N100 billion, but not an estimate,” he said.