Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate has told the Federal Government to suspend the planned electricity tariff increase scheduled to take effect from July 1, bearing in mind the increased hardship resulting from COVID-19.
It also charged its standing Committee on Power to investigate the trillions of naira spent by the Federal Government in the power sector since its privatisation in 2013.
The Red Chamber took the decisions at plenary, yesterday, demanding that the privatisation of the power sector be revisited citing investors lack of capacity to make the requisite investments to grow the sector.
The position of the Senate followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Gabriel Suswam, chairman of the Senate Committee on Power.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan who presided over the plenary said: “We gave power to them and they still come to the public to ask for funds. I think its time for Nigeria to consider reversing the privatisation of the power sector or they should just cancel the entire privatisation process completely. If we leave it, we may not have power for another 10 years. We expected efficiency and something better. DISCOS have no capacity to supply us power. We shouldn’t continue to give them money. “They are private businesses. We need to review this whole thing. Something is wrong. Our committee needs to investigate the trillions of naira spent. That is a lot of money. Try and find out what has happened so far. Government needs to look at this whole thing. Maybe government is not doing its own part. We need to find out. There is lack of capital. We feel very bad. There is no electricity and the country is suffering.”
The senate also asked its Committee on Power to investigate all market participants in the power value chain and ascertain the level of corporate governance compliance in the Nigerian Electricity Industry (NESI) and report back within four weeks. It also urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow operators in the power sector access to foreign exchange for procurement of equipment and materials like what obtains in the aviation and oil industry.
It equally urged the Federal Government to consider additional tariff support to cushion the effect of rate shock over a fixed period to allow time required for power companies to access funds and implement performance improvement investments that will support increased tariffs to certain classes of customers, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.
The upper chamber also urged the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Finance, to include the Nigerian Electric Power Sector in the disbursement of the proposed N500 billion COVlD-19 Crisis Intervention Fund to ameliorate the financial hazards and operational challenges such as the enumeration of metering of actual consumers and recent problem arising from the pandemic.