Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Debt Management Office (DMO) has initiated a financial plan which it hopes to use in paying off huge debt owed to the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola has said.
Fashola disclosed recently in Abuja that the huge debt would be paid off before the end of this year, and that DMO had responded to a letter he wrote to it requesting for alternative means of settling the debt.
He said the DMO in its response proffered various options that could be adopted to see off the debt.
Fashola, however, did not disclose these options, but industry sources identified the options to include outright deduction of each agency’s electricity debt from source.
“MDA debts, we are in the process of winding down that debt, I have written to the Debt Management Office and I got a response from them just two days ago proposing options to wind down the debts.
“I think as government, we must live by example, if we ask people to pay for what they use, then we must pay as well and I am determined to ensure that we do that,” Fashola said.
The Discos had through their platform, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) said that government’s MDAs owed it huge debts for electricity they consumed but did not pay over the years.
ANED gave a breakdown of the debt profile in which the Nigerian Army was the single largest debtor to the Discos with N38.75 billion; the Nigerian Airforce followed in the inglorious list with N3.09 billion, Navy – 3.3 billion, Police – N4.66 billion, Customs – 528.78 million, Prisons – N895.6 million and Immigration – N47.8 million. The MDAs also owed the Discos N9.98 billion in unpaid electricity bills.
Fashola however said: “The ministry of defence through the minister is also acting in concert and it is something we hope that before the end of the year, we wind down.”
The minister also said as part of efforts to achieve the roadmap to incremental, steady and eventual uninterrupted power supply as well as address the current vulnerability of the country’s power system, the government plans to increase the store of gas in various parts of the country.
He said this will happen especially in the eastern region and western axis to ensure supply to gas-powered electricity generating plants across the country was not interrupted.
He noted the process was already going on in some parts of the country, adding that the idea was to ensure more regular supply of the commodity to the plants which supply over 70 per cent of the country’s electricity.
According to him, electricity supply across the country through the 23 out of the 26 gas power plants has been affected in recent time by sabotage from militants in the oil producing region of the Niger Delta.
He equally said the success of the plan was largely dependent on Nigerians who, according to him, “must take ownership of the pipelines and secure them as a collectively owned public utility.”
He expressed dismay at the on-going vandalism of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region, wondering why some citizens would engage themselves in destroying a public utility built for their use.
“I don’t know of any nation which has to protect gas pipelines built in people’s interest. Why should we not take it for granted that it is collectively owned,” he said.
“We must find another way to ventilate our anger. It doesn’t make sense to me that government or indeed somebody else must be paying somebody to look after a facility built in his interest,” he added.