The Misconception of the Role of Discos


Ibrahim Aliu

In Kenya recently there was a blackout across the nation for four hours and people wondered what had happened , but not for long . The power generating company KenGen issued a statement that a monkey had accidentally tripped an equipment in an hydro power plant which triggered the nationwide black out . The genco said that the monkey survived the ordeal and that Kenya had lost 183 MW during the blackout and the company apologized to consumers and promised to secure its facilities from such future power hazards that can cause unexpected blackouts .

As a Nigerian and an African, I can’t help admiring the way that the power company had handled the explanation of a four hour blackout so quickly and so efficiently. Of course, most Nigerians will argue that the situation of power supply in Kenya is not comparable with that of Nigeria because power supply in Nigeria is erratic and we have more blackouts on a regular basis than regular and continuous supply as in Kenya where people are bothered by a 4- hour blackout .

I will without wasting time agree with them on that score This is because the Kenyan power company has been allowed to do its public relations without any pressure and without any monkey tricks or interruption from any quarters on the source of power failure even though a monkey has been responsible .

In Nigeria however the way blackouts are explained is completely different. The regular culprit in the public mind are the DISCOS which are the distribution companies that deliver electricity to our homes and companies and bring in the electricity bills for consumers to pay. This has been reinforced by the hostile attitude of the trade unions in the power sector in the way they mobilized consumers against the DISCOS when tariffs for electricity approved for them by the regulator of electricity in Nigeria , the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, were announced early this year. The unions went all the way to instigate even the Senate to stop the tariffs increase and NERC went to court to accuse the Senate of usurping its legitimate function as the regulator of electricity in Nigeria.

The unions did not stop there, they asked workers to go on strike on the new electricity tariffs as if they are the same thing with the fuel price increase to N145 on which they called out workers on strike abortively recently.

This is despite the well-known fact to Nigerians and the union leaders that DISCOS don’t generate or transmit electricity but only deliver to consumers as and when power is available and bill such consumers for electricity supplied and utilized . Stakeholders in the Nigerian electricity industry include the Nigerian Electricity Bulk Trading Company, GENCOS, DISCOS and transmission companies. How come then that the Nigerian union leaders are always pointing accusing fingers at the DISCOS whenever there is a power failure? As the Kenyan example has shown it was a GENCO that explained what happened. It was not a DISCO. In Nigeria, it is a well-known fact that pipeline vandalisation nationwide has drastically reduced the generation and transmission of electricity not to talk of distribution of electricity which is the responsibility of the DISCOS. But then can the DISCOS distribute what they don’t have? Definitely not. Similarly, the GENCOS cannot generate when they don’t have the basic ingredients to generate power when sources of such generation have been rendered unproductive or inactive by vandals.

In Kenya, the GENCO, KenGen, was lucky that it was a monkey up to its tricks that cut power for 4 hours only. In Nigeria, it is an army of vandals that are stalling electricity production on a daily and consistent basis and they have even metamorphosed into a virile terrorist group called the Avengers of the Niger Delta who are daring and taxing the federal might of the state of Nigeria .

That really is the core of the matter and that is what the unions should focus on as the cause of irregular electricity supply and not the DISCOS which are at the receiving end of the poor electricity supply chain and should not be blamed by the unions like the Kenyan monkey for what is not their fault. That is a monkey trick that the unions have used so far and that should just stop immediately to enable Nigerians enjoy a much deserved right to regular electricity generation and distribution as quickly as possible .

-Aliu, an analysts, writes from Kano