Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Electricity workers under the umbrella of Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) have described the privatisation of the power sector by the federal government as a big mistake.
President General, SSAEAC, Chris Okonkwo, stated this at the weekend when he spoke with journalists at the inauguration of their secretariat building in Benin City, Edo State, describing the buyers as portfolio investors who lacked the financial capacity and the technical know how to manage the sector.
Okonkwo who also accused the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) of fraud against Nigerians, further described privatisation of DISCOS as trial of policy, stressing that government never got to the right point to have done it.
He stated that the fall out of not doing it well was what Nigerians are experiencing today in terms of poor power supply.
His words: “What we are saying is that things were not done and if they were done, they were not done rightly. If something is not done well, you expect some fall outs.
“One of the fall outs is the challenges in the sector we are talking about. Privatisation was a mistake. A big mistake, because government did not get to the right point to do it. Even if they were to do it, they did not do it well.
“This is what exactly SSAEAC has been preaching about or putting in the ear of the government and they are hearing but not taking the actions expected so far.
“What is privatisation,? It is about getting the best economically in terms of getting finance and technical know-how. This was not what happened.
“What happened was that portfoli-carrying investors went abroad and hired people to present to the BPE and NACAS co-investors, but after the privatisation, they took their portfolios and went back. We were left with fellow Nigerians without background in the sector as owners of the sector. That is the problem”.
Okonkwo who said the SSAEAC had advocated Public Private Partnership, noted that what was needed was to encourage the private sector to compete with the public that already existed to make the sector more efficient.
Noting that public private partnership still remained the best option for the sector, Okonkwo also made a call for effective regulation of the sector.
According to him, “Government cannot just remove it’s hands from the sector or any other sector and say, private sector should run it. You are selling off the citizens. And as labour, we are against this totally.”
When asked if he subscribes to the reversal of the policy, he said, “Our position is that government should go back and review and revoke the clause of the contract against those that have not done well. So we are not asking for reversal.
“Follow the rules of the contract and implement it the way it was signed, for better performance because, this is about three years plus. Check it out and see if they have done as stated. If not, let other suitable companies come in, as it will signal to others that they cannot hold Nigerians to ransom.”
He also said DISCOS should stop attribute their inefficiency on the Generation Companies (GENCOs), and other factors they have put before Nigerians as their challenges, adding that those excuses are not tenable, as they should have factored all these into their investment plan.
“As business people, they should solve problems. Their worst problem is that their efficiency is at the lowest point. They collect money for generation and transmission and they don’t remit the money. They don’t even collect enough.
“So, they are crying and holding down the whole sector because of non performance of revenue collection. Transmission is getting less than 30 per cent of what is due for transporting energy from generation to distribution.
“The problem of this is that transmission cannot even have enough to run and maintain its equipment. So, I don’t think GENCOs is their problem. I will consider that as an after thought,” he said. Speaking on the issue of 60 and 40 per cent for the DISCOs and government respectively, Okonkwo said, “60 per cent was what they bought as core investors, while government retained the other 40 per cent for Nigerians.
“But as it is today, nobody in government is enforcing the 40 per cent. They are operating with no government presence in the whole of what they are doing. So you can see how they have hijacked our common wealth.
“You are supposed to be managing 60 per cent and you are not managing 100 per cent, and nobody is asking you how you have been managing that, and you are complaining about generation.
“By the way, generation is dropping because of other factors like gas supply, so called vandalisation, sis it start today? It is an age long problems, and nobody that comes in today to say that things just started yesterday. They knew all this and should have factored it into their investment plan.