Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Nigeria has made some significant progress in its attempt to recover millions of dollars owed its electricity industry by two of her West African neighbours-Benin and Niger Republics- for electricity supplied to them, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed.
Fashola, stated yesterday at the 21st edition of the monthly power sector operators in Asaba, Delta State that the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc. (NBET) has recovered $64.6 million out of about $115.91 million owed operators in the countryâ€™s power market by both countries.
He noted that disbursements of the recovered funds to beneficiaries by the NBET would shortly commence, and that eligible beneficiaries would get paid their monies in this regards.
â€œTo those of you businessmen, I have good news for you. We have recovered payments from power that we sold to Benin and Niger Republics, people wonder why we sell power to them but it is a product of treaties and agreements and they also help our own economy.
â€œSo, we have a total of $64.630,055.00 million, that had been recovered, and NBET will work out the modalities for its distribution and hopefully by next month you should be able to report that you have received alert,â€ Fashola said in his opening remarks at the meeting.
The recovery of parts of the electricity debt owed by both countries followed a meeting with the CommunautÃ© Ã‰lectrique du BÃ©nin (CEB), an international electricity firm co-owned by the governments of BÃ©nin and Togo, and NIGELEC of Niger Republic, in which Nigeria requested them to pay up their outstanding debts to her electricity market.
Also, in that meeting, the federal government stated that it wanted CEB and NIGELEC to settle the outstanding bills to enable the electricity companies maintain their supply obligation to them
Similarly, NBET in August disclosed in this regards that during the international customers owed Nigeria about $115.91 million, with the CEB of Benin Republic reportedly owing $101.46 million while NIGELEC of Niger Republic owed $14.45 million. Under an international treaty, Nigeria supplies power to the two countries through the NBET and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
Similarly, Fashola, in his report of progress, said the sector has made since he took over as minister, claimed that critics of the government were finding it difficult to accept the level of progress the sector has recorded so far.
The minister claimed that a lot of power projects have been completed and inaugurated by the government to boost electricity supply across the country, adding that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) which used to be termed the weakest link in the sector has also upgraded its capacity and would continue to do that with lots of projects lined up for completion.
According to him, â€œToday, not even your worst critics can deny that his experience is improving, even if he may be reluctant to acknowledge it, which is his prerogative.
â€œOur work is not driven by a quest for acknowledgment, it is driven by our belief in our own collective abilities to change what we do not accept. We remind ourselves that we are not immune from what we do, if we make it work as we intend to do, it will also serve us. â€œWe thank well-meaning Nigerians who are gracious to acknowledge that their experience has improved and who ask us to do more. Your honesty inspires us to continue.
â€œThe progress we have made this year is as a result of the hard work that all of us here have put in, it is also due to the fact that we have had peace in the oil and gas producing areas of the country, and that has led to improvements in gas supplies and essentially more output from the gas power stations. It also means that for the first time in a long time, the gas and hydro stations combined together, it has not happened in a long time, but this time, we had a fair balance.
â€œBut the rains are going, and this is the time to prove our mettle to ensure that we maintain the peace in the Niger Delta and maintain our supplies of gas. I know that the capacity we have will be enough to pull us through to the next rainy season,â€ he added.