Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Monady claimed that power generation companies (Gencos) who recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government for alleged discriminatory practices against them, were holding meetings at nights and planning on how to disrupt electricity supply in the country.
Speaking at the March 2018 edition of the monthly power sector operators’ meeting in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, Fashola, stated that he had been getting security reports of the “clandestine meetings” that the Gencos were holding to perfect their plans.
A text of his speech at the meeting which was issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Communication, Mr. Hakeem Bello, said Fashola noted that the plan to disrupt power generation in the country by the Gencos was politically motivated, adding that the government was not scared of meeting them at the courts.
The minister berated the Gencos for their actions and said while they had gone to the law court to press home their demands, the government would in addition to meeting them in the court, rely on the public court of opinion to decide who is wrong or had erred.
The power Gencos comprising Transcorp, Mainstream Energy, North-South Power, and Egbin, had filed a court action against the government and some of its agencies, claiming that they are being treated unfairly by the government in their operations. They also opposed the government’s plan to pay the monthly bills of Azura Power and Accugas from the N701 billion financial facility the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) approved for the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) to meet up its monthly obligations to the Gencos by about 80 per cent.
According to them, the government’s alleged discriminatory treatment of them could lead to them packing up their operations and going out of business, while payments to Azura and Accugas from the N701 billion facility could deplete the facility and throw them into debt. The case was filed at the Federal High Court Abuja Division and first heard on March 1.
But in his response to the lawsuit, Fashola said at the meeting: “Lately, I have read reports that some Gencos, not Ibom Power, have gone to court, filing claims against the government. That is their right and their prerogative. It is better than self-help, and it is consistent with the rule of law, which underpins our democracy. While they seek refuge in a court of law, they must be ready to face scrutiny in the court of public opinion.
“The court of public opinion is a court of conscience and morality. In the court of public opinion, they must be ready to tell the citizens how they felt when other groups went to court to stop the implementation of tariffs approved by NERC in 2016. They must explain to this public court whether they went to court before government approved a N701 billion payment assurance guarantee to pay their monthly power bills.”
“They must disclose to this court that they owed debts, from the pre-Buhari era, because their income had reduced to less than 50 per cent. They must disclose to this court that they now receive about 80 per cent income, and that this government is now paying them revenues collected from international customers from the Republics Benin, Niger and Togo, in dollars, as against the naira payment they used to receive
“In both courts, they must disclose how they felt when some Discos went to court to stop the enforcement of provision of promissory notes, which was a condition that denied them access to the CBN NEMSF low interest loans. They must tell the court of public opinion that the reason for going to court is because government is making 100 per cent payment to a new Genco who has a different contract with a Partial Risk Guarantee, which they do not have,” he added.
The minister also stated that the Gencos held a meeting with the government at which they tabled their demands to it only to file a court action a week after they met.
Alleging that the Gencos plan to hold Nigerians hostage by disrupting power generation, Fashola said: “They must, in good conscience, tell the two courts whether one week was enough time, to go to court and whether this action at the time when the sector is making progress does not suggest an intention to blackmail government and hold the citizens hostage.
“Let me say very clearly to all operators that I get reports of many of the clandestine meetings that some of them are holding with a view to disrupt supply for political capital.”
He said the government would be ready to support operators that are ready to work with it in the sector, adding: “As for those who entered the business without understanding it, please brace up for hard work and help us rebuild this country. Those who choose to hide temporarily in the courts of law can do so, but the court of public opinion will scrutinise you and its verdict may be very scathing, unkind, and enduring.”
Continuing, he explained: “I say this because you may not have noticed that Nigerians are increasingly taking their destiny in their hands. This is the essence of privatisation. If you bother to look up and around you, you will see solar panels on rooftops. The mini grid regulations allow them to procure one megawatt without license. This is bigger than what many traditional generators supply. There is no law that compels them to take public power.”
“I am not afraid of the law courts, and will meet you there to vigorously defend our position,” he stated.