* Asks Discos to consider merit of his message, ignore his person

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

The seeming suspicious mode of relationship between the federal government and electricity distribution companies (Discos) in Nigeria’s power sector on Friday got a little more scrappier with new claims by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, that the government’s resolve to get the Discos to live by the terms of their service agreements had rattled them hence a media attack on him.

Fashola, in a statement signed by himself and sent to THISDAY in Abuja, spared few words in criticising the reactions of the Discos in his directive to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) some weeks back to take up regulatory actions to get the Discos to do their jobs.

Also, the minister freely lampooned the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Mr. Sunday Oduntan, who responded to his orders for the Discos. He specifically called Oduntan an interloper.

“My directives on improved service delivery in the power sector went to legal entities, not to an interloper claimed,” said Fashola.

Continuing, he stated: “Before fiction becomes fact for lack of a response, I feel obliged to respond to some, not all of the allegations credited to one Mr. Sunday Oduntan, who presents himself as Executive Director, Research and Advocacy of the Association of (Nigerian) Electricity Distributors (ANED), which he made in response to my directives to NERC (the regulator) and BPE/NBET as contracting parties to the Discos.

“Throughout my press statement which contained the directives, I referred copiously to the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) which is the law that regulates the power sector. I referred to Discos in their capacities as licensees.

“Mr. Oduntan should tell members of the public if ANED is a licensee. He should tell the public whether he is an investor in a Disco and in which Disco he has invested and what he invested. If ANED is not a licensee, who is ANED? An NGO? If so, they should listen to consumers because nothing is going on about poor service.”

According to him, “It is obvious that the warning lights of compliance necessity are blinking, and those he represents do not like the colour.”

He noted that the NERC and other government agencies he asked to take up their jobs in the sector, had contracts with the Discos not ANED.

He also stated that while power supply has some economic consequences and political relevance, it does not mean the demand for improvement in service delivery was politically motivated, adding that the onset of elections in 2019 does not preclude request for better service from the Discos.

Fashola alleged that Oduntan’s response to his directives was indicative of the mindsets of the Discos.

“His statement that no directives from me will save the power sector from collapse, is consistent with the views of someone who has no skin in the game. It is perhaps a Freudian revelation of the mindset of those he represents, whoever they may be.

“It is revealing of the mindset of a saboteur not a builder, and he would do very well to acquaint himself and advise his co-travellers about the consequences of sabotaging the economy under our laws,” he explained.

Responding to allegations the government lied about power generation levels in the country, Fashola questioned the Discos’ refusal to contest the figures some months back.

He stated: “As for the allegation that figures of power generation and distribution released by me are not true, the taste of the pudding lies with those who eat it. Electricity consumers know what their experience was in 2015, 2016, 2017 and today.

“These figures have been released many months back when we reached those milestones as part of my monthly report and roadmap of incremental power. It is clearly Oduntan-like, to keep quiet at the time, when there were no directives, and to suddenly wake up many months later to dispute what he did not contest.”

He asked the Discos to consider the merits of his directives and not consider his person in their consideration of the development.

“My directives seek to rectify these problems because I believe they can be rectified. If Oduntan truly speaks for the Discos, which I doubt, he should ignore the messenger (Fashola) and advise those for whom he acts as surrogate, to focus on the message.

“The message is simple: electricity consumers (which include Fashola), want better service; NBET wants its money – about N800 billion, so she can pay Gencos. If Discos can prove that FGN owes more than what we admit, they should deduct N72 billion from N800 billion and pay the remaining N728 billion which they owe NBET.

“Discos should respond to the query from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing as to why 408 feeders, which have a capacity to deliver 5,756MW of power to consumers only carry 444MW because of faulty lines, bad equipment and load shedding?” He added.