Discos Recant on Two-month Free Power Supply

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  • Say FG to pay as part of stimulus package

Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The federal government is to pick the bills for the two-month free electricity supply announced on Wednesday by the 11 electricity Distribution Companies (Discos), THISDAY learnt thursday.

The Discos said they had embraced the free electricity supply initiative, once mooted by House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as part of efforts to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people.

They committed themselves to the initiative to ensure more efficient power supply within this difficult period, as the nation battles with the impact of COVID-19.

“We are also completely aligned with the plans to ensure palliative measures, including ‘free electricity supply to all Nigerians for two months,’ to make life easier, during the lockdown period. Details of implementation to come soon.
“Again, as a key utility player in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), we hereby reiterate our commitment to improving service delivery to the nation during this pandemic period and thereafter,” the Discos had said.

But making some clarifications thursday, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy and spokesman of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors(ANED), umbrella body of the Discos, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, said in a statement yesterday that the power to be supplied was not free after all.

“There is a need to make the following clarifications. The energy to be supplied for the two months is not free from the Discos but is being paid for by the federal government, in partnership with the National Assembly.

“As such, the ability for the Discos to go forward is subject to the stimulus package being passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by Mr. President.

“While this palliative seeks to mitigate the economic challenges that Nigerians are being subjected to during this COVID-19 period, it is our hope that we do not lose sight of the no-cost reflective tariff challenges that the Discos continue to suffer under.
“Regardless, we laud Mr. President, members of his government and the National Assembly for this initiative,” the distribution companies said.

Oduntan told THISDAY in a separate interview that all the participants in the electricity value chain must be involved for the free electricity supply to work.

He said: “Remember, we (Discos) don’t own the product we sell. The product we distribute does not belong to us. Generating companies own the product and they use raw materials to generate it. The raw material, which is gas, does not belong to them. The federal government has to pay for the gas. We do not transport the product – the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) does. So, all the stakeholders must be involved. We can’t unilaterally provide electricity free for Nigerians.

“The statement we issued was just a statement of support – a statement of intent. It was based on the proposal of the National Assembly. Until they pass the stimulus package into law and government signs it, there is nothing we can do unilaterally.”

Gbajabiamila, during a meeting between the National Assembly leadership and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, last Saturday, had mooted the idea that the package was necessary since it would have the highest impact on the entire strata of the Nigerian society.

“We have the figures. I think we should look very seriously into that as part of our package for economic stimulus, because stimulus means something that will stimulate the economy. When you are stimulating the economy, most of it will come from the informal sector.
“When you are saving people their electricity and the fact that they now have stable electricity for two months, you are also saving the monies that would go into the payment of those bills at least for two months,” he said.