By Emmanuel Addeh
Despite constantly complaining of illiquidity in the power sector, operating at a deficit and allegedly failing to approve accruals to the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has admitted proposing a budget of almost N300 million for partitioning of its Abuja office.
There were also various reports last week that NERC budgeted a whopping N2 billion for the purchase of office furniture and the partitioning of offices at its headquarters in Abuja when it appeared before the federal lawmakers.
But in a statement from the commission headed by Prof. James Momoh, NERC said it budgeted N294 million for the job and not N2 billion as earlier reported.
“The attention of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has been drawn to publications in the media relating to an interactive session with our organisation at the national assembly on the 2021 budget.
“The commission further clarifies that no contracts in the sum of N2 billion have been awarded to any person or company for the purpose of renovating and/or furnishing of the head office complex in Abuja.
“The only capital project included in the 2021 budgetary appropriation is a request for the provision of a sum of N294,064,276 for the partitioning and furnishing of the head office complex in Abuja.”
Although it did not also indicate whether the monies it owed the REF had been paid after the lawmakers’ ultimatum, NERC stated that it had paid all amounts due the rural fund, but added that all other surpluses will be paid after its 2019 finances are audited.
“The commission hereby notifies all stakeholders and the general public that it has fully paid all amounts due to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in compliance with the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act.
“Any surpluses that may be due for the 2019 fiscal year would be paid to the REA upon completion of the ongoing audit of the commission’s accounts for the year ended December 31, 2019,” it stated.
The House of Representatives Committee on Power recently vowed to withhold approval for the 2021 budget proposal by the commission if it fails to pay all outstanding debts owed the rural electrification body.
In its latest financial report covering the first quarter of this year, the commission which sources its revenues mainly from levies and market charges, disclosed that it still has existing liabilities of N0.23billion as at the end of the first quarter of 2020.
Executive Director, REF, Dr Sanusi Ohiare, in an interview recently, had flayed the commission for failing to determine the fund’s statutory accruals on the excuse that the market is illiquid and that people are not paying.
“So, if you as the commission is still getting something no matter how bad the market is and you are only using the fund to pay for salaries and recurrent expenditure and take care of yourself and buying a big office, we that are the agency that should cater for the rural communities, we are not getting anything and you keep giving us excuses,” he lamented.