More Troubles for Geometric Powers as TCN Disconnects Aba Power over N869 Million Debt

More Troubles for Geometric Powers as TCN Disconnects Aba Power over N869 Million Debt

Dike  Onwuamaeze

After a contentious nine years battle that lasted until February 2022 to reclaim its operating licence, the Geometric Power is in for another round of intrigues that could stifle its operations following an order from the Transition Company of Nigeria (TCN) that disconnected its subsidiary, the Aba Power Limited, from the national grid yesterday over an alleged controversial N869.21 million debt.

The disconnection has also plunged the industrial and commercial city of Aba and its environs in the South-east of the country into darkness, which would imperil hospital services and other essential services that would be disrupted severely, to say nothing about manufacturing companies.

It should be recalled that the Aba Ring-fence was thrown into the darkness between March 15 and 18, 2023, over payments to federal government agencies.

Aba Power became Nigeria’s 12th and newest electricity distribution company on February 16, 2022, when it paid $26 million to the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) and Interstate Electrics to acquire the Aba Ring-fenced Area comprising nine out of the 17 local government areas in Abia State, though it could not take full control of the area until six months later when it was allowed to collect revenue from customers.

The management of Aba Power, yesterday, in a press release titled ‘TCN Plunges Abia into Indefinite Blackout’, said that the TCN, the country’s sole transmission firm, wrote a letter to it on April 19, 2023, with reference number TCN-MO-003-APL-049-VOL2-202, directing it to pay N869,210,059.58  within 30 working days, but on the same day the same TCN wrote a letter, with reference number TCN-MO-003-APL049-VOL-202, to the Market Operator (MO) instructing it to disconnect Aba Power from the national grid from April 21, 2023.

Reacting to the disconnection, the Managing Director of Aba Power Limited, Mr. Patrick Umeh, who used to be a commissioner with the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), denied that his company has been nonchalant towards the payment of its fees to government agencies, including the TCN.

Umeh said in the press release that Aba Power was able to pay a total of N550 million to the MO and the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) that sells electricity to it “despite the huge difficulties that confronted Nigerians between January and April, 2023 as a result of petrol scarcity and the Naira redesign which, in turn, affected our customers’ ability to meet their obligations to us during this period.”

He said: “We were able to pay N50 million to the MO at the end of March. We also paid last month N500 million to the Niger Delta Power Holding Company that sells electricity to us.”

Umeh narrated further that for six months the company bore the brunt of paying for electricity and staff salaries alone without collecting revenues from its consumers and has not received compensation to this day.

He said: “Our monthly obligation to the NDPHC came to almost N800 million when we raised power supply to the Ringfence from 25 megawatts to 80 megawatts.”  

He also pleaded that the firm should be given some time to sort out its debt to the TCN and the MO in consideration of the tremendous economic challenges in the country.

“Very soon, we will commission the Geometric Power Plant in Aba, from where we will get our own electricity and provide our customers constant, quality and affordable electricity,” he enthused.

Reacting to the unfolding intrigue, a former executive director of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) Mr. Ben Caven, an engineer who was reputed to be the only person to have headed the transmission, generation and engineering divisions in the defunct power parastatal, smelt rat in the contradiction in the TCN’s letters, which he described as strange.

Caven said in the press release that “it is strange how the two letters emanating from the same source could contradict each other.

“I want to assume that there is no sinister motive, but a situation where a letter was written on April 19, delivered the next day to an electricity distribution company and then cut off power supplies to the distribution company within a couple of hours the same day over a debt of a whopping N896 million is unprecedented.

“I am distressed by the fact that the action took effect on a public holiday, which began a long weekend.

“The persons who gave the directive could not respect the sensibilities of Muslims celebrating the Eid-el-Fitr feast, after 30 days of fasting.”

Speaking in the same vein, an Energy Consultant in Lagos, Mr. Cliff Eneh, who was a senior engineer with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), also described the directive to disconnect Aba Power from the national grid as totally unfair.

Eneh, who is also a senior engineer with the Texas Light and Power in the United States, said that the punitive measure against the Aba Power “is absolutely unfair because the authorities know that the new distribution company has spent millions of Dollars to bring the dilapidated distribution infrastructure in the Aba Ring-fence to world-class.”

These investments, according to him, has bequeathed Aba, the capital of Nigeria’s indigenous technology, with new 1,500 kilometres of overhead wires, four brand new substations, and three refurbished ones.

He also suspected that the Aba Power is being singled out for malicious regulatory punitive measures as the country’s other 11 electricity distribution companies have not been switched off from the national grid despite their alleged repeated failures to meet their obligations to the TCN and the MO since they were established in November 2013.

Eneh alleged in the press release that “it is doubtful that the distribution companies in Yola and Jos, for instance, pay beyond 15 per cent of what they should, but they haven’t been cut off because of the grave security implications.

“The new action by both the TCN and the MO cutting off supplies to the area appears selective.”

He alleged that the federal government has been subsidising the 11 old distribution companies enormously since their privatisation, pointing out that the government paid a subsidy of N120 billion in 2022 alone.

The 11 DISCOs, he further alleged, were expected to pay the MO N70 billion in the first quarter of last year, but paid only N35.2 billion.

“Still, no one cut them off from the national grid, nor were there threats to do so.  

“It is difficult to fathom the ongoing unbearable pressure on Aba Power, which has never received a kobo subsidy.

“Disconnecting Aba Power will make matters worse for everyone, including the TCN and the MO that cannot earn any money anymore from most of Abia State,” Eneh said.

However, THISDAY’s efforts to get the views of the TCN before going to the press were abortive. The Public Affairs Manager of TCN, Ms. Ndidi Mbah, could not answer her calls or respond to sms and WhatsApp messages that were sent to her. Similarly, calls to the cellphone of the Managing Director of TCN, Mr. Sule Ahmed AbdulAziz, did not go through and he has not responded to a questionnaire to his WhatsApp.  

Related Articles