Agho: Privatisation was a sham, sold to cronies
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Comrade Omobude Agho is the Coordinator General, Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOSCO), which has been agitating for improved power supply in Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states. He spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU.
Assessment of the Power sector privatisation
The power sector since its privatisation has gone from bad to worse since. So, we will not say we have had any improvement in power supply in this country.
On calls for reversal of privatisiation of power sector
This shows the level of insincerity on the part of the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola. When we started shouting, criticising the privatisation exercise, he was on the same page with us, but now that he is in charge, we have realised that the minister did not know much about the sector. This is a Minister who was told us that even his own children suffered from heat rashes because there was no power. If a former governor who knew what the problem was and has now moved away from his initial position, saying there will be no need for a review of the privatisation, then something has gone wrong and two things could be responsible; either he is afraid to say the truth or he has been compromised. I am not afraid to say it and that is the way it is. We strongly believe that the privatisation was a sham, it was highly political, it was given to friends and cronies of the then government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and we expected that with the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, we expected a review of the privatisation. We insist that this exercise must be reviewed. In fact, all those companies who benefited from the exercise should be sacked, so that new hands who have knowledge of the power sector should be brought in to run the system.
On the status of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN)
It is all part of the fraud that we are asking for total review. If they want to privatise, they should go ahead and do total privatisation of the sector. If they really want to privatise the sector, it should be transmission; it should not even be generation. The three legs of the power sector, generation, transmission and distribution should be privatised. The President must wake up to his responsibilities. All of them must be privatised, but not with these crop of persons that we have there now. They don’t have the competence; they don’t have the technical know how. Their concern is about imaximising profit. Like I said, there is massive corruption in that sector and the anti-corruption drive of the president must focus on that sector. Nigerians are being exploited and robbed by these distribution companies, because they are the ones dealing directly with the people. The Power Reform Act 2005 has clearly stated that metres shall be free, poles, wires and all those things that will take light to peoples’ homes are to be free, but till now, there are still no metres. The last time we had a meeting with one of the distribution companies, they were trying to pacify us.
On Estimated Billing
When all these started, we went to court, we got a restraining order from a competent Federal High Court to restrain the distribution companies from the fixed charges they used to collect where people pay for services not rendered. They did not respect that court order, including the Minister himself who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. They disrespected the court order. We continued until the court finally gave a judgment asking that we must return to status quo, which means that we should go back to the original agreement or contract, which is the Power Reform Act. They were saying the court order meant that we should go to the time of fixed charges, but there is nothing like fixed charge in the Power Reform Act. It is deliberate that they don’t make meters available because if they do, people will be able to control what they use. We have energy saving bulbs, many Nigerians are ready to use them, many Nigerians are ready to get control switch, so that when they are going out, they can switch off every appliance in their houses, but they want to milk Nigerians that is why they are still working on estimated billing. Estimated billing and those other charges are illegal.
On what to do
We think that the revocation of all the contracts is what they must start with. The Federal Government must go back to the days of PHCN and start the privatisation process afresh. Government, must not allow people that know nothing about the power sector to do business there. The number of DISCOs we have now is inadequate, just 11 DISCOs to provide power to 36 states and Abuja is not acceptable. They must bring in more players, allow DISCOs to cover one state and then you can allow for competitiveness amongst them.
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