METRO/CRIME

Electricity Theft By Wealthy Nigerians Contributing To Illiquidity In Power Sector- Discos Lament 

 

The 11 electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) in the country have blamed powerful and wealthy Nigerians for  being partly responsible for the current illiquidity in the power sector in Nigeria.

 

Spokesman of the power distributors under the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Sunday Oduntan, argued when he appeared as a guest on Channels Television, that many rich Nigerians bypass their metering devices, even when they have the capacity to pay for the kilowatts they use.

 

Specifically, Oduntan, who is the executive director, research and advocacy of the umbrella Discos’ body, noted that just like areas occupied by ordinary Nigerians, highbrow places occupied by Nigerians all over the country also steal electricity.

“The value chain is challenged because the issue revolves around liquidity. Unlike in telecoms, the power sector at the point of privatisation required a lot of investment. And when you talk about investment, you also have to talk about cost recovery.

 

“In every business, there’s the need for the businessman to be able to put money into business and recover the costs. Even when there’s no profit, you still need to recover your costs,” Oduntan pointed out.

He emphasised that many Nigerians still have the mentality that power supply should be a social commodity and should come at no fee.
“What Nigerians want is electricity. They don’t want stories and they don’t want to hear why. They just say give us electricity. But Nigerians need to understand that energy is not a social service, not anymore.

“Electricity is a product like bread or any other product and it has to be paid for. Somebody has to pay for it. And not just pay, we have to pay the appropriate price for the appropriate type.  We have to all desist from the usual Nigerian theft, which is huge,” he maintained.

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According to him, electricity theft is so rampant all over the country that recovering costs is a humongous challenge, not to talk of making a profit by the Discos.

 

“Every minute, somebody’s stealing electricity somewhere in this country. This is a country where people like stealing. Stealing has become a culture, stealing of energy, bypassing of electricity. And you will be surprised that big men do it. Big men, rich people, not just poor ones,” he stressed.

 

The collapse of the grid, he said  is because of the dilapidated infrastructure as well as interface challenges between the generation, transmission and distribution segments.

He stated that instead of blaming the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the government or the operators, the problem should be solved holistically without attaching emotions.

 

“Another question, is why don’t we have light? We don’t have light because we have not invested enough in the system. Because in this country, even when you give light to the community, it is a difficult thing for you to collect your money.

“Even when you give people prepaid meter, they find a way to bypass their meters. And I can give you an example, from Ikeja GRA in Lagos, home of very rich Nigerians,  to Asokoro in Abuja, to a place called Bompai in Kano, to highbrow areas in Jos, the story is the same.

 

“Nigerians want electricity, but most people want it free of charge…The question people should be asking is, how much does it cost to produce a clue hour of electricity?” he added.

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While apologising to conscientious Nigerians who are willing to pay for service for the poor supply currently, Oduntan admitted that the operators have also not served them well enough in the last 10 years.

“ I think we can do better than we’re doing. but I think people need to understand the issues, not just naming, blaming and claiming,” he said.

According to the Discos’ spokesman, a house that is defective, just like the power sector in Nigeria to does not need a makeover, but a structural integrity test and reworking of the foundation.

“There is no businessman that wants to throw his body down the drain. Every businessman that comes to invest in any business anywhere in the world, Nigeria inclusive, will have done their studies,” the Discos’ spokesman said.

He argued that government has also not kept its own part of the bargain on which the action of the power distributors depend.

“Now they signed an agreement with the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who also meant well, but at the end of the day, the government did not keep their side of the agreement.

“If you present a 10-point agenda, or you say Mr. investor, you will do number six to 10. But the performance of six to 10 is predicated upon the performance of one to five, if you fail to do one to five, six to 10 will not happen.

“Nigeria don’t seem to respect the sanctity of contracts. When you sign contracts with an investor, whether foreign or indigenous investor, you have to keep to every word of that contract. The moment you renege or default, then they will start cutting corners,” he stressed.

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