The Federal Government yesterday handed over the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, and the 14 successor companies created following the unbundling of the PHCN to their individual new owners across the country in spite of threats by the former workers to cause crises during the ceremony across the country. The handover ceremonies took place in Abuja, Enugu, Egbin, Eko, Ikeja, Benin, Kaduna and Jos simultaneously.
The Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo, said that yesterday’s handover marked the concluding stage of the transaction for the four generation and 10 distribution companies.
Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, who performed the official physical handover of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company to its new owner, Kann Utility Consortium Nigeria Limited, at a ceremony in Abuja noted that the government had successfully paid most of the former PHCN workers their severance and pension packages.
“Already, N360 billion has been paid out. The remaining N30 billion or so is in the pipeline and all the issues of certification, biometric capture and making sure that clearance is done are being completed,’’ he said.
Nebo explained that the Federal Government and the two key workers’ union leaders in the sector reached an agreement on Thursday to peacefully handover the power firms to their new owners.
According to him, “agreements have been reached. Please never in the history of this country has a government kept its word in issues like this as has been demonstrated by the present administration.
“Government is on it and the date has been fixed for some as November 15, while November 30 is for others. I have given my word and I am saying that no worker will be short-changed.”
Earlier in his address, Vice President Sambo, had said that the handover marked the concluding stage of the transaction for both the four generation and 10 distribution companies.
Sambo who was represented on the occasion by Professor Nebo said the participation of the private sector would bring about higher generation capacities through the provision of more efficient and cost effective power stations as well as improvements in distribution in the areas of billing, collection and transmission networks among others.
In Jos, the planned protest to disrupt the handing over of the PHCN facilities to investors could not hold as there was a successful handing over of the Jos Distribution company comprising Plateau, Benue, Gombe and Bauchi States to its new owner, Aura Energy limited amidst tight security.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony held at the Electricity House in Jos yesterday, the Vice-President, Arch Namadi Sambo who is the Chairman of the National Council on Privatization said the exercise is the roadmap to move the economic growth of the nation.
Sambo who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information, Mrs. Folashade Esan said the successful privatization of PHCN indicates that
where there is a will, there is a way as the event is “a culmination of 14 years painstaking efforts to liberalize Nigeria’s electricity industry”.
His words, “The reform is a necessary tool for laying a solid foundation for sustainable power generation and service efficiency in the sector and a precondition for the start up of a competitive electricity market in Nigeria.
”The reform and privatization program are rightly focused on the big picture which will impact on the economy as a whole and ultimately, the greatest good for the greatest number of Nigerians as it will open up the government dominated sectors of the economy to the private sector as well as divestiture of government interest in such sectors”.
Though acknowledging the challenges the sector is going through, Sambo assured the creation of an enabling environment and urged the new owners to ensure that the sector is “transformed to a world class company of reference in terms of quality of service delivery, social corporate responsibility, customers’ satisfaction and profitability” as appropriate agencies will “continually monitor the operations of the successor companies and would not hesitate to sanction any core investor that does not deliver on the performance agreement that was executed with government”.
Earlier in his address, the Acting Managing Director of Jos Electricity Distribution Company, Engr. Fidelis Obishai urged the investors to engage in training and re-training of staff to change their orientation from the public sector to private sector driven entity as well as involve in investment in metering.
Obishai further called on the former PHCN staff to “make the best out of the circumstance in which we find ourselves and understand that either in or out, it is a win-win situation for us”.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Aura Energy Ltd, Alh. Tukur Modibbo assured the staff not to panic as “staff of PHCN have worked under terrible conditions for long due to lack of investment in the power sector” hence, “adequate investment through privatization will ensure improved power supply and conducive working environment for staff”.
”We welcome you on board and assure you that in this new environment, hardwork and initiative will be rewarded and Nigerians will no more suffer from the pollution from generators”, he added.
It was gathered that only about 15 out of the over 200 staff working in the zonal office were able to get their entitlements paid before the handing over.
Also, in Enugu, the Inter State Electrics, took over the management of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC,with a promise to tackle the problems militating against power supply to the people of the South East states.
Two certificates transferring the control of the 18 business units that make up the EEDC to the new investors .were signed by the Chief Executive Officer of EEDC, Suleiman Yahaya and the Managing Director/CEO of Interstate Electrics Limited , Robert Dickerman.
The new Chief Executive Officer of the EEDC, Dickerman, said that through the change in ownership, “there will be some reshaping of the company’s strategy, goals and objectives.”
Said Dickerman: “We will use integrity to make sure that all information we report internally and externally is correct and accurate. We will manage our operations and financial processes with integrity so that we can and do account for every naira, every piece of equipment and every asset that we are responsible for to the standard of an external audit”
He also assured members of staff that they would be considered as share holders of the company as a way of creating in them a sense of belonging, while calling on all to support the new vision of the company.
Vice President Namadi Sambo, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Alhaji Danladi Kefasi, urged the new investors to stick to the rules of engagement.
Outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the EEDC, Suleiman Yahaya, said that the Enugu Distribution Company was made up of 18 business units covering Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi states and have resourceful workforce that if given the right infrastructure would grow into sustainable and profitable company.
Chairman of the Interstate Electrics, Offor, said, “We want to turn around the place so that the people start getting light, start getting value for their money. It is not our duty to determine tariff. But we will provide good and qualitative services for them”, Offor stated.
In another ceremony in Benin, the Federal Government also formally handed over the Benin Electricity Distribution Company to core investors, Vigeo Power Limited. Vigeo Power Ltd with 60 per cent interest, is core investor in the BEDC.
Speaking during the ceremony, Chairman, Presidential Taskforce on Power, Mr Beks Dagogo Jack who represented the Vice President Sambo, described the occasion as a milestone, that would not have been possible without the commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan as the process of power reform in Nigeria was well-thought out and had been painstakingly pursued.
Chairman of Vigeo Power Limited, Mr. Victor Osibodu, in his address said that history would “forever remember President Jonathan for this bold step.’’
Speaking at a similar event in Lagos Vice President Sambo, said the Federal Government would monitor as well as punish any of the private core investors that failed to operate in accordance with the agreement signed with it.
Speaking through the Director, Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE Mr. Benjamin Dikki, Sambo said, “Let me state clearly here that both the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission and the BPE will continually monitor the operations of the successor companies and would not hesitate to sanction any core investor that does not deliver on the performance agreement that was executed with the government.
“The participation of the private sector would bring about higher generation capacities through the provision of more efficient and cost effective power stations and improvements in electric power distribution, in the areas of billing and collection and transmission networks. Such capital injection and efficiency have been inadequate in PHCN over the years, resulting in gross inadequate power supply with the attendant negative effects on the citizenry and the economy at large.
In his address, Abiodun Ajifowobaje, Managing Director, Ikeja Distribution Company, commended the Federal Government for the feat, describing it also as a watershed in the history of development of electricity industry in Nigeria.
Ajifowobaje commended the new owners of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, NEDC/KEPCO consortium for taking over the largest electricity distribution network in the country,”
West Power and Gas, WPG, the new owner of Eko Distribution Company, said it will spend over $250 million (about N40 billion) in the next few years to re-position the company.
Chairman of the company, Mr. Charles Momoh, made this known, and explained that the amount would be invested in metering and cleaning up the cables, transformers and making sure that everything was in line with what have been specified.
“We have the responsibility to light up Lagos and keep it lit. This is a task before us which we must do and do it profitably.
“Our homes and businesses deserve the chance to thrive without the added expenses on generators and constant threat of outages. It will take time. It will take solitude. It will take commitment. It will take collaboration. But as with most things, the only difficulty that could arise is within ourselves. We know that this will not happen overnight, but we are optimistic that only success will follow,” he added.
Information from Vanguard was used in this report.