Chinedu-Nebo-Minister-of-Power-300x200There are indications that the physical takeover of the electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, by their new owners may be extended till January 2014 following the hiccups posed by the labour related issues in the privatisation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

President Goodluck Jonathan had last Monday handed over the certificates and operating licences to buyers of 10 DISCOs and five generation companies, GENCOs.

But a source close to the government said that the “ceremonial” handover was meant to fulfil due diligence requirements as spelt out in the contract, saying the actual handover might be extended till January next year.

“The handover performed by Mr. President was just to follow due diligence. Government’s position for physical handover is January next year,” a source told National Mirror.

The source, who did not want his name mentioned, said there were still outstanding entitlements which government ought to pay to PHCN workers before handing over to private investors.

There is palpable tension among the workers following the preparation by the Federal Government to physically handover the DISCOs to the buyers of the PHCN successor companies.

The government had said the lingering labour issues had been successfully resolved by the implementation committee and promised that before weekend, over 38,000 workers would have had the payments effected.

But some of the workers told National Mirror yesterday that they were yet to get their entitlements, vowing to resist any attempt to eject them out of their duty posts without their full entitlements paid.

National Mirror investigations revealed that the new owners of the DISCOs are yet to resume work in the offices of the PHCN in Abuja.

A visit to the offices in Wuse 2, Garki and district showed no sign of the new investors as PHCN officials were seen going about their normal businesses.

One of the workers told our correspondent that the core investors would not take over until they had paid their entitlements.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Mr. Godknows Igali, had told journalists, last week after a meeting with Vice- President Namadi Sambo that the physical takeover of PHCN by the successful bidders would be preceded by a symbolic presentation of the ownership documents to them.

Igali said he was optimistic that the future remained bright for Nigerian electricity consumers because power supply would improve as it was being witnessed in the telecommunications sector.

His words: “There is progress; we are in the last stages. There will be formal ceremony to hand over the documents to the new owners but there will be no physical handover until towards the end of this year.

“We are starting with handing over of the formal documentation, that is the protocol ceremony for Mr. President to preside over after which, we have one month to undertake all other issues, for example, labour matters.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, has disclosed that over N18.5bn is being lost by the GENCOs every month.

This amount, which adds up to N111bn in six months, NERC noted, has resulted in revenue shortfall in the industry leading to inability to pay the value chain participants.

The Deputy General Manager, Market Competition and Rates, Shettima Abdulkadir, who made the disclosure in Abuja at the one-day seminar with Energy Correspondents, said the commission has engaged the services of a consultant to determine the loss profile.

He also noted that the issue of gas supply to power generation plants will address itself since the new operators are equipped with resources and business plans to pay for the gas supplied to power the plants.

He urged operators in the gas supply chain to unlock the gas tariff even as he charged them to provide efficient facilities for gas transportation.

Also, an official of NERC’s Market Competition and Rates, Mr. Roland Achor stated that the design of the Multi Year tariff Order (MYTO) 11, gives long-term view of industry tariffs that allows for the long gestation and investment recovery periods that are a key feature of the Nigerian electricity Supply Industry, NESI, stressing that the new order enables recovery of costs and allows reasonable profits.

Notwithstanding the challenges surrounding the takeover of the privatised companies by new investors, National Mirror has learnt that over 100 foreign firms have indicated interest to invest billions of dollars in Nigeria’s electricity sector.

The firms from Europe, United States and Asia, are already in the country and have started engaging relevant government agencies, organised private sector and financial institutions on possible areas of investment.

The foreign firms include Zhuhai Pilot Technology Company Limited, Yueliang Commercial Company Limited, Yamuna Power & Infrastructure Limited, Wilson Cables Pvt Limited, Westinhouse, Voltamp Energy SAOG, Tongun Electric, The Motwane Manufacturing Company Pvt Limited, The Faraday Centre Limited, Tag Corporation and Sterling & Wilson Limited.

The Business Development Manager of Secure Meters Limited, which pioneered solid state electronic metering in India, Mr. Amit Gupta said: “We are presently looking for indigenous firms to partner with us because electricity distribution companies need meters in order to provide electricity to consumers in all parts of the country.”

Some potential investors who preferred not to be named said they were not impressed with the relatively low level of indigenous participation in the sector.

But the National President of the Oil and Gas Service Providers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Colman Obasi, attributed the situation to the fact that the electricity market, and by extension the sector is still in a pre-transition stage.

 

Information from National Mirror was used in this report.

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