By Umar Shuaibu
All patriotic citizens who travel to other parts of the world feel depressed any time they return to Nigeria and greeted with power failure as soon as they touch the Nigerian soil. Conversely, we wonder how foreigners in Nigeria and our diplomatic friends feel when they depart the Nigerian soil back to their countries, and make comparison in terms of public power supply from where they left. Relieved?
It can never be overemphasized that being the nation’s capital, Abuja should be a priority in terms of provision of basic services, if not for any reason, for effective administering of this country. The city is our pride, our image, our mirror and prism through which the rest of the world view our greatness. This image must be protected at all cost. We are afraid that this was never considered, and due diligence never properly conducted before deciding on the company to hand over the distribution of power to the nation’s capital and its surrounding states.
When power generation and distribution were privatized in Nigeria by the previous administration to the Gencos and Discos, FCT, Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi States were concessioned to the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC). The major reason for the privatization was for improvement of electricity supply services. However, in comparison to the past, instead of improvement, the situation is presently much more horrible.
Our attention has been drawn to a damning revelation by no other person than the chairman of AEDC himself on the shareholders crisis rocking the AEDC. As published last month, he stated that, it was “the goodwill of the chairman of AEDC, His Royal Highness Amb. Alh. Shehu Malami that actually paved way for CECA and Xerxes through KANN as a special vehicle to even have access as well as win the bid”. That was an open admission that proven technical competence, financial strength and track records that must be priorities for consideration were compromised.
More to that, all the indigenous shareholders that make up the Disco were established just for its acquisition. With due respect, what we were made to understand from the Ambassador, and elder statesman’s exposure, was that all the shareholding companies, individually, or even as now combined, have no sufficient capital for its smooth functioning to guarantee the needed adequate service delivery. We were also made to believe that, that was the reason for the cunning methods employed by the foreign partner to edge out the indigenous partners and source for capital from the Zambian stock exchange.
Equally, and more worrisome is the fact that the requirements of NERC are breached as it is now, that the Managing Director, who is a foreigner, will only be required in the absence of a qualified Nigerian. Furthermore, none of the indigenous shareholders is a signatory to the account, hence easily liable to siphoning out of its proceeds for foreign benefits. Only God knows whether it is not already the case presently.
In order to block all complaints that will hinder its services, the present APC FCT Administration ensured that it redeemed all the previous liabilities it inherited to AEDC totaling billions of naira, since its initial tenure. Apart from what it collects from the general public, presently, FCTA pays all the AEDC bills of its public facilities and buildings, totaling N100 million on the average every month without a single backlog.
All the facilities for power provision in the FCT were provided and installed by the FCDA and handed over to the AEDC without any strings attached at the time of the privatization, perhaps for goodwill and support to improve service provision. Yet, as far as longer period of power provision is concerned, one doesn’t need to travel to foreign countries to witness difference, but to other Nigerians cities. Challenges to transmission apart, in the heart of the city, many districts are experiencing power failure much more than many other Nigerian cities. While in the states of Niger Nasarawa and Kwara, areas that are lucky are those with six hours of power supply in 24 hours.
Also, in the event of vandalism, accident or expiration of life span of power supply components like transformers, if beneficiaries did solve their problems, without any refund or compensation from the Disco, they have to remain in perpetual darkness, while estimated power billing continue unabated.
With all these intractable challenges, we urge the AEDC and all non performing Discos to toe the line of those that voluntarily surrendered, otherwise all available safeguards be explored by the Federal Government to save our souls. The Discos must be aware that their possible legal claims due to any government intervention will be a chicken feed in comparison to the uncountable colossal damages inflicted on Nigerian citizens, in the event of litigation, consequent upon their colossal failures. Enough should be enough.
Shuaibu is immediate past Coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC)