FG Moves To Unbundle 11 Discos, Orders Sale Of Four

The Federal Government has declared that power distribution companies in Nigeria are currently being unbundled along state lines due to their large sizes to boost efficiency and ultimately productivity. 

It stated that the privatization of the firms would not be reversed, but stressed that the Discos would be broken into more efficient structures along state lines to be able to deliver on their mandates.

This came as the Federal Government also ordered the sale of Discos that had been taken over by banks and the Assets Management Corporation from its original investors/owners.

Africa Today News, New York understands that at the moment,four Discos are under the management of banks and AMCON.

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company is under the management of the United Bank of Africa (UBA), while Fidelity Bank manages Benin Electricity Distribution Company, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, and Kano Electricity Distribution Company.

The Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company is under the AMCON management.

The four Discos are under these new managements due to their inability to repay their loans to the financial institutions.

The government stated that those who acquired the Discos when the firms were officially privatised in November 2013, lacked the required expertise and financial capacity to run the companies.

This came as the Senate Committee on Power lambasted the Discos for being so inefficient since they took over the privatised assets over 10 years ago, and called for the overhaul of the power firms.

In his address, while playing host to the Senate Committee on Power, led by their Chairman, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, stated that the Federal Government had commenced the restructuring of Nigeria’s 11 power distribution companies.

He also revealed that over 100 projects of the Transmission Company of Nigeria have not been completed since 2001, a period of about 23 years.

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Adelabu said, “We are unbundling the Discos along state lines. Some of the Discos are too big for efficiency. They are too big for effectiveness. Ibadan Disco covers seven states. It is practically impossible for them to be efficient.

“So we are rearranging and restructuring the Discos along state lines so that each state government will know the responsible Disco for their states. Also, the federal and state governments should start exercising their rights in the operation and management of the Discos because we still own 40 per cent in the firms.

“But we have left it for the private sector operators for too long and they have messed it up. So the government must come back to take over its own right in the Discos. We are also planning to franchise the unserved communities under the Discos.”

The minister went ahead to state that “we will start seeing regulations about franchising. The fact you are Eko Disco doesn’t mean that you cannot have smaller Discos that are ready to invest in your unserved communities. So we are looking at franchising.”

Adelabu further revealed that the Oyo State Government had written to the Federal Government stating that it wants to exercise its rights in Ibadan Disco.

He said the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has been made to realise that it must sanction Discos that fail to perform, as the licences of some of the power firms might be withdrawn for non-performance.

We are transforming the Discos and very soon you’ll see that a lot of tough decisions will be taken against these Discos because they are the last mile in the sector. If they don’t perform then the entire sector is not performing.

“So we have put pressure on NERC to make sure that it raises the bar on the activities of the Discos. If it has to withdraw licences for non-performance, why not? If it has to change the boards and managements, why not?

“And all the Discos that are still under AMCON (Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria) and some lenders (banks), within the next three months they must be sold to a technical power operator with a good reputation in utility management.

“We can no longer afford AMCON to run our Discos. We can no longer afford the banks to run our Discos. This is a technical industry and it must be run by technical experts,” the power minister stated.

Also commenting on the non-performance of Discos, a member of the committee, Senator Danjuma Goje said, “The Discos have not added anything significant to the power sector, but are just going about collecting money.

“The Discos are complete failures and should be overhauled. They have failed to live up to expectations and we have so many complaints about their poor performances.”

The Senate committee also authorised an investigative hearing on the electricity tariff hike and stated that this would be held on April 29, 2024, at the Senate.

The power minister told his guests that those who acquired the Discos when they were privatised, lacked the required expertise and financial capacity.

Adelabu said, “Our problem started from the privatization era. Not that the privatization has a problem in itself, but its implementation and execution have robbed the process of its laudable objectives.

“We believe that people who bought the power companies do not have the required expertise to run the utility firms. Secondly, they were not buoyant enough in terms of financial buoyancy to pay for the power plants.

“All of them used bank loans to pay for the assets. And we all know that the power business is a long-term business. It is not something you recoup your capital and make profit in a short time. So they were all under pressure to repay the bank loans that they used to acquire the power companies.

“This is why today a number of them have been taken over by their lenders, either AMCON or the banks, both local and international banks. They also promised to invest and enhance the distribution network, but they did not do this.”

The minister stated that the investors had promised to reduce the losses in the Discos, but stressed that up till now the losses had remained at about 40 per cent across the power value chain.

The minister also stated that the target of the Federal Government is to achieve 6,000MW of power before the end of this year, adding that this has been submitted to the President.

He called for the payment of the outstanding debts to gas companies and power generation firms.

He said the government is currently talking with two investors that should invest in the construction of 3,000MW of solar-power projects in various states to support the national grid.

The minister pointed out that Nigeria currently has an installed power generation capacity of about 14,000 megawatts.

Africa Today News, New York

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