Electricity Consumers Demand Probe Into Punitive Step Against Aba Power

say it has eroded investor confidence
The Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria (ECAN) has demanded a probe into the complete removal of Aba Power from the sole national grid by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) following the order of the Nigerian Electricity Market Operator ostensibly on the basis of an N896m debt owed Federal Government agencies in the power sector.

ECAN made the demand today through its Southeastern zone, according to a statement signed by the zonal chairman, Engineer Joe Ubani, and the secretary, Comrade Chris Okpara.

“The probe has become critical to restore investor confidence in the power sector which is in dire need of a tremendous and sustained injection of funds”, ECAN declared.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Dr Edmund Eje, the TCN executive director in charge of market operations, in particular grossly abused his power in dealing with Aba Power in the last few weeks, thus massively eroding public confidence in the power sector.

“The total removal of Aba Power from the sole transmission network in the country for a whole 10 days on Dr Eje’s recommendation and the consequent throwing of a section of the country into darkness for so long on account of a debt by a distribution firm was unheard of in Nigeria’s history”.

The association noted that it is in consideration of the dire consequences for swathes of the nation not having light that the Federal Government has been subsidizing DisCos despite their privatisation in 2013, with the authorities providing N120bn to them last year alone.

According to the association, given the severe national security implications and the general socioeconomic crisis generated by TCN’s removal of Aba Power from the national grid on Dr Eje’s recommendation, the punitive step against the power utility, should be probed by the Minister of Power, Engr Abubakar Aliyu, or the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retired), before they leave office on May 29.

“The urgency of the situation demands this probe”, it remarked.

“Everything about the action taken by the market operator smells of grand sabotage, well planned and well executed, and the nation is entitled to know whose agenda Dr Eje is executing.

“Even when Aba Power, which took over effective management of the Aba Ringfence only last September, paid N120m last Friday to the market operator, as agreed upon with officials of both organisations so that Aba Power would be reconnected at once, the TCN still couldn’t reconnect it to the national grid, apparently because Dr Eje didn’t approve of the reconnection”.

It stated that Aba Power was restored to the grid in the early hours of Monday following a directive by the power minster that feeders put out on account of debt be restored to the grid, as Dr Eje himself explained in a statement.

“Aba Power, Nigeria’s 12th and the newest electricity distribution company which has paid the market operator a whopping N440m in the last six months, merely benefitted from a ministerial reprieve granted Kano and Kaduna electricity companies”, observed ECAN.

The TCN, it went on, on April 26 disconnected only three out of hundreds of feeders belonging to the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company  for owing the market operator N33bn, but disconnected all 29 feeders belonging to Aba Power from the national grid for well over a week for owing a mere N896m.

Dr Eje owes the nation an explanation for the discrepancy, stated the electricity consumers association, adding: “Just a few hours after the Kano Electricity Distribution Company had its three feeders yanked off from the grid for owing several billions of naira, the power minister directed all feeders of Kaduna, Kano and Aba DisCos be restored.

“Neither Kano nor Kaduna was required to pay any money as condition precedent to the restoration, but in the case of Aba Power a whopping N120m payment was made”.

The association said that “what is more worrisome is that the TCN wrote a letter to Aba Power on April 19 asking it to settle its obligation to the transmission company within 30 business days, but the same day Dr Edmund Eje, in his capacity as the head of TCN’s market operating unit, furtively wrote a letter to the TCN asking it to remove Aba Power completely from the grid within hours, thus making the transmission company refuse to abide by its own decision”.

The Market Operator did not display professionalism, according to ECAN, when it failed to show Aba Power the letter instructing the market operator to cut it off from the transmission network, as required by the 2010 Nigerian Electricity Industry Market Rules and Participation. 

“Equity, justice, transparency, and accountability on the part of regulators and other government agencies are the drivers of  investment and development everywhere in the world, but it is unfortunate that both the TCN and the market operator have failed all Nigerians woefully in dealing with Aba Power”, rued ECAN.

“The government needs to probe these bodies, especially the market operator, before it leaves office this month to prevent further damage to the country’s investment reputation”.

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