By Ochiaka Ugwu
The problem that is associated with electricity supply in the country is crux and multidimensional and can be said to be as old as the sector itself. Back in the days when we were toddlers, the most controversial organization was the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) which later metamorphosised to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Even now as a privatized institution, the problems had continued unabated from interrupted power supply, out-dated and poor facilities, excess billings, poor of maintenance equipments and many others too numerous to list out here.
Curiously, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the sector was handed over to the private owners by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). This was due to all sorts of promises which were made to them. Many had thought Nigerians would now experience uninterrupted power supply as witnessed in other clime.
But low and behold, nothing much seems to be happening as it concerns power supply, billings, metering and maintenance. The frustration has made stakeholders and even consumers to call for the urgent review of the power sector privatization exercise which some allege was characterized by fraud. They went on to accuse the successful companies of not having the man and materials especially in the area of expertise needed to reposition the sector. This could be true as most of them still retain the old NEPA staff whom Nigerians will never forgive for crippling the sector before now.
Indeed, what has consistently become a bone of contention between consumers and the distribution companies is the tariff. While the companies have argued that they need to review the tariffs upward to enable them provide services, the consumers have insisted that the tariff cannot be reviewed upwards amidst poor power supply, absence of prepaid meters, poor facilities and others. To them, with all these in good condition, one can beat his chest and pay whatever fee they brought as tariff.
However, before the recent increase in the electricity tariff by the 11 Distribution Companies (DISCOs), the former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Mr. Sam Amadi had said that increment in electricity tariff will improve supply.
Amadi while defending the new rates noted the new tariff regime came as a result of a transparent, rigorous and credible rate review process, saying that the tariffs will lead to greater reliability in the provision of electricity.
This also makes one to wonder the relationship between tariff increment and higher electricity supply. The practice world over and in any decent clime was productivity before increment. I was told that banks have even opened their vault for the Discos to borrow as much money as they needed for smooth operation, but they have purposely refused to exploit that golden opportunity. During the era of dubious fixed/service charge which was recently removed as a result of hue and cry of consumers, NERC said it was instituted for the banks to have confidence in Discos in the area of loan grants.
This brings me to the sufferings of Nigerians during this fixed charge era which many dubbed fixed fraud because of its attendant disadvantages on Nigerians. This inhuman practice makes it compulsory for consumers to pay for what