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PHCN AND THE WOES OF THE NATION

 
By: Onike Rahaman
Published February, 21st, 2010

The recent disclosure by Alhaji Immamudeen Talba, the Administrator of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) that the Federal Government would remove subsidy on electricity tariffs by 2012 is not only a source of worry to the masses but also amount to a conspiracy to inflict pains on the citizenry. Obviously, the removal of the subsidy will increase the price of electricity on consumption. The contemplated adjustment of power prices in line with market – orientated mechanism is unnecessary at this critical moment of our nation’s history.

The claim by Alhaji Talba that in 2009 alone government spent 177 billion naira on electricity subsidy has not in any way lend credence to the proposed policy regime. Arguably, the implication of the plan of the government, if it succeeds is that by 2012, the electricity consumers would be paying 11 naira per kilowatts of electricity, being the full cost of commodity instead of the 6 naira per kilowatts currently being charged.

While trying to justify the proposed plan to increase the prices of electricity, the Federal Government assured the citizens that even when consumers begin to pay 11 naira per kilowatts, the tariff will still be the cheapest in the African continent. What government fails to realize is that the purchasing power of the currency, per capital income and the high rate of unemployment of the citizens are social realities that would turn the removal of subsidy to national burden.

The pronouncement of the government plan to remove the energy subsidy was ill-timed and wrongly-conceived. This is because the popular agitation is that the government should declare emergency in the power sector. Instead of government to reflect on the reasons for its failure to fulfill the promise of generating 6,000 power megawatts by the end of December 2009, the vultures at the helms of affair are desperate to increase the price of electricity on consumption.

In deed, if Talba’s pronouncement is anything to go by, it gives the picture that Nigeria is being governed by leaders who are insensitive to the plights and feelings of the populace. One important thing is that the proposal is yet to be presented to the National Assembly for approval. With this in mind, I will like to implore the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to allow the status quo to remain even if the idea is muted by Yaradua’s.

Another striking point is that Nigeria as a nation of about 140 million people was said to be generating a miserable 2,700 megawatts of electricity, resulting into near or total darkness of most homes, institutions and businesses across the nation. Of course, the chronic power shortages and regular outages consequent upon poor power generation, distribution and supply by the government as remained a major cause of the increase in unemployment and crime rate in Nigeria . The situation is more worrisome in the rural communities where they hardly enjoy electricity supply despite the government substantial investment and budgetary allocation for rural electrification projects by successive administrations in Nigeria .

It is also worthy of note that the current predicament of the manufacturing industry is caused by poor electricity supply as many of the blue-chip companies are in a state of inertia while some have even shut their factories and relocated to the neighbouring countries. No doubt, the cost of doing business is unbearable in Nigeria due to the challenge of energy generation and supply for both private and industrial uses.

More critically is the problem posed by poor management of funds generated from previous attempts to deregulate the petroleum sector of the Nigeria economy to justify the government stance. People are still groaning that the funds generated by the removal of subsidy in the past have not been used judiciously because the nation’s infrastructure that successive government said would be rehabilitated are still visibly dilapidated. It is suffice to state that what Nigerians expect from the Acting President Jonathan is declaration of government concrete plans to increase power generation far beyond the 6,000 megawatts promised by President Umar Yar’Adua.

Of equal importance is the challenge of poor distribution network. What is actually required is overhauling of the power and energy distribution networks to ensure efficient delivery of electricity to the consumers. If the contents of the power sector reforms include the plan to remove the subsidy, it seems reasonable to discard it forthwith in the best interest of the nation. Yes, it is only when the sector is being efficiently run that the question of the removal of electricity subsidy could be raised.

Apart from the problem of poor electricity supply, the corrupt staffs of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are forcing innocent consumers to pay exorbitant bills. It is disheartening that even with the installation of the pre-paid meters across the nation, the consumers are still burdened and constraint by payment of crazy bills either as a result of staff incompetence or conscious efforts to exploit the consumers by coaxing from their light purses.


Onike Rahaman Onike writes from Oyo town, oyo state, Nigeria Public affairs analyst.



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