Business Hilights
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Corruption delaying BPE’s review of Discos’ performance, experts tell Minister

More power stakeholders’ have joined in the protest against the official delays by the leadership of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to review the performance of the electricity distribution companies in the country.

It should be recalled that during the privatisation of the generation and distribution companies which were carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in November 2013, the Federal Government sold 60 per cent of its stakes in the Discos to investors and retained 40 per cent through the BPE.

Besides, one of the key understandings in the concession was that there shall be a performance review on a five-year interval to assess and weigh the need or otherwise of revoking the licences of poor performing Discos.

Business Hilights recalls again, that the Director-General of BPE, Mr Alex Okoh, had said in October 2018 that the review of the performance of the Discos would take place before December 2019, but there had been no sign in December and even now January 2020 is ending.

The DG had noted in 2018 that the five-year performance agreements for all the Discos, with the exception of Kaduna Disco, became effective on January 1, 2015 and the fifth year anniversary for final performance review would therefore be December 31, 2019.

A lot of industry experts opposed to the planned intervention fund for Discos had hinged their objection to the silence of BPE to do their job of assessing Discos performance according to the extant laws.

Many of them viewed the official delays as a corrupt act by BPE, saying the federal agency is only delaying the performance assessment so that Discos will be given the planned federal intervention.

To the aggrieved experts, waiting to assess the performance of Discos only after they had pocketed public fund in the name of interventions will amount to the highest undoing of Nigerians and corruption act of the century.

In his submission, the President, Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria (ECAoN), Mr Chijioke James, described the situation of the power sector as a national disaster, noting that “The legal framework gives a five-year tenor for the review of the Discos’ performance. The BPE has not brought out any template for this review.

“Whether there is a review or not, what we believe is that within the last five years, Nigerian electricity consumers have not fared better. We don’t have any news that is cheering.

“If you ask us to score the Discos, our score will be below average. Consumers want value for money. They (BPE) have not brought out the methodology for the review.

“We want to know what the benchmark is. Even the government has not lived up to its obligations. And it is the consumers who are suffering for the failure of the investors and the government.”

Also speaking in an interview, the General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr Joe Ajaero, accused the BPE of being on the side of the core investors in the Discos because “The BPE, as the representative of the Federal Government, sits on the boards of the Discos.”

BPE had in June last year announced that the Federal Government had decided to increase its representation on the Discos’ boards by two directors, given its 40 per cent shareholding, claiming that “The objective was to ensure transparency in the Discos’ operations as well as improve their performance.”

However, aggrieved Ajaero noted that “The performance review is very important. Power sector is a sensitive area. If they are not performing and nothing is done, the situation will be getting worse. So, let the performance review be conducted.”