Discos Under Fire As Power Outages Worsen In Nigeria

John Ofikhenua, Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf and Jill Okeke – March 3, 2024.

•Ministry accuses companies of deliberately not taking up supply from TCN
•Arbitrary billings, unauthorised disconnections, customer abuse complaints on the rise – FCCPC
•Our problem is inadequate supply of gas – EKEDC
•Adelabu summons AEDC, IBEDC, TCN over deteriorating power output.

Some electricity distribution companies (DisCos) are partly responsible for the incessant power outages experienced in the country, according to disclosures made by the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, yesterday.

The minister alleged that such discos have deliberately not been taking up power supply from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), thus denying would be consumers electricity supply.

Power outages have worsened across the country in the last few weeks with the DisCos attributing the situation to gas shortage.

Consumers are separately accusing the DisCos of arbitrary billings, unauthorised disconnections, customer abuse and disregard for capping, among other allegations.

Following the deteriorating electricity supply across the country, Adelabu yesterday invited the Chief Executives of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) and Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) for a meeting later this week to review the situation.

Also invited to the meeting is the TCN Managing Director, Sule Abdulazeez.

The minister, in a letter signed by the Director, Distribution Services in the ministry, Engr. B.U. Mustapha, said the meeting was called to discuss issues bordering on the worsening electricity supply in their regions with a view to proffering a lasting solution.

The minister’s Special Adviser on Strategic Communications and Media Relations, Bolaji Tunji, quoted him as saying the management of other non-performing DisCos would be similarly queried as reports continue to filter in on the situation in their regions.

“These two DIsCos (AEDC and IBEDC) have been summoned due to the worsening power supply situation in their regions despite improved supply from TCN,” he said.

He said gas shortage notwithstanding, the ministry has been putting pressure on the generating companies (GENCOs) to improve performance and generation has been ramped up to over 4000MW in recent days.

His words: “So, we expect power supply to have improved across the country, unlike what we are experiencing in some regions presently.

Findings revealed that some distribution companies were deliberately not taking up power supply from TCN while some power lines were also damaged by vandals in Abuja, Benin, Port Harcourt and Ibadan regions.

Besides, the minister plans to compel the DisCos to raise their performance level.

“Willful non-performance by any DisCo could suffice as a reason for severe punishment or outright licence revocation,” he warned.

The minister directed TCN to immediately commence repairs on the damaged transmission towers and power lines with a view to improving electricity supply in the affected regions.

The Federal Government is said to have recently paid $120m out of the $1.3bn owed gas companies for the supply of gas to run gas-fired power plants across the country.

The current low power supply is attributed to reduced gas supply caused by the indebtedness of the GENCOs to gas-producing firms.

The Director, Decade of Gas Secretariat, Ed Ubong, said in Abuja that the $120m debt was paid between October last year and January this year.

The minister on separate visits to the power generating plants in the last few months said government was on course to settle some of the debts inhibiting their operations to enable them function optimally.

Places visited by him include the Kainji hydro power plant which will soon embark on an expansion plan to boost the existing 560MW operational capacity, Olorunshogo and Omotosho thermal plants in Ogun and Ondo states as well as Ihvobor and Azura power plants in Edo State.

While reacting to the purported breakdown of the Egbin Power Plant, which has led to massive power outage to customers, Felix Ofulue, Head, Corporate Communications & Branding Egbin Power Plc, in a text message to our correspondent last night assured that there was nothing wrong with the power plant.

“There’s nothing wrong with Egbin. The challenge with supply across the country is gas limitation,” Ofulue maintained.

EKEDC: Our allocation is halved to 300MW

The Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) said yesterday that it was not part of the DisCos deliberately refusing to take supply from the TCN.

The company’s GM, Corporate Communications and Strategy,  Babatunde Lasaki, told The Nation that on the contrary, EKEDC’s allocation has gone down to 300MW from 600MW.

“At EKEDC, we don’t have that issue. In fact, what we are saying is that we have little power supply from the grid and that is why our customers are not getting enough energy supply because of their limited allocation,” he said.

Continuing, he said: “We have said this many times, we even sent a message on our social media platforms, saying that why our customers are having limited supply is simply because we have limited allocations from the grid as a result of the gas shortage from the GENCOs.

“So, that has been the case. We don’t fall in that category of DISCOs that are refusing to take allocations. No.”

Asked whether the EKEDC had made requisition for upgrade of its allocation from the national grid, he said the DisCos do not deal directly with the GENCOs but through an intermediary which is the TCN.

“We need to understand the issues; it is the GENCOs that generate energy and they in turn put that energy into the national grid and then the TCN will now give to different DISCOs.

“Ordinarily, at peak periods, we usually get about 600-650MW; that is what we normally get on a monthly average.

“But since this scarcity of gas started, we barely have 300MW, even at times less than that. So, that is the reason for short supply, and many other DisCos have said so.

“Even the TCN came out to say the reason why the national grid cannot satisfy the DisCos is because the GENCOs are unable to generate power as a result of shortage of gas.

“So, it is an open secret. The TCN put that information out and even we ourselves have issued several statements to the members of the general public, and we have been doing that for the past few weeks.”

An official of Ikeja Electric in Akowonjo axis of Lagos, who would not be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the management, confided in our correspondent last night that supply has been very poor from the GENCOs lately.

“It doesn’t make any economic sense if we refuse to get allocations because we have old and prospective end-users who rely on our supply,” the official said.

Consumers kick over poor service

Over 600 complaints of arbitrary billings, unauthorised disconnections, customer abuse, disregard for capping and community transformer issues, amongst others, were recorded against the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company during its electricity consumer complaints resolution platform.

The four-day event which was organised by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) in conjunction with the MacArthur Foundation ended yesterday in Ikeja, Lagos with many aggrieved electricity consumers in attendance.

The Acting Director of the FCCPC, Dr. Adamu Abdullahi, said the resolution forum was organised because of the amount of complaints the commission was receiving against the 11 electricity DisCos in the country.

He said: “We receive the highest complaints from that sector, and the same complaints from different parts of the country.

“Since the past months, we have been touring all over the country holding the same resolution forum as the one we are having now.

“We have been to Nassarawa, Benin, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Jos, Ibadan, Bauchi and consumer complaints have largely been on over-billing, community transformer issues, accounts reconciliations, energy capping, tariff band classification, metering, billings before connection to a new building, disconnection without notice, et cetera.

“That is why we insist that all the stakeholders, like the National Electricity Regulation Commission [NERC], the Nigeria Electricity Management Services Agency [NEMSA] which provides meter, and of course the concerned DisCos have to be present in the forums.”

Abdullahi accused the DisCos of not being forthcoming on the allegations against them.

He added: “As you can see, these are very serious issues to the consumers and, of course, they will like to have solutions,” he said.

“We are here to resolve these issues, and that is why we set aside four days to attend to the complaints,” he added, noting that over the past three days, most of the complaints have been resolved.

“The ones we cannot do here, we give timelines to the DisCos, NERC and NEMSA to ensure that the complaints are resolved. If not, we encourage the consumers to report to our offices where we have willing staff and the complaints the branch staff are not able to handle is escalated to the head office.”

Engr. Salami Oladokun, representing NEMSA, assured the FCCPC of his agency’s readiness to continue to collaborate with them, adding that NEMSA’s workforce usually go round to monitor the meters.

Speaking, Mr. Chukwunonso Okwuso, Forum Secretary Ikeja NERC Forum, appealed to consumers to always attend such forums with open minds, emphasising that no matter how long the issues had lingered, it will be resolved according to laid out government regulations.

Commending the FCCPC for organising such a forum, he noted it was a sure way to hear directly from the aggrieved customers.

In her remarks, Jolaoluwa Adewale, Head, Government/Regulatory Ikeja Electric Plc, noted that since the forum started sitting, many consumers who came with complaints had got them resolved, though he acknowledged that many complaints were still outstanding.

She however appealed to them to exercise patience while promising that the DisCo would work on all the complaints brought to its notice.

An elderly customer, Mr. Anthony Chukwuemeka Iteghate, said he paid N65,000 for a meter since last August but had not received any.

He said that all his visits and complaints to the Ikeja electricity company yielded no result.

“They have not given me any meter and have not refunded my money. Since last year, I have been staying without electricity. Their response to me is that there is no meter,” he said.

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