“Distribution companies came with a mindset to siphon money” – Adetayo Adegbemie on Public Eye

On Sunday, January 3rd, 2021, Funmi discussed consumer rights in electricity with Power Up Nigeria founder, Adetayo Adegbemie, the Community Development Association Chairman, Olawale Augustine Olalusi, and former Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Commissioner – Licensing, Tariff & Market Rules, Eyo O. Ekpo.

Nigeria has been battling with providing good electricity to Nigerians for decades. Regardless of all the work done with privatisation, it would appear that neither electricity nor justice has come to millions of homes in Nigeria affected by the poor electricity supply.

A documentary set the tone for the discussion. We saw the damage caused as faulty power lines sparked the flames of infernos, which tore through the popular Calabar markets, Watt and Marian. It left the traders with feelings of anger, sorrow, and devastation as they attempted to put out the fire.

Funmi Iyanda then posed the question, “Why is there a spike in electrocutions, fires, and other domestic accidents related to the supply of electricity into homes despite privatisation?”

According to Mr. Adetayo Adegbenle, “First things first, we need to consider the quality of materials imported from China. Then, we consider the engineers. In the old days, we had qualified engineers and experienced. What we have under privatisation on these days is that you need a Licensed Electrical Contractors Association Of Nigeria (LECAN) certificate to handle wirings – which you can get from anywhere. Nobody vets these things.”

The next issue addressed was the fact that we need to have electricity before it can kill us. That was the problem plaguing Mr. Olawale Olalusi. His estate had been without power for over a year.

“In 2015, the transformer we had was about 500kV, but they placed 5 communities on it! There were also a lot of illegal connections, not done by individuals, but done by NEPA officials. Eventually, the transformer developed faults.”

“They promised severally that they would fix the transformer. Instead, they removed it. Since January 2020, we haven’t had a transformer. Now, they are making absurd claims that the community is owing 42 million naira in unpaid electricity bills and we have to pay it off before they bring the transformer back. How can we owe that much when we haven’t had electricity in a year?”

Mr. Adetayo Adegbenle confirmed that this incident was not isolated. “I have a database of about 500 people from different locations that have applied for transformers for years and have not been given. They had to buy for themselves. Yet, they will be charged for installation.”

“The idea behind privatization is that people that have funds can come in and make the sector better. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.”

“Distribution companies came in with the mindset that the power sector is a goldmine for them to siphon money from because they are the only point of entry for money in the sector.”

To address the issue of getting electricity in Nigeria, the former Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Commissioner – Licensing, Tariff & Market Rules, Eyo O. Ekpo connected via Zoom.

“The problem is politics. We’ve always wanted to have energy subsidised. Our leaders have led our people to believe that “free light” is our right. But we forget that electricity, just like telecommunications, is a service.”

“We have to pay for the production cost of electricity if we want it to be constantly available to us.”

You can watch the full episode here:

Public Eye airs every Sunday at 5 pm on TVC News. You can catch them on any of these television channels: DSTV (channel 418), Startimes (channel307), GOTV (channel 45), or channel 572 on Sky.

Public Eye is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

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