By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate’s investigation of the power sector was disrupted on Wednesday by repeated power outages at the venue of the hearing.
The power cuts, which occurred in frequent intervals, aroused suspicion and prompted the visibly irritated Chairman of the ad hoc Committee on Power, Senator Abubakar Kyari, to investigate the disruptions during the hearing.
The situation compelled those making submissions to either use the light from their phones or the glow from video camera to make their presentations.
Yesterday’s probe, which began at 11:30 am was a continuation of the hearing which started on Tuesday, but the persistent outage forced the committee to adjourn at 4.00 pm.
The outages, which started at 2pm when the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali, was making his submission on behalf of various electricity companies, lasted for 10 to 15 minutes.
They continued during presentations by the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Ezreal Dikki; Chairman of National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi; and some of the managing directors of electricity distribution companies (Discos).
Angered by the development, Kyari assured his audience that the committee would beam its searchlight on the unwholesome development.
“The power outages experienced here today further underscore the relevance of this committee at this critical time but we shall investigate whether they are deliberate or not,” he said.
Earlier, Kyari observed that the actual investments in the power sector since 1999 exceeded N2.7 trillion reported in the media yesterday, adding that it was difficult to actually ascertain the exact financial investments made during the period until all stakeholders conclude their presentations.
He also explained that the figure in the public domain came only from the Ministry of Power and the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) for the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs).
According to him, the total expenditure on the sector would emerge at the conclusion of the hearing.
However, in their separate presentations, investors in the sector claimed that they had been operating at a great loss due to a number of factors.
For instance, the Managing Director of Enugu Distribution Company, Mr. Robert Dickerman, who spoke on behalf of all the Discos, said the entire industry had been operating at a deficit of N20 billion per month.
This, he attributed to the non-metering of over 50 per cent of electricity consumers and absence of another 30 per cent of electricity consumers on the billing system of the service providers.
He also informed that the proposed injection of N100 billion as subsidy into the sector by the federal government was not fulfilled.
In the same vein, a submission by the Chief Executive Officer of Ibadan Electricity Generating Company, Mr. Adeoye Fagbembi, on behalf of the six generating companies (Gencos), claimed that transmission losses between them and electricity distributors had been a big problem following the federal government’s failure to redeem its N100 billion subsidy promise.
But the Director General of BPE, in his submission, said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had paid N5 billion out of the N100 billion promised by the government.
He however admitted that the sector was currently being run at a loss by the investors.
In his own presentation, the Chairman of NERC debunked allegations that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) would soon be privatised by the federal government.
According to him, the government has no such plan in view of the sensitivity of that segment of the power sector.
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