Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja
Power generation companies are planning to disrupt the supply of electricity across the country, an intention that suggests blackmail against the Federal Government, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has alleged.
Reacting to reports that some of the firms had gone to court to file claims against the Federal Government, Fashola stated on Monday that the move was consistent with the rule of law but stressed that the power firms “must be ready to face scrutiny in the court of public opinion.”
Last week, we reported that some Gencos had dragged the government before the Federal High Court in Abuja over what they termed discriminatory practices against their interests and those of gas suppliers.
The firms also accused the Federal Government of conferring preferential treatment on Azura Power West Africa Limited and Accugas Limited at their own expense.
But speaking at the 25th Monthly Power Sector Meeting in Uyo, Fashola said the Gencos must be ready to explain to power consumers that despite all they had benefitted from the Federal Government, they were still planning to hold the citizens hostage.
He stated, “Let me say very clearly to all operators that I get reports of many of the clandestine meetings that some of them (Gencos) are holding with a view to disrupting the supply for political capital. I will implore those that are truly ready to run the business they have acquired voluntarily to continue to do so with the assurance of government support and partnership.
“As for those who entered the business without understanding it, please brace for hard work and help us rebuild this country. Those who choose to hide temporarily in the courts of law can do so, but the court of public opinion will scrutinise you and its verdict may be very scathing, unkind and enduring.”
Fashola added, “I say this because you may not have noticed that Nigerians are increasingly taking their destiny in their hands. This is the essence of privatisation. If you bother to look up and around you, you will see solar panels on rooftops. The mini grid regulations allow them to procure one megawatt without a licence.
“This is bigger than what many traditional generators supply. There is no law that compels them to take public power. I am not afraid of the law courts and will meet you there to vigorously defend our position.”
The minister stated that the Gencos must be ready to face the court of public opinion, which according to him, is a court of conscience and morality.
He noted that in the court of public opinion, the Gencos must be ready to tell the citizens how they felt when other groups went to court to stop the implementation of tariffs approved by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission in 2016.
Fashola said the power firms must explain to the public court whether they went to court before the government approved a N701bn payment assurance guarantee to pay their monthly bills.
He added, “They must disclose to this court that they owed debts from the pre-Buhari era, because their income had reduced to less than 50 per cent. They must disclose to this court that they now receive about 80 per cent income and that this government is now paying them revenues collected from international customers from the Republics of Benin, Niger and Togo in dollars, as against the naira payment they used to receive.
“They must tell the court of public opinion that the reason for going to court is because the government is making 100 per cent payment to a new Genco, which has a different contract with a Partial Risk Guarantee, which they do not have. They must also disclose to the court that they held a meeting with the government and tabled their demands, which the government promised to look into one week before they went to court.”
Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja