18 November 2011

Nigeria: Rural Electrification - Contractors Fault NERC Chairman Over Comment

The Association of Rural Electrification Contractors of Nigeria (ARECN) has faulted the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr Sam Amadi over statement credited to him criticizing the Federal Government's decision to resuscitate the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Media reports quoted the NERC chairman as saying that the REA has become unnecessary because of the ongoing privatization of the 11 electricity distribution companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The rural electrification contractors said in a statement in Abuja that they were surprise that "Dr Amadi, a lawyer, should criticise the Ministry of Power publicly for merely aligning its actions with the 2005 Electric Power Sector Reform Act (ESPRA), the very law which brought NERC into being."

Dr Amadi was quoted to have said that the existence of a federal agency like REA negates the responsibility of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria distributions companies which are due for privatisation, to efficiently embark on sustainable network expansion, adding that even the state governments who have shown more verve for rural electrification should be encouraged alongside the discos with perhaps financial grants from the Federal government instead of plans to revive REA.

Though the Rural Electrification Agency is provided for in the 2005 ESPRA Act, the Ministry of Power decided in 2009 to suspend its operation in the wake of the discovery of a N5.2billion scam, for which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is now prosecuting some erstwhile top officials of the agency and members of the National Assembly committees on power.

The ARECN statement signed by its President, Alhaji Isa Badama and Secretary, Engr. Noel Keyen said "Every Nigerian knows the then leadership of the ministry was acting on impulse because no ministry has the right to abolish an agency created by law on the grounds that one or two of its officials have been charged with corruption. Otherwise, no government institution can still be in existence today."

They noted that "it is curious that the NERC chairman should create the impression that the REA "is an extension of the PHCN distribution companies whereas they are two different government bodies but report to the same ministry.

In a telephone interview the NERC boss said "What I am saying is that we shouldn't be creating federalized bureaucracies that nobody knows their value but only to award contracts."

He said in Chile, government gives grants to rural dwellers, saying "They go to such places to see their energy needs and give them the needed grants accordingly. When the PHCN become fully privatized, the distribution companies (DISCOs) are to go to the unconnected areas to get them connected for better customer base. That is rural electrification."

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