Vanguard (Lagos)

28 July 2012

Nigeria: Take Over of PHCN's Mgt - Nigerians React

Nigerians have commended the federal government move to tackle the hydry-headed corruption in the power sector with the take-over of the management of Transmission Comapany of Nigeria, TCN one of the successor companies created from the unbundling process of PHCN by Manitoba Hydro International, a Canadian power management company. Electricity consumers who spoke to Saturday Vanguard expressed hapiness that sanity is underway in the sector.

Few days ago, government signed an agreement with the Canadian Company for the management of Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN. The company, we gathered, will commence work on Monday July 30, 2012 for a period of three years. With this arrangment, the Canadian company will take charge of eigth managment positions while the existing TCN managment staff will be their deputies. The move, according the the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Bolanle Onagoruwa, "would improve the services in the power sector, stabilise the grid; reduce electricity losses during transmission; provide for the achievement of certain predetermined targets that could improve grid security and general performance."

Those who spoke with us expressed satisfaction that the move if properly supervised by the government will produce tangible results. A business-woman who operates a cold-room business in Lagos praised the move. "Infact, I was not abreast of the move but it is a good move towards ensuring sanity in the sector."

Narrating her experience, she stated that paying heavily without using the electricity is sickening. "I can count how many times we had light in this area but instead of reduction in the bill, all you get is an increased bill.

They dont come to read meter and they dont provide the pre-paid meter as well. Everything is laced with corruption. If the management is removed from them, maybe they will do the right thing," she siad.

In the same vein, the National President of Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Dr. Gani Enahoro opined that since Nigeria cannot continue in the business as usual, this bold initiative becomes necessary advising that rhetorics and sentiments should be set aside for the development of the sector. He said: "a new Management for TCN is highly welcome because we cannot continue to do things for so long the same way and expect to get a different and positive result.

The entire PHCN as it stands today is not a success story. It therefore means that we should stop all the rhetorics and sentiments, but depart from the old ways that has not helped us at all."

He stressed: "It is high time that we begin to see actions that would bring some hopes alive knowing fully well that so much tax-payers money has been expended and very little has changed in the quality and quantity of electricity that gets to the consumers."

On the reaction of workers of PHCN, he stated that it should not stop the move which indicates light at the end of the tunnel. "The objection by PHCN workers is understandable but it must not stop the rolling-wheels. If the show of espirit de corps by PHCN workers in fighting privatisation and the unbundling policy was applied to doing their primary assignments in the past, the dwindled fortunes that necessitated this option of privatization wouldn't have arisen. However, reasonable severance package must be offered to the workers who would eventually lose their jobs despite all promises made by the government," Enahoro said.

Another employer of labour, Managing Director of Classic Printers, Shomolu, Tayo Oduwole said government should have done this before now, "it is long over due, in fact more drastic action is necessary if government is serious about bringing sanity to the sector."

While commending the move, he stated that the huge amount of money previous administrations had invested into the sector to ensure steady power supply could not be justified, just as he called for a probe of all money spent on the sector ten years ago.

He added: "What the government has done is commendable because inspite of several moves in the past, we have not seen any good step to provide stable electricity in the country. Huge amount of money have been spent, yet, we pay heavily for darkness. If government is now realising that leaving PHCN's management to continue with the manner they are operating, in the next one year, the vast swathe of our industries will be condemned to perpetual under-investment and inefficiency," he stated.

A staff of PHCN who craved anonymity said for them it is a welcome development. "Whatever they are doing, the workers interest must be well taken care of. Although talks are still ongoing on some of the issues the workers raised before now, but I think it is on-going and I cannot comment on that. But suffice to say everybody wants development, and if the step will bring the desired development, then it is welcome but not to the detriment of the existing workers," he said.

With an advance payment of $2.5million said to have been paid to Manitoba Hydro International, out of the actual cost of $23million for management and training of workers, the power sector may be on the verge of transformation if both parties maintained their part of the agreement.

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