President Goodluck Jonathan is today kicking off the nation's 53rd Independence anniversary celebration with the handing over of share certificates and licences to the new owners of the 15 PHCN successor companies which have made 100 per cent payment of the respective bid amounts.
The presentation, which is taking place today at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, has been described as a landmark achievement of the current administration in its quest to transform the economic fortunes of the country.
Director-general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) Mr Benjamin Dikki noted that "this handover is a culmination of 14 years of painstaking effort by the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), BPE and other key stakeholders to reform and liberalise the nation's electricity industry".
The Electric Power Sector Reform Implementation Committee (EPIC) was set up in 2000 with the key mandate to proffer an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for the sector.This gave birth to the National Electric Power Policy which was approved by the Federal Executive Council in September 2001; followed by the passage of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005. The passage of the Act gave the NCP/BPE the legal impetus to set up the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) also in 2005.
The NCP/BPE went on to unbundle the integrated monopoly into three segments of generation, transmission and distribution. As part of the reform initiative, NEPA was transformed into Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in compliance with Section 1 of EPSR Act as a prelude to the full unbundling of the utility into different successor companies.
To further give teeth to the reform, in August 2010, President Jonathan launched the Presidential Roadmap on Power Reform with two key advisory organs, namely, the Presidential Action Committee on Power and the Presidential Taskforce on Power. The Presidential Roadmap is a comprehensive plan aimed at the reform and restructuring of the power sector to achieve stable electricity supply in the country
The Bureau published advertisements for expressions of interest by prospective investors in the 11 distribution companies and six generation companies between December 13 and 20, 2010 in both local and international media.
Out of the 14 successor companies scheduled for handover, a total of $2, 525,824,534 has so far been realised as proceeds. Out of the amount, $1,256,000,000 came from the distribution companies (DISCOs) while the generation companies (GENCOs) raked in $1, 269,824,534.
The federal government has said it has set aside about N384 billion to settle labour liabilities.
Meanwhile, the federal government has signed a contract to secure $1.3 billion for funding one of the country's legacy power projects, the Zungeru Hydro-Electric Power Project, which would add 700 megawatts to the national grid upon completion.
The contract was signed on Saturday by the coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria, while the Chinese ambassador, Mr Deng Boqing, signed on behalf of his country.
Permanent secretary of the power ministry Ambassador Godknows Igali represented the minister, Professor Chinedu Nebo.
The contract would be executed by a consortium of two Chinese companies, China National Electric and Engineering Corporation (CNEEC) and Sino Hydro, the Federal Ministry of Finance said in a statement yesterday.
The ministry said the $1.3 billion was captured in the 2012-2014 Medium -Term Borrowing Plan approved by the National Assembly, adding that the total cost of the project was $1, 293,573,013.08.
While 75 per cent of the cost would be financed by a loan provided by the China Eximbank, the federal government has already paid 25 per cent of the cost in the form of a counterpart fund.
Speaking after signing the contract, Okonjo-Iweala explained that the project would have significant positive impact in many areas stressing that "it would create thousands of jobs for Nigerian engineers, technicians and artisans during the construction phase, directly and indirectly. It would also boost the economy of the local economy in Zungeru as well as its environs". She said the loan was obtained at highly favourable concessional terms: 2.5 per cent interest rate with a seven-year grace period and 20 years' maturity.
PHCN workers plan to withdraw service if...
As the federal government plans to hand over the power sector to private investors any moment from now, the workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) have vowed to withdraw their services if government fails to complete payment of their allowances.
In a statement issued to journalists over the weekend, the general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero, said nothing will stop them from withdrawing their services if the federal government fails to pay the entitlements of PHCN workers.
The statement says "it has become imperative that at the news of any units of PHCN facility being handed over to any investors without conclusion of labour issues, our services should be withdrawn without any delay and it must remain so until otherwise directed by the leadership of the union".
"We hope the planned handover is on paper as it was said by the permanent secretary on power because not up to 50 per cent of our staff have been paid.
"Again, almost 5,000 staff are yet to be regularised. The physical handover will not take place and if it is done, there will be total blackout because we are ready to down tools without delay," it says.
It was gathered that PHCN workers will today protest against the handing over of the privatized assets of the power company to new owners.