As the curtain has been drawn on the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) with the presentation of share certificates and licences to 15 new core owners of successor distribution companies (discos) and generation companies (gencos) by President Goodluck Jonathan on September 30, a new vista appears to have been opened in the power sector. Already, many Nigerians are beginning to compare the event to the unbundling of NITEL that gave rise to the GSM, which led to a marked improvement in the nation's tele-density and efficiency in telephony. The expectation is that, with this unbundling of the clumsy behemoth that PHCN was, the energy situation would automatically improve. The president doused this optimism when he said that while he did not expect a sudden turn of events in the power sector, better days were here for Nigerians with regard to improved power generation and supply.
The need for cautious optimism on the part of Nigerians is hinged on the fact that, unlike the GSM companies, the operations of the discos and gencos are not altogether independent. They still have to rely on the cooperation of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). Gladly, the government is making effort to position these companies by funding them adequately to perform their duties towards ensuring that Nigerians are spared any more excuses with regard to power supply.
Part of the task before the gencos, in particular, is that they are expected to build up capacity so as to be able to improve performance from the present levels to additional 5,000 megawatts within a period of five years. That they promised to achieve this as captured in the agreement they signed with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is something to be happy about, if only the regulator would perform its duty diligently. For the discos, the use of Aggregate Technical, Commercial and Collection (AT&C) loss reduction programme for the first five years is a strategy designed to provide Nigerian consumers and other stakeholders with specific parameters with which to measure the outcome of the power sector reform and privatisation.
The just concluded privatisation of the power sector is in response to the inefficiency of government and its agencies. With these measures in place, therefore, we are persuaded to share the average Nigerian's heightened expectation of better days as far as power supply and availability are concerned. Yet, anxiety persists as a result of past experiences in the privatisation which have left a sour taste in the mouth of many.
Yet, the power sector is too strategic to be toyed with. So much money has already been wasted on it that Nigerians, this time round, will accept nothing less than efficiency in the sector. There must be constant power supply at a cost they can afford.