History was made yesterday when the federal government completed what has been described as one of the largest privatisation exercises in the world by handing over five generation companies (DISCOs) and 11 distribution companies to their new owners.
The private investors had completed payment for the utilities on August 21, 2013, according to the privatisation timeline following the launch of a power sector roadmap in 2010 by President Goodluck Jonathan as a follow-up to the reform process which began in 1999.
Consequently, the Nigerian power sector has moved from an inefficient state-owned monopolistic industry to a private sector-driven competitive electricity market, after 14 years of painstaking effort by the government to reform the industry.
The handing over of the 16 power firms unbundled from the now defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to their new owners took place peacefully across the country, contrary to fears that electricity workers might disrupt the exercise over unpaid severance benefits.
The companies which were handed over the investors are: Abuja Disco to Kann Consortium, Enugu to Interstate, Jos to Aura Energy, Benin to Vigeo, Eko to West Power and Gas, Ikeja (NEDC/KEPCO), Port Harcourt (4Power Consortium), Kano to Sahelian while Integrated Energy took over both Ibadan and Yola Discos.
Others are Kainji and Jebba Discos taken over by Mainstream Energy, Ughelli by Transcorp/Woodrock as well as Shiroro which was handed over to North South, while Amperion and NEDC/KEPCO took over the operations of Geregu and Egbin Gencos respectively.
At the handing over of Abuja Disco to its new owners, Kann Consortium, minister of power Prof. Chinedu Nebo, who represented Vice President Namadi Sambo, stated that the ministry's role had been reduced to that of oversight functions and ensuring that government policies were implemented through the regulatory agency.
He added that the ministry would also now focus on championing the development of alternative energy such as large hydro, solar and wind energy as well as vigorously pursue government's rural electrification agenda.
To the new owners, the minister said: "The challenges facing the electricity sector in Nigeria are enormous, but we are equally convinced that the opportunities in the sector are enormous. Therefore, the federal government is committed to creating the enabling environment that would incentivise private investors to take on these challenges.
"Nevertheless, let me state clearly here that both the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and the BPE will continually monitor the operations of the successor companies and would not hesitate to sanction any core investor that does not deliver on the performance agreement that was executed with the government."
The government also advised new core investors to abide by the agreements they signed on the management of power assets.