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Reps, Stakeholders Setup Committee for 2-month Free Electricity

The House of Representatives and stakeholders in the power sector on Wednesday agreed to set up a joint implementation committee on the proposed two-month free power supply to poor Nigerians as stimulus package.

The stimulus package is aimed at alleviating the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.

In a statement in Abuja, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the committee’s mandate was to work out modalities for the proposed two-month bill waiver for the most vulnerable people in the country.

The lawmaker explained that the panel was also expected to identify the group of Nigerians to benefit from the free power supply.

He said that the committee would identify the number of households connected to the national grid as well as find the way forward for regular power supply to Nigerians after the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are here to find out how we will go about it. I am happy that in my previous engagements with the NNPC GMD, he was very interested.

“Whatever the issues are within the power supply chain, they have to be dealt with and set aside but how we deal with the issue at stake is why we are here today.

“This is not about technicalities or blaming any part of the power supply value chain; it is just about how we find a solution.

“The objective is very simple: we are asking people to stay at home for several days or weeks, so we need to make their stay at home comfortable. We need to help the poorest of the poorest at this time in Nigeria.

“Even if we agree that this proposal as an investment scheme according to the power sector stakeholders, I think we need to keep our eyes on the ball.

“What is that ball? Get to the end-user, who is the beneficiary of that investment scheme.

“I wouldn’t want to look at it as the DisCos or GenCos or even the Transmission Company as the beneficiaries. For me, the ultimate beneficiary is the Nigerian people.

“If that is what the investment scheme takes, to supply power, it may not be 100 per cent, but let’s say 70 or 80 per cent, then we would have succeeded.

“So, we set up a group that will look into all the possibilities and implications and come up with a solution, so that the Nigerian poor can be taken care of during this period,” he said.

The Speaker, however, expressed his disappointment over the non-existence of the Power Consumer Assistance Fund by NERC.

He said the fund would have served the purpose it was meant for, at a time such as this, if it existed.

Citing Section 83 of the Electricity Power Sector Act, Gbajabiamila said: “We have broken the law because the law mandated it; it is not optional. It is the Act that mandated its establishment.

“If that had been set up, way back, perhaps we would have had the fund with which to assist this proposal. This is the kind of time that this fund was anticipating.

“I think we should look into setting up this fund because we do not know when next this kind of issue may come up,” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Power, Mr Mamman Sale, said the Executive arm was ready to contribute its part to the success of the proposal.

“We will give all the support as well as technical advice toward the realisation of this objective. We are ready whenever our input is needed,” the minister said.

The Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) Group Managing Director, Mr Mele Kyari, said that the issue of gas supply to the generating companies known as GenCos was critical to power supply in the country.

According to him, the proposal is workable if the issue of who is to carry the burden of cost and margins in the supply value chain is settled and agreed on by all the parties.

Kyari said that note had to be taken of the actual beneficiaries of the two-month free supply palliative.

He said not every Nigerian falls into the category of the poorest, saying that the existence of the industrial sector should be of concern at the end of the crisis period.

Kyari said that 100 per cent uninterrupted power supply was impossible because not enough was generated due to the COVID-19 crisis.

He, however, assured that gas supply would not be an issue, as 100 per cent supply was guaranteed once the debt issue was addressed.

The DisCos assured that they could deliver the mandate as soon as all the details were worked out and agreed on. (NAN)

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