As controversy trails debt owed electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) by Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola has warned DISCOs to stop blackmailing the Federal Government over the issue.
He said no amount of harassment from DISCOs would make him offset MDAs power consumption debts without verification.
Fashola, who spoke at the opening of the 10th monthly meeting with power sector operators in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, also advised DISCOs to pursue the debt issue in their capacities as distribution companies and not on the platform of any association.
While recognising that the nation’s Constitution guarantees freedom of association, Fashola noted that the privatisation exercise, which led to the transfer of the distribution assets of power, was not held between the Federal Government and any association but 11 individual companies.
He expressed disappointment that the companies had placed advertorials on the platform of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distribution (ANED), “which failed to tell Nigerians the whole truth about the debts,” pointing out that the DISCOs had, so far, failed to provide details of such debts for verification.
Fashola declared: “Let me say without any equivocation that government will not succumb to this blackmail, at least not the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
The minister, who recalled his promise at assumption of duties that government would pay all duly verified debts, expressed displeasure that the DISCOs failed to tell Nigerians, in their advertisement, of various meetings seeking solution to the debt problem and that, at the last monthly meeting with them in Sokoto, an online platform was provided by government to enable them submit details of the debts with ease. He said none of the DISCOs complied with the agreed deadline.
“I think that advertisement should have mentioned how many DISCOs have complied with that instruction. That advertisement should also have told Nigerians how much was owed and to which DISCO.
“It is important to remind Nigerians that the privatisation exercise did not vest the DISCOs in an association. Instead it was vested in 11 individual companies.
“But, government will not pay its debts estimated to be about N100 billion under the aegis of an association.
“That is not how to resolve debts. Every DISCO knows how much power it supplied. Debts are not calculated by estimates. It is either N100 billion or less than N100 billion, but not an estimate,” the minister noted.