THE Federal Government has warned electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) that it would not succumb to blackmails and would only pay verified outstanding electricity debts consumed by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Mr Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, gave the warning at the opening session of the 10th Monthly Meeting, with Power Sector Operators in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Fashola, who was reacting to advertorials placed on behalf of the Discos, by the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distribution Companies (ANED), advised the Discos to pursue the debt issue in their capacities as Distribution Companies and not under the aegis of any association.
He described the advertorials titled; “MDA debts not yet paid” with other sidelines such as “MDA pay your debts so that we can serve Nigerians better”, as a blackmail against the Federal Government.
He pointed out that, although the Constitution guaranteed freedom of association, the privatisation exercise that 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 explained that the advertorials 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.
To this end, he said; “Let me say without any equivocation that government will not succumb to this Blackmail, at least not the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“I think that Advert should have told the Nigerian public that, at our meeting in Sokoto, we provided an online platform where we asked all the DisCos to submit details of their debts to that platform, so that we can verify it. I think that advert should have told Nigerians how many DisCos have complied with that instruction. That advert should also have told Nigerians how much was owed and to which DisCo.”
“It is important to remind Nigerians that the privatisation exercises did not vest the DisCos in an association, instead it was vested in 11 individual companies.
“So while I respect the rights of association; indeed our Constitution allows freedom of association. But the Nigeria 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 N100Billion or less than N100Billion but not an estimate,” the Minister said.
Also faulting the DisCos, on the grounds that the advertorials contained no information as to how many of them had supplied details of their audited account for the last three years, he said this would reveal the level of compliance of DisCos to the regulations set by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
“That advert should also have told the Nigerian Public how many DisCos have gone to court to frustrate the attempt by NERC to hold them to their contracts, so that they can pay the GenCos who have been sacrificing, the Gas producers, who have not received any money but have continued to act patriotically,” he said.