By Oke Peter
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has said the Federal Government will consult Nigerians before going ahead to sell its 40 per cent stake in the electricity distribution companies.
Fashola stated this in Lagos, on Thursday, at a policy dialogue on the power sector organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
The Federal Government had in November 2013 sold 60 per cent of its interest in the Discos to private investors during the privatisation of the successor generation and distribution companies carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
Commenting on the level of debts in the sector, Fashola said Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government must pay their outstanding bills to reduce the debt profile of the Discos.
He stated, “As the Federal Government, we have finished the verification of the debt claimed by the Discos; we now know the figure. So we are going to get council (Federal Executive Council) approval to validate the figure and for us to pay. It will improve the balance sheet of the Discos.
“As for our own 40 per cent (in the Discos), people have asked me, ‘Is government willing to sell? And my answer is that I can’t hypothecate; but if we see an offer on the table, we need cash. And those assets are held for the people of Nigeria. The same people of Nigeria who said, ‘Don’t sell our refineries.’ But if there is an offer on the table, we will come back to the people of Nigeria and say, ‘Look should we deal or not deal?’”
Fashola stated that the total available power generation capacity in the country stood at 6,900 megawatts as of September 24, adding that it could have been wheeled to consumers if there was a distribution capacity to get it to them.
He said, “But unfortunately that is where there is still a problem for all sorts of reasons: liquidity, vandalism, energy theft, debts owed, and people resisting metering. You will be shocked to learn that people are resisting metering. All of this is documented. So, we have called, first, for a review; that is exactly what we are doing.
“Some people have called for a cancellation, and we have spent time explaining that that is not the way to go. It sends a negative business message about us that we do not respect contracts.”