The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN has said that he met a privatised power sector on assumption as Minister, while reminding the Joint Senate Committee on Labour, Employment, Productivity and Power that Power Holdings Company of Nigeria, PHCN, has since wound up.
Addressing the Joint Committee at a public hearing on Tuesday, Fashola said the process of privatisation has placed power sector on commercial front lines, adding that since government has minority shares, it lacks control of the tariff.
He explained that the regulatory powers of the sector has also been placed on Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, by the Acts of Parliament, hence his job was to queue behind what NERC was doing.
Fashola added that he was in support of the hike in electricity tariff by the Commission which came into effect three months ago and generated public outcry from Nigerians.
“Distinguished Senators, I met a privatised Power Sector and you all know that PHCN is defunct, so my business here is to support what NERC which has powers to fix price was doing,” he stressed.
Fashola’s reaction follows the Acting Director General of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission’s defense of the hike in tariff that seems to favour the DISCOs and GENCOs which the Senate Committee were obviously not comfortable with especially with experienced power instability across the Federation.
In his explanation, NERC’s acting DG, Dr. Anthony Akah maintained that it was proper and timely that there was increment in tariff to encourage investors as a result of collapse of infrastructure and non payment of electricity bills by large number of users.
Reacting, James Manager, a member of the Committee advised that the Minister cannot abdicate his responsibilities since the sector has direct effects on the public.
He explained that if there were changes, the public were the first to judge the current administration which was what they promised Nigerians.
“Hon. Minister, you cannot hide under the current privatisation arrangement and said you cannot do anything If there was change in the power sector, the public will be the first to react, so you have to be prepared to something differently,” Manager maintained.
Representative of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero’s in his position paper accused NERC of inadequate consultation with stakeholders, alleging that the Commission always danced to dictates of investors to exploit Nigerians.
The two-day public hearing continues tomorrow (Wednesday).