Why Nigeria is still in darkness – Dr Chukwueloka Umeh

Nigeria is still in darkness because of infrastructural deficit and the huge debt owed power generation companies (GenCos) by power distribution companies (DisCos), Century Power Generation Company Limited Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chukwueloka Umeh, said at the weekend.

Century Power Generation is a subsidiary of Nestoil, an indigenous conglomerate with interest in oil and gas, power generation, engineering and other key sectors of the economy.

He added that the bane of the industry includes lack of provision of the right infrastructure by the Federal Government, absence of policy directions for operators to follow and funding among others. He said stakeholders are, however, awaiting the government to take the lead in ensuring that the sector moves forward.

According to him, key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) should provide an environment that would enable power distribution companies to generate enough revenue for investment purposes, adding that by so doing, they will find it easier to meet their obligations to the consumers.

Umeh said: “The government agency should allow the DisCos to make money in order to make timely payments to the power generation companies (GenCos) for the gas supplied to them by the gas companies. Once the DisCos are allowed to make money to cover their investment, they would be able to solve metering and other problems facing them.”

According to him, banks are willing to provide funds to operators, once the government has shown a considerable level of commitment in the industry.

He said: ”There is still a lot of excitement from banks and other private sector players when it comes to the issue of providing funds for the sector. There is still a level of excitement in the industry. This is not about the issue of whether the industry can work or not; the issue is that the industry would work because it is a matter of time once the necessary problems in the operating environment has been taken care, mostly by the government.

“Banks are not in business in order to give money to people freely. They are in business in order to improve their profitability, get enough shareholders’ value and help contribute to the growth of the Nigerian economy. They are not ready to lose money. So also is Century Power Limited. Banks are only waiting for the government to make the energy (sector) work.”

The Federal Government had provided a bail-out of N700billion to operators in the power sector about two years ago. Though the money was meant to strengthen the operation of the power generation and distribution firms, the problems persist.

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