THEWILL EDITORIAL: The N50bn Electricity Subsidy Waste

BEVERLY HILLS, February 21, (THEWILL) – The recent disclosure that the Federal Government had been spending a whopping N50 billion monthly to subsidise electricity in the country is quite shameful. The Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, had made the disclosure of this colossal waste in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media & Communications, Aaron Artimas, last week. According to him, the subsidy was to augment “the shortfall by the Distribution Companies who have failed to defray the cost of bulk electricity supplied to them by the Generating Companies.”

Providing further details on the subsidy, the minister said, “following a minor increase in the tariff regime, the subsidy has now decreased by half,” but he was honest enough to note that the wasteful exercise “still constitutes a serious drain on the nation’s economy.”

Unfortunately, what the Power Ministry had been doing all along with the humongous subsidy was to power Nigeria into backwardness by subsidising inefficiency. Without any iota of doubt, the power sector has remained one of the worst-performing sectors in the country since the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari administration despite its desire to rejig the sector. The massive investments into the sector in the past five years have not also yielded the expected results. It’s really been a tale of woes with the sector as the leadership of the Power Ministry itself has performed below the minimum global standards. There is no doubt that a sector that is supposed to be the pillar of the nation’s economic development has become a big disappointment.

We are therefore not surprised that the humongous waste, under the guise of electricity subsidy, is being considered as another palliative to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians. What an achievement! The fact remains that the ministry has been subsiding darkness all along as most Nigerians live more in total darkness with the epileptic supply of electricity to most homes.

While the Distribution Companies (DisCos) have failed woefully to stabilise their operations despite the categorisation of electricity supply into various bands to enable everyone cope with the cost of electricity, the Generation Companies (GenCos) are not doing better either. It is a shame that after all the subsidies and investments over the years, electricity supply has only stabilised at a bit over 5,000 megawatts.

The DisCos are always shifting the responsibility of replacing faulty transformers, electricity poles and cables to the consumers just as they would not stop tasking ordinary Nigerians with these responsibilities before power interruptions could be restored.

The free metering scheme to stop estimated and crazy billings has not also gone down well as consumers were still being asked to pay for the meters in some instances. Though the Federal Government had committed itself to provide over six million meters free of charge to Nigerians, only about one million of the promised quantities have been delivered for distribution so far with the DisCos still playing games with the few already delivered.

The much-flaunted power sector reforms have become a cliche instead of delivering full benefits to Nigerians. Nigerians are no doubt struggling with the latest hike in electricity tariff as they are now paying more for services that are far below acceptable global standards. The electricity price hike came at a time the World Bank had just released a whopping $750 million to the Federal Government for the development of the power sector because of its strategic importance as the engine of development. Yet, the services and output from the sector has not, in any way, reflected the humongous amount of money that has been pumped into the sector so far by the government and the country’s development partners.

THEWILL believes that the rot in the sector and the inability of the supervising ministry to enforce guidelines and rules of engagement are all factors of the shameless and inept leadership, coupled with the arrogant display of avarice and greed by those saddled with the responsibility of steering the affairs of the ministry. The low level they have descended to, in pursuit of selfish gains, which was also busted during the 2021 budget defense at the National Assembly, is not only an insult to Nigerians but also a great disservice to the country and Nigerians as a whole.

THEWILL has always drawn the attention of Nigerians to the developments at the Ministry of Power, with Mamman as minister, as we still maintain that the ugly situation playing out in that ministry should be of great concern not only to well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians but the Federal Government as well. We therefore call on President Buhari to beam a searchlight on the ministry and put it right if his administration’s roadmap for the country’s development, which appears to have been hijacked by a clique, is to be fully achieved