The 11th monthly meeting of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN with Operators in the Power Sector, has held at the Ikeja West Transmission Station, Ayobo, Lagos with the Minister restating the need for the service providers to make optimum customer service their focus.
Fashola’s remarks formed part of the ten paragraph Communiqué of the Meeting which was attended by high level representatives of Operators at the executive management levels, includingManaging Directors and Chief Executive Officers of GenCos, DisCos and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), as well as various government agencies such as the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET), the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) and Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA).
The Minister, who emphasized that consumers were the ones that pay the bills and so must be treated rightly by operators in the Power sector, encouraged each Operator and service provider to improve the user experience of its consumers, by improving metering and reducing estimated billings.
Acknowledging the challenges of liquidity in the sector, the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) reminded the meeting that all operators must pay their bills to NBET as well as their suppliers and service providers promptly, to ensure that the sector remains functional and friendly to investors even as the meeting commended the efforts being made by Government and international development partners to address these challenges.
The meeting, which also agreed on the importance of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) paying their debts, acknowledged the need for proper verification prior to payment and also noted the on-going verification and data collection exercise which, it noted, was aimed at improving liquidity in the sector.
While also resolving to complete and submit all outstanding audited financial accounts of all operators before the next meeting in order to improve transparency within the sector, the Meeting noted the importance of the need to complete all outstanding work at the Ikot Ekpene switching station that was commissioned on 21st November 2016, to take full advantage of the added capacity to deliver incremental power.
Noting with delight that the family affected by the electrical accident at Oke-Ira, Ogba in Lagos State had been compensated by Ikeja Electric , the Meeting stressed the need for all operators to observe all safety regulations in the sector and to make every effort to avoid such accidents in future.
The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) reported the progress of the projects in Shagamu, Ikeja West, Ajah, Ayobo, Omotosho, Ayede and Ogba which it said would be completed between April and the end of 2017 and which when completed, would improve power supply in Lagos State and its environs.
The company also reported that with the commissioning of Ikot Ekpene switchyard transmission capacity of the National Grid was now above 6,500MV adding that contrary to insinuations that the Grid was not capable of carrying above 5,000MW of generated energy, the capacity of the grid was dynamic and would continue to grow as more energy was added.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) noted that work was on going to repair all pipelines vandalised in 2016 to restore gas supply to power plants while the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) announced Abuja DisCo as the best performing DisCo in the third quarter of 2016. The score was based on rates of collections, metering progress, health and safety, amongst other indicators.
Okpai Power Plant was announced as the best performing thermal plant in the third quarter of 2016 while Shiroro was announced as the best performing hydroelectric plant. The score for generating plants was based on availability and general compliance with industry standards.
The Meeting, which was chaired by the Minister, was jointly hosted by Ikeja Electric and Egbin Power and, as usual, focused on identifying, discussing, and finding practical solutions to critical issues facing the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Fashola had stressed the need for Operators, especially in the distribution areas of the power sector, to endeavour to improve the quality of their service to consumers pointing out that the consumers being the ones paying the bills, must be treated with all care and respect.
The Minister urged the Operators to continue to train and retrain their personnel to recognize that the customer is king adding that even if they could not provide all that the customers required, they owed the customers a duty to explain what they were doing at any point in time.
He declared, “We owe a duty to fish out a few staff that are not dedicated and retrain or discard them. I know that they are not many but a few because we get constant reports and we know we have got staffs that are very dedicated. Our staff must know that without customers they don’t have a job”.
“Without the customer, we have no business and I think all those in the private sector understand that. If you don’t have the zeal and dedication to serve, please leave, it is a thankless task but it is a noble task to serve”, the Minister said.
On the frequent complaints of consumers, Fashola listed them to include issues around metering and billing urging, “We must build that trust and that confidence that is needed in service delivery. I have heard complaints of people being charged for things they shouldn’t be charged for. So all of us that are owners of this business must look inside and do whatever is possible to improve service.
Expressing confidence that there would be improved service in the New Year “if we work together and have understanding of each other”, the Minister thanked the Operators for their perseverance thus far. He also advised them, “We have spoken of Undercover Boss here before. Go round; ask the consumers what their experiences have been. It will inform your management decision about what to do”.
On the liquidity issue, Fashola, who acknowledged its challenges to the service providers, recalled hisstatements concerning the issue both before the meeting and in the past as well as to the Press in which he had explained government’s efforts, working with its development partners, both international and local, who, according to him, “have shown commitment and very inspiring appetite to play in this sector”.
“We are trying to see what we can do together in order to bring the liquidity issue under some control and from there solve the problem”, he said just as he also announced that the members of Parliament have also shown inspiring understanding of what the challenges are.
According to the Minister, “Quick decisions will be made now with collaboration and we will be fair but firm and we expect that people will respect the decisions. These, of course, are matters which the regulator, NERC, will deal with, Bulk Trader, NBET, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Petroleum in terms of gas and, in fact, all the players, will dovetail into one another”.
Speaking on what to expect in the New Year, Fashola noted that government has already listed and identified what the challenges were, adding, “What we are trying to finalize now is what comes first, what follows and what takes dominion, because in solving one problem we might solve three simultaneously and so on and so forth”.
Promising that government would keep in constant touch with the Operators as the issues evolved, the Minister said such constant interaction would also enable the operators to give their own side of the story adding, “We will also use this meeting to share details of what we are seeing and to hear what you are experiencing”.
Reiterating that the intention of the constant meetings remained to review and enhance services and also to meet the needs of the expectant Nigerians, Fashola declared, “I think the top burner issues still remains service. I am conscious of the challenges the operators in the sector face but you and I are working as hard as we can to make that environment more responsive to you”.
“I have said that indeed as pioneers you will carry some burden and you will sacrifice, perhaps, more than you have done. But I am optimistic that things will get better. I am optimistic that we can work together to give Nigerians better service”, he said.