UFOMBA UZUEGBU, Asst News Editor
Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) has thrown its weight behind Federal Government’s plans to escrow the revenue accounts of distribution companies (discos), describing it as a step in the right direction.
The union urged the Minister of Power, Works and Housing to declare commencement of Eligible Customers’ regime in which customers on 132kV and above supply pay into the central market fund or to TCN which seems hit most by the appalling collection today.
In a memo it forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari and titled : “Saving of power sector through escrowing of discos’ collection accounts and declaration of eligible (132/330 kv) customers”, the union blamed the unimpressive performance index of distribution companies on indolence and incompetence in service delivery and revenue collection on their part.
The memo signed by the General Secretary of SSAEAC, Comrade Umar Abubakar Dubagari, said: “Some of them (discos) have ceded their collection accounts as collateral to banks at the expense of other companies in the value chain of the sector.
“The pattern that has emerged is that, contrary to what obtained in the PHCN days in which all monthly revenue was warehoused in an Escrow account before disbursement, the DisCos have converted Power Sector collection to theirs and still crying wolf on tariff and other uncountable excuses that are not new but were surmounted by the past PHCN companies to attain 70per cent collection.”
SSAEAC noted that three and half years down the line, the nation was merely witnessing retrogression and conversion of electrical power to Political power and control of all Nigerians.
“The level of performance is abysmal and makes Nigerians miss the old PHCN that was blackmailed out of ignorance of the problems in the sector. We strongly recommend thorough investigation into what were sold and what were retained, and by whom?
“This could be extended to general review of contracts and performances of the companies with a view to identifying vitiating terms and clauses that make them potentially void since illegal contracts (that is, outside the scope of the ESPR Act 2005 or skewed intentionally against government or interest of Nigerians), are no contract ab initio.
“In the light of the above, Your Excellency, it leaves the government with no choice than to centralize the collection vide use of Escrow account as worked in the past, to checkmate the appalling collection rate today, which seems a misrepresentation by the DisCos.
“ In addition to this is for the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing to declare commencement of Eligible Customers’ regime in which customers on 132kV and above supply pay into the central market fund or to TCN which seems hit most by the appalling collection today. TCN is the company maintaining supply to such customers and deserve to benefit directly from their revenue.”, the memo noted
SSAEAC maintained that escrowing of collection accounts is needed more than ever to stop the stealing by DisCos operators.
“This however does not amount to nationalization or expropriation of the DisCos as claimed by the investors. This is pure propaganda and blackmail, as their performance and sincerity in declaring collection would have made it unnecessary.
“On the contrary, escrowing of account would send signals to both domestic and international investors that Nigeria is fully open for sincere private sector investment aimed at promoting the injection of the cheap and sorely needed capital that are critical to the rehabilitation and improvement of electricity infrastructure in Nigeria, “it added.