By Ayobami Adedinni
An Energy/ Electricity Law Expert, Yemi Oke has advocated for the adoption of off grid energy supply as solution to Nigeria’s electricity woes.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with our correspondent, Oke who is a senior lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos said because of the weak transmission network of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, (TCN), there is need to enhance the grid’s capacity in order not to collapse the system.
In his words, “The grid is weak and dilapidated, fine, then decentralise. Don’t put it on the grid yet. Later, you can now enhance the grid capacity, so that you can put more generated power on the grid.
“What I am saying is that we should even look at off grid generation now. The infrastructure of the TCN is weak; they cannot even take 5,000 mega watts (MW). Forget the assumption that government will give us 40,000mw which is realistic nor possible. The installed capacity is about 5,000mw, so if we have more than that, we cannot put it on the grid.
“The argument now is that, why put everything on the grid? The grid is weak. It is like saying, you have diesel or petrol which you want to put into the pipeline. We are saying wait, this pipeline is weak.
Instead of going through the pipeline, if we put it through the pipeline it is going to explode. Why not put it in jerry can, tanks.
Once we have that, the essence is the people will still have fuel while we fix the pipeline.
“The same thing happened in the petroleum sector, when those depots were not functioning, we started seeing trucks on the road, taking fuel from Lagos up North and to other parts of the country while government was trying to do a Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) for the Depots, NNPC and the refineries pending that, there must be an understanding”, he said.
According to him, a major contributor of this is the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 which he said is full of lapses and not in agreement with the Constitution.
He said, “The reason for that is because of a lot of lapses in the framework. When we talk of the legal framework, we are talking of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria—which is the highest of the legal framework that we have.
“We have a problem at hand because the constitution envisages that both states and federal governments will be involved in power and that if it is respect of areas covered by the national grid, the National Assembly will have power to make laws and also setting up of institutions.
“But if it is in respect of areas not covered by the National Grid, item 14 says the state Houses of Assembly will have powers to make laws and also setting up of institutions in the areas of electricity generation, transmission and distribution.
The question is, are the states doing that? Is the law being implemented?
“You now look at the enabling law itself i.e. the sector law, the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act 2005. That law assumes that there is nothing called state. Everything in that law talks about, Federal Government, National grid and if NERC, the regulator does things that only state can do or ought to be doing under the constitution.
“So, that law violates what the constitution says. And pursuant to that law, they now have a lot of regulatory framework- which we call regulations such as regulations on metering, captive among others.
Some of these laws also contradict the Act and the constitution,” he said.
He stated that the government should not be funding the sector anymore because the sector has been privatised.
Speaking further, he said the law has done little to enable the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) achieve its objectives adding that the starting point is to get the framework right.
He stated, “You have to look at the constitution, the Act and the regulatory framework. Are they in line? Are they able to help the regulator achieve the intended objective in the sector? My honest view is no.
“To that extent, we have been having a lot of problems. This is why we have been seeing a lot of inconsistency in the sector such as Discos not remitting, tariff is low, fraud, not metering everyone that ought to be metered among others that we need to put in much effort to have a solid sector.
“For instance, the moment you signify that you want prepaid meters, you realise your bill will start to go up astronomically.
“These fraudulent elements are there because the Discos are here to make money even when there is no money to be made from Nigerians. “But then the regulatory framework should be such that they will make money without undermining the interest and rights of Nigerians.
Striking a good balance is what I am talking about. We cannot say the Discos should go away neither can we allow to deny Nigerian consumers of their rights through efficient and effective regulatory framework and regulations,” he added.