The Federal Government on Monday ordered the Nigerian Electricity Regularly Commission to enforce the contract mandating power distribution companies to provide meters to customers and eliminate estimated electricity bills in the power sector.
It said the directive to NERC became vital following the number of complaints coming from power consumers on meters, which the Discos should supply, as well as concerns about estimated billings and mass disconnection, adding that these would not be allowed to continue.
This is coming as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, tackled the Chairman of NERC, Prof James Momoh, on the number of Meter Asset Providers, who had been licensed by the commission, stressing that the regulator must be serious in its duty of ensuring that the Discos and MAPs provide meters.
Fashola read various sections of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 at a press conference in Abuja, as he tried to explain why it was high time that the government acted and put an end to the excesses of the power distributors.
He stated, “Government must act and will do so. The Discos bought these power assets with their eyes opened, and they must compete to deliver or exit.
“It is not my intention, or that of the government, to take over the business of the Discos. On the contrary, it is the government’s desire to see the Discos thrive in a competitive environment.
“In the period when they are not yet ready, willing, or able, life must go on and we must find solutions and substitutes as we have seen in other sectors.”
After reading several sections of the EPSR Act 2005, the minister stated that it was necessary to direct NERC to step in to “ensure that the Discos improve on their distribution equipment and capacity to take up the available 2,000 megawatts in order to optimise the use of the electrical resource produced by the Gencos, and I direct NERC to immediately act in this regard.
“NERC should enforce the contract of the Discos to supply meters and act to ensure the urgent and speedy supply and installation of meters with a view to eliminating estimated billing and promote efficient industry and market structures.
“NERC should stop the Discos from threatening private entrepreneurs from entering the market to supply consumers, whom the Discos cannot supply, and to license such persons subject to terms and conditions in order to promote competition and private sector participation, and avoid a private monopoly of power.”
Fashola noted that the power sector law did not anticipate exclusivity for any Disco.
He said, “Clearly, unless the Discos have a licence that is endorsed as exclusive, it is clear that no Disco has exclusivity over its franchise area.
“It is obvious that the law did not intend to replace government monopoly of the PHCN in the power sector with a private monopoly of businessmen.”
According to him, NERC has also not issued any exclusive licence to any power firm.
He said, “If we take into consideration that after five years of privatisation, there are still people and businesses who do not have power or enough power, common sense and public interest demand that we must not resist ordinary people, small businesses like shops and markets from seeking alternative sources of energy.
“If the Discos are not resisting the generator sellers, who are contributing to pollution, what is the logic of resisting small entrepreneurs bringing mini-gas plants to supply a market need?”
Construction of Nigeria-Morocco gas project begins in 2024 — Minister
The Minister of State, Petroleum Resources (Gas), Ekperikpe Ekpo, says the construction of the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project which aims to link the European market is expected to begin in 2024.
Under this project, Gas is expected to be transported through the participating countries, including Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco.
Ekpo, while receiving a delegation of envoys from the Kingdom of Morocco led by its Ambassador to Nigeria, Moha Ou Ali Tagma on Monday in Abuja, said Nigeria was ready and interested in the project.
The delegation visited the minister for a bilateral discussion on cooperation and commitment towards finalising the Trans-Atlantic pipeline project and also on the development of its fertiliser plant in Nigeria.
Recall that the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project has advanced with the signing of four Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in June 2023 to ensure progress and strategic direction of the 25 billion dollars Trans-Atlantic project.
MoUs were signed between the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd), Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) of Morocco and the Société Nationale des Opérations Pétrolières of Cote d’Ivoire (PETROCI) among others.
Once completed, the project will enhance the monetisation of the natural gas resources of the affected African countries and also offer a new alternative export route to Europe.
Ekpo, while expressing Nigeria’s interest and readiness, said with its position of 209 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves, there was a need to supply gas to the continent before exporting to other continents.
“I believe by 2024 we will conclude on it. Your company has been relating with the NNPC Ltd and I have been receiving briefs. We also talked about it during the meeting of West African Gas Pipeline Committee Parties.
“For the fact that the pipeline existing within that corridor currently is 20 inches; there is a proposal to increase the size after Togo to 46 inches so that the flow will be large enough.
“Currently the world is talking about climate change and natural gas is the sure way to go with low carbon emission so we have to be serious about utilisation of gas for prosperity.”
On the fertiliser project of the country, he said with the era of natural gas and components used to boost fertiliser industries, all the value chain should be exploited.
Earlier, the Moroccan Ambassador described the project which started in 2016 as the most important in Africa aimed at exporting gas to Europe, adding that between 2016 and 2023 many meetings and MoUs signing had been held.
Tagma said the economic and technical studies being conducted on the project would be concluded early 2024, adding that the participating governments could decide to start its construction in 2024.
“The objective of this project is not to transport gas only but also to offer some opportunities for development of the countries between Nigeria and Morocco for supplying energy,’’ he said.
The ambassador disclosed that its OCP Group, (formerly Office Chérifien des Phosphates), the most exporter of fertiliser in the world had inaugurated plants in Kaduna, Sokoto and Ogun states, then currently opening in Akwa Ibom.
He said the construction of the 1.5 billion dollars fertiliser plant project in Akwa Ibom would commence in December, adding that it would spur investments.
TotalEnergies Egina Spill: Environmentalists raise concern on bio-safety of dispersants
Some environmen talists have expressed concern on the bio-safety, toxicity of dispersants used to mop up oil spills from offshore waters with fishes and other marine creatures.
They spoke to journalists on Monday in Yenagoa.
The concern is coming as International Oil Companies (IOCs) divest from onshore assets for offshore fields.
Dispersants are chemicals applied to oil spills to break down the oil molecules.
The environmentalists were reacting to the Nov. 15 leak from the Egina Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel operated by TotalEnergies.
TotalEnergies had in a statement issued one week after the incident described the oil leak as minor with no adverse impact on shoreline settlements.
However, Mr Idris Musa, the Director-General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), said that 3,000 barrels of crude was discharged into the Atlantic waters in the incident caused by an export hose failure.
He said that NOSDRA’s response efforts made the difference as an aircraft and five vessels were used to apply 15,000 litres of dispersants to mop up the leaked crude.
Dr Nnimmo Bassey, a renowned environmentalist in a reaction to the incident, said that IOCs seem to prefer the ‘remote’ location of offshore oil fields for exploration.
According to him, this is because offshore oil fields shielded them from scrutiny of regulators and communities.
He said it was regrettable that after several decades of polluting our onshore fields, the IOCs were going offshore without cleaning up.
Bassey said that dispersants were toxic and not safe for aquatic life.
According to him, dispersants are known to be toxic to aquatic life which forms part of the food chain.
“The use of dispersants is mainly to hide the impact of oil spills from view.
“As the name says, they disperse but do not eliminate or remove the spills. It is known that chemicals remain in the aquatic ecosystem with some staying on the seabed.
“These dispersants have an impact on aquatic species and by extension they also cause injury to human health.”
Bassey wondered why it took TotalEnergies over one week to confirm the operational mishap if not a failed attempt to cover up and called for transparency and more stringent regulation at offshore fields.
According to Chief Alagoa Morris, Head of Field Operations at Environmental Rights Action (ERA) in Bayelsa, dispersants are not conducive to life.
“The thing is that these chemicals called dispersant used by the oil companies to reduce the quantity of spilled crude oil or sink the crude oil are not properly identified by stakeholders or experts to enable informed conclusions.
“It is one of the ‘smart ways’ deployed by the polluters to be evasive, taking advantage of not having regulators or environmental NGOs within the particular location at that point in time.
“We in ERA have received several such complaints of inappropriate use of dispersants from community folks in Ogboinbiri, Odioama, and Ikarama.
“The use of dispersants is not an alternative for cleanup or remediation.
“We have had instances where cleanup contractors apply detergents as dispersants at Okpotuwari and Ikebiri environment in Olodiama Clan of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa .
“In most cases, dispersants either cause the crude oil to coagulate and sink or break down the molecules, leaving it still in the environment leading to environmental degradation,” Morris said.
Rev. Samuel Ayadi, the Niger Delta Coordinator of Artisanal Fishermen Association, said that chemical dispersants used to tackle spills were poisonous to fish as well as wipe out generations of fish species.
“The chemicals they call dispersant are poisonous, it not only kills fishes but when the coagulated crude sinks to the seabed where fish breeds, it wipes out the eggs as well and that is like an epidemic.
“The dispersants they used on the spill at Egina will cause hardship to fishes and fishing activities in the Niger Delta for a long time starting with prolonged fish scarcity.
“Any fish that encounters the dispersant is poisoned and contaminated and poses danger to public health.
“The ones that survive will migrate deeper out of Nigerian territorial waters where artisan fishermen cannot reach,” Ayadi said.
Ayadi urged the regulators to compel TotalEnergies to conduct toxicological tests to ascertain the biosafety levels in the Atlantic waters around the Niger Delta region.
FG to develop Integrated National Electricity Policy
The Federal Government is set to develop an Integrated National Electricity Policy, and Strategic Implementation Plan, as mandated by the Electricity Act 2023.
Recall that on June 9, President Bola Tinubu assented to the Electricity Bill, now an Act empowering states, companies and individuals to generate, transmit and distribute electricity.
This in turn repealed the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSR A), 2005 and created a comprehensive legal and institutional framework to guide the NESI.
Minister of Power, Mr Adebayo Adelabu, made this known in Abuja on Monday at the Nigeria Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) “Round Table” for legislature, judiciary and other stakeholders.
The round table was on the Enforcement of Technical Standards and Regulations in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and Allied Industries.
According to him, the ministry of power is working assiduously with the National Council on Power to send the policy to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval.
The minister said that the Electricity Act had consolidated virtually all legislations in the NESI and strengthened the role of NEMSA as the lead enforcer of all statutory technical and regulatory standards.
This is to guarantee the safety of lives and property, with complementary roles assigned to other sister agencies under their Acts.
The minister said that the “round table was timely, and the theme was well-informed.
“It’s an opportunity for us to compare notes on the reforms recently brought about in NESI by the Fifth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the re-enactment of the Electricity Act, 2023.
“It is time to take stock of where we are and where we are going. As you are all aware, it’s one of the major fallouts of the amendment to the Fifth Alteration
“I must therefore, commend the management of NEMSA for displaying leadership by recognising the vital roles played by not just the national state actors and other stakeholders in NESI, but pertinently, the legislature and the judiciary,” he said.
Adelabu said that at the last count, not less than five states had enacted their own electricity laws and commended the legislature for their incessant resolve to bring to fruition necessary statutes with positive bearing on the lives of the citizenry.
“Be rest assured that the ministry under my leadership is dedicated to leading the engagements with the state governments to maintain standards across the board to ensure that desirable reforms are undertaken and guided against regulatory rupture,” he said.
Chairman, House Committee on Power, Rep Victor Okolo, said there was need to ensure that all electrical installations deployed in NESI met required technical standard regulation and specification.
Represented by Rep Rodney Ambaiowei, Okolo said that the technical standard regulation and specification was to ensure that such systems were capable of delivering safe and reliable electricity supply to guarantee safety of lives and property.
“We have observed that NEMSA, in an attempt to enforce its mandate, has met with stiff resistance on several occasions which is attributed to lack of adequate knowledge of the agency and its function.
“However, at the end of this conference, participants would have been better informed of the mandate of NEMSA and spread the message to those concerned.
“On our part, we assure the agency that it receives adequate funding and other support it needs to effectively discharge its responsibilities,” he said.
Former Chairman, NEMSA Governing Board, Mr Suleman Yahaya appealed to the Federal Government to adequately fund NEMSA, to allow it perform its mandate of enforcement of technical standards.
According to him, power generation, transmission, distribution and metering can only guarantee a stable electricity market and reliable electricity supply with good technical standards regulation and certification enforcements of all categories of electrical installations
“We must support NEMSA’s mandate through a well-rounded framework, including active collaborations like this with the legislative and judicial arms of government.”
Earlier, Managing Director, NEMSA, Mr Aliyu Tahir said that the enforcement of technical standards and regulations was a very critical aspect in managing the growth of the electricity industry in any nation.
Tahir said that technical standards and regulations help to ensure that all electrical installations deployed in the NESI meet the required technical standards, regulations and specifications.
“This is to ensure that such systems are capable of delivering safe, reliable and sustainable electricity supply as well as guarantee safety of lives and property.”
Tahir said that to effectively achieve its core mandate of enforcement, NEMSA had 19 Inspectorate Field Offices (IFO), six National Meter Test Stations and one engineering and chemical laboratory.
According to him, those offices are manned by qualified, well-trained, skilled and well-motivated engineers, technical officers and other professionals.
He said that the agency also had plans to open meter test stations in the North East and North Central Geopolitical Zones of the country whenever there was approved funding for the project.
He said that NEMSA, in the course of carrying out its mandate in the power sector and other allied industries/workplaces in the past few years, met with resistance on several occasions.
“One of the reasons for such resistance is attributed to lack of adequate knowledge about the agency’s mandate in the NESI by the relevant stakeholders
“This one-day enlightenment and interactive programme for legislators, judiciary, state government representatives and other stakeholders is aimed at bridging the knowledge gap in relation to NEMSA’s enforcement role in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.
“It is also an avenue to sensitise the legislators and judicial officers to the legal framework for the enforcement of technical standards and regulations in NESI and allied industries,” he said.
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