Home news Nigerian governors, minister differ over power sector reforms

Nigerian governors, minister differ over power sector reforms

The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has kicked against the Electricity bill being considered in the Senate.

The NGF is particularly criticising a provision empowering the power minister to head all the relevant agencies, a position, the power minister says ”still needs to be further strengthened”.

The Forum described the legislation as unconstitutional and not an exclusive federal matter.

The bill, now at committee stages in the Senate, seeks to repeal the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, consolidate all legislations in Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and enact an omnibus Electricity Act for the industry to provide the ideal legal and institutional framework that will regulate the post – privatisation phase of the industry in Nigeria.

It also seeks to provide the framework that would leverage on the gains of the privatised electricity industry in Nigeria to accelerate growth in power generation capacity as well as improve utilisation of generated power.

In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Gabriel Suswam, the NGF noted that “electricity” is not an exclusive federal matter, but it is rather guided by the provisions of the Concurrent Legislative List.

The letter was signed by the NGF chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and was addressed to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Articles 13 and 14, the NGF said, provide that the power to make laws for the generation and transmission of electricity are concurrent.

Article 14 also reserves exclusively to the state the power to make laws for the distribution of electricity within a State as it also has the power to make laws for the generation and transmission of electricity exclusively within the borders of a State.

The Forum noted that the reality of the states as key partners in the achievement of universal electricity access by all Nigerians must not only be accepted by the federal government but must be legislated by the National Assembly.

“States like Lagos, Edo Ekiti, Ondo and Kaduna have already taken the initiative to enact policy statements and laws for the electricity sectors in their States. Similarly, the 19 States of Northern Nigeria have come together to establish a common platform for realising the benefits of the extensive renewable energy resources that their region is blessed with.

“It would be unconstitutional and an unjustifiable act of overreach for the Senate to consider and pass a Bill that continues to treat the Federation as one single electricity jurisdiction or sector.

“While a single Electric Power Sector Reform Act may have been useful as a catalyst for the sector in the early years of the Fourth Republic, the States have all come of age, literally and metaphorically, and the arrangements must change in a way that accepts and respects the maturity of the States in electricity matters; a reality that this Senate Electricity Bill does not recognise and take account of but at best only pays the most cursory lip service,” part of the letter read.

The NGF also regretted that the report of the National Economic Council (NEC) following an analysis it conducted in 2020, is yet to be implemented.

It also described as egregious, a part of the bill that seeks to establish a single federal government appointee, the Minister of Power, as the de facto head and statutory supervisor of all the key federal government electricity sector including the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in a supposedly privatised electricity sector.

It, therefore, called for a close collaboration between the NGF, the National Assembly and the Federal Executive in charting a new and productive path towards bringing energy security to our country.

Minister raises concern

On his part, the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, described the bill as a quantum leap in the right direction and presents the nation with a new paradigm to accelerate generation through diversification of the power sector to accommodate cleaner renewable energy sources in our energy mix.

He said it also opens up the space for competitive private sector investment and participation in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

He made the comments during the public hearing of the bill on Monday.

But while the NGF criticises empowering the minister to head all the relevant MDAs, Mr Aliyu believes the power of the minister still needs to be further strengthened.

This, he said, is to preserve the oversight functions which are necessary to drive government policies.

“Under the EPSR Act 2005, the Supervisory powers of the Minister to oversee the power Sector and offer policy directions were unencumbered. In the Bill these powers appear to be severely diluted as they are in several areas subject to prior consultation with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). (Sections 5(1)(b);5(1)(c);5(1)(g) and 5(2).

“Any such limitation on the power of the minister has the potential to hinder efficient coordination of the ministry and its agencies, impede the Ministers’ ability for accountability as it hinders seamless reporting to the President.

“It may also be a challenge to the President ‘s mandate to direct and formulate Government policies. Further it has the unintended effect of subjugating the role of the Minister to agencies under him on policy matters. We therefore appeal to this esteemed Committee to retain the issue of Consultation between the Ministry and its agencies as contained in Section 33 EPSR Act 2005,” he said.

He also expressed concern at the large discretion given to the agencies to submit reports to the minister.

No such discretion should be permitted, he said, rather, the requirement to submit a report as the minister may demand should be made mandatory.

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