As DISCOs Take Full Charge… Leadership Editorial

No Comments » May 1st, 2014 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project



As DISCOs Take Full Charge…

— May 2, 2014

Six months have passed since the assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) were handed over to new owners. This means that the new investors, which had paid billions of naira to the government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), are now at liberty to take full control of the electricity sector. Organised labour has no right to resist the new owners’ attempt to lay off unwanted staff inherited from the PHCN. Almost all former PHCN employees have been paid their terminal benefits amounting to N380 billion.

With the benefit of hindsight, the BPE and the National Assembly should not have let this huge sum be paid to those who were not able to provide adequate and regular power to Nigerians. During the initial negotiation with labour, it was agreed that the workers were to be paid about N150 billion; how the figure moved up to N380 billion remains a mystery.  Shouldn’t such money have been better utilised in improving the infrastructure at transmission level where the government still owns a stake than in rewarding those that constantly threw the nation into darkness?

After a six-month grace period, the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) must have had ample time to assess the staff they inherited as well as the problems of the power sector and then map out strategies for delivering regular power to Nigerians. It is time to run the power sector as a business. They should not be bothered by any labour union threatening “war” over staff rationalisation or casualisation.  Ex-PHCN workers should no longer dictate how the sector should be managed.

Disengaged staff can still get jobs elsewhere or start new businesses with the fat pay they received. However, government should settle every ex-PHCN worker yet to be paid off. Those retained by the new electricity companies are lucky to have received fat gratuities and still have their jobs. Now they have another chance to prove that they can contribute to turning around the electricity sector. But tired hands should be shown the door to make way for fresh blood. Many Nigerian engineers are roaming the streets and would be needed to replace the old ones that have reached retirement age.  Some former PHCN workers were notorious for their inefficiency and corrupt practices; none of such workers should be retained. The privatised power companies have to be different from the defunct PHCN.

Being different entails much more than increasing tariffs. Nigerians are ready to pay for power, but they want to have power at reasonable costs. Accordingly, we applaud the stand of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission that the DISCOs should not collect N750 as monthly fixed charge from customers living in areas denied power for half a month. The new electricity owners should also gradually phase out estimated bills – prepaid meters are preferable.

The ball is now in the court of the management of the DISCOs. They can hire and fire anybody, so long as they seek stable power supply for Nigerians. Government should never support any person or group attempting to sabotage the efforts of the new owners under any guise.


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