A melodrama, yesterday, ensued during the presentation and defence of 2021 budget by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, as its Chairman, James Momoh and Accountant could not produce the contract sum for the renovation of the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.
The officials had appeared before the Committee on Power, led by Aliyu Magaji for their budget defence, and made a fresh request of N2 billion to complete the partitioning and furnishing of the commission’s headquarters.
Asked to produce the evidence for the contract sum, Momoh said he didn’t have it but determined to get results, the House Committee chairman shifted enquiries to the commission’s accountant who also couldn’t produce any evidence.
Consequently, Magaji threatened to delete the request from the budget if the officials failed to produce the documents.
The following were the verbal exchanges between the lawmaker and the commission’s officials.
Magaji: What is the contract sum?
Momoh: I don’t have the original contract sum but it’s being done on yearly basis. We can provide that if you need it.
Magaji turning to Accountant: What’s the contract sum?
Accountant (Opts for details instead): This contract has 8 floors…
Magaji: Please, we know your office. It’s a simple question. You are partitioning your office. What’s the contract sum?
Accountant: There is no contract sum for all. We have been permitted to do it as the funding…
Magaji (interjects): Who permitted you? So, you don’t need N2 billion if you don’t have a contract sum.
Accountant: This is an estimate, sir. The contract is given in lots. Maybe, this is lot one to address the first floor, maybe lot two will come, as the funding becomes available.
Magaji: In lots? My friend, you are confusing us. I need the budgetary approval for your work. If you don’t have contract sum, we will delete this from your budget and you have zero. You have only one line item budget and you appear unprepared. So, you should go and come back.
Meanwhile, in his preliminary remarks, chairman of the commission, Momoh, lauded his agency for the unusual stride recorded in the area of mass metering of electricity consumers in the country, stressing that the era of estimated billing was over.
“Metering issue as you know, we have had a lot of discussion in the last several months. Yours truly has been in the meeting with the labour unions and the government side of options that are necessary to make to respond to where there are lacuna or gaps, especially in metering.
‘’The one million number type roll plan between now and the first quarter of 2021 is on course. We have the time table. We have identified what is to be given to each of the DISCOs for their customers.
“It means that the meters that will be rolled out are already completed and guaranteed. We call it to phase zero option. In that phase zero, customers are going to receive meters from each of their franchising DISCOs. Phases one and two will be when we roll out 6 million. May be by 2022, we would have rolled out.
“They will receive all these meters: single face in their homes. But somebody is going to pay for it. Government is going to give loan to make sure that DISCOs have access to these meters through local manufacturing. It is a good one to create jobs for our people.
“Of course, NERC’s role is well defined. We are monitoring. We will evaluate and make sure that the proper roll-out plan is in place to meet the standards and specifications on which the metering codes are approved.
“I think we are in the right time in the country when you can always say to each other that the era of estimated billing is gone and customers will be charged for the power they use and they will be able to manage the power so that they won’t pay the excess and won’t be wasting energy as well.
‘’But the most important thing we have accomplished is that for the first time in Nigeria, we have created, under my watch actually, what I will call a new paradigm shift that the customer only pays for the quality and availability of power they use and customers can reduce consumption.
‘’I think it is a good thing. It will also lead to the industrialization of our country and investment in the electricity sector will now be easy to come.
“So, I think the metering issue has been a problem because it causes a lot of technical and commercial losses. But I think, it is over now.
‘’Basically, the metering gap is being met. The roll-out plan between now and January is in place. That massive roll-out plan is in place and ongoing. Going forward, it is going to happen in 2021 and 2022. By the special Grace of God, within the next two years, up to 6 million meters would have been fixed because of the presidential initiative that has provided these meters to us.”
‘’It will no longer be a burden on the customer in terms of payment because the money is coming through loans to the DISCOs from the government, CBN and the World Bank.’’