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Power Sector Reform: NLC Warns Against Planned Restructuring Of TCN

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The Nigeria Labour Congress on Wednesday faulted plans by Federal Government to unbundle power sector through the Ministry of Power under the watch of the minister, Bayo Adelabu and Bureau of Public Enterprises.

The congress, in a statement signed by its President, Joe Ajaero, noted that the proposed power sector reforms were being initiated to prepare the Transmission Company of Nigeria for “total privatisation.”

The PUNCH on Tuesday reported that the Federal Government through the BPE, announced its plans to sell off 40 per cent shares of the government in electricity distribution companies in the capital market in 2024.

Similarly, the government also noted that it was unbundling the TCN in line with the Electricity Act.

But, Ajaero, in the statement said the move portends danger to the power sector.

He said, “The proposed plans by the Federal Government to restructure the Transmission Company of Nigeria as stated by the Minister of Power; Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, is laden with other intentions that may be hidden but very clear to every discerning Nigerian.

“It portends great danger to the power sector and holds great fear and trepidation for major stakeholders within the sector. It imperils the ability of the state to control, regulate and guarantee the safety of the nation’s grid system at all times.

“We want to quickly say that the idea behind the so-called plans to restructure is the same big grammar that was spoken before and during the failed privatisation exercise of the sector. They are the same stories that Nigerians have heard over the years which have largely yielded no significant results.

“It is clear that the main motive behind the plans for the proposed restructuring is no other than to prepare the TCN for eventual take over by the cronies and lackeys of the ruling elite. When words like unbundling are bandied about in Nigeria, the masses and workers become frightened because of the level of misery such words have foisted on the people.

“Unbundling heralded the death of the downstream sector of the nation’s petroleum sector, it sounded the death knell on the power sector and raising its ugly specter once again at this time when the people are facing serious socioeconomic challenges may compound the woes of the people.”

Speaking further in the statement, the NLC said it believes that the President is repeating same mistake previous administrations have made with the policy direction, his Minister of power is trying to follow in seeking to unbundle TCN for privatization.

“We had thought that the President would have convened a genuine national stakeholders’ forum to critically review the privatisation exercise in the sector which the government itself agrees has failed to attain any of its major objectives rather than seeking to embark on another exercise that would bring more crisis to the power sector.

“The disaster that will befall the nation’s power sector would be multidimensional. The quest to ultimately handover the Transmission infrastructure would expose the nation to blackmails and weaken the ability of the sector to transmit and distribute power around the country. Privatizing it will create the same crisis prevailing within the DISCOs and GENCOs and will impact the quality-of-service deliverance by the Power sector to Nigerians.

“It has to be remembered that we protested against a nation that was hell bent on committing suicide in the power sector 10 years ago. We talked about the consequences that privatisation exercise was going to be for the power sector and for Nigerians but it was not heeded,” it added.

The NLC noted that the power sector has remained stagnant over the years despite 500 per cent tariff increase.

The statement read, “Today, Nigerians have witnessed 500 per cent tariff increase yet, there is no improvement in services to Nigerians. The power sector remains stagnant as no significant investment was made by those who bought the GENCOs and DISCOs through proxies. What we are reaping today are the unfortunate outcomes of the errors of yesterday and it is obvious that we are bent on going the same route

“As we write, government has paid about N2.8trn in subsidy for a sector it handed over to the private sector. A sector it sold at About N400bn yet, it has spent multiples of that in tax payers funds as pay outs to those who bought the privatized entities.

“Consequently, the sector has been handed over to banks due to the inability of the proxy investors to pay their loans to the banks. The managerial and technical competence as well as Foreign Direct Investment has eluded the power sector as a result of this primitive economic policy. It is this same route that the Government is proposing to follow again.

“The consequences of what the government wants to do especially to at a time when Nigeria is today leading other countries as headquarters of nations suffering from power poverty will worsen the predicament of the nation’s Power sector. Its attendant macro-economic implications for our nations are huge and will worsen the already bad socioeconomic situation in our nation.

“Nigeria’s economy would be worse in the next 10 years if a conscious power policy devoid of undue influence by neoliberal economic apologists is not designed. We need to wean not only our power sector but our entire economy from the apron strings of the forces of capitalism and its philosophical foundations if we are to make real progress as a nation.

“It is important that we learn from the mistakes of the past so that its errors are not repeated and the same consequences befall our nation again. If care is not taken, this may be another hope betrayed.”

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