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Reps make progress on two-month free electricity for Nigerians

The House of Reps and stakeholders in the power sector have expressed support for the proposed free electricity supply to vulnerable Nigerians.

This is part of the measures aimed at cushioning the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The leadership of the House of Reps, led by the Speaker; Femi Gbajabiamila met with the Minister of Power, Mamman Sale; the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), James Momoh; Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Marilyn Amobi, as well as representatives of Distribution Companies.

Also at the meeting were the Majority leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chief Whip, Mohammed Tahir Monguno; Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason; Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu; and also the Chairman, House Committee on Power, Rep. Magaji Da’u Aliyu, and others.

According to the House of Reps speaker, the panel is also expected to identify the group of Nigerians to benefit from the free power supply; the number of households connected to the national grid; as well as find the way forward for regular power supply to Nigerians after the COVID-19 crisis.

Gbajabiamila also said the essence of the meeting was to proffer means of alleviating the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians; during and after the crisis period through the supply of power.

“Whatever the issues are within the power supply chain, they have to be dealt with and set aside; but how we deal with the issue at stake is why we are here today.

“This is not about technicalities or blaming any part of the power supply value chain; it is just about how we find a solution.

“The objective is very simple: we are asking people to stay at home for several days or weeks; so we need to make their stay at home comfortable. We need to help the poorest of the poorest at this time in Nigeria.

“How we go about it is why we are here today. So, the mandate is very simple with all the stakeholders here. I believe that the best stimulus that we can give our people right now is the supply of electricity to the very vulnerable households,” the Reps Speaker explained.

The Speaker, however, expressed his disappointment over the non-existence of the Power Consumer Assistance Fund by NERC.

He said the Fund would have served the purpose it was meant for, at this point, if it were in existence.

After being informed that the fund has not been set up, the Speaker citing Section 83 of the Electricity Power Sector Act said, “We have broken the law because the law mandated it; it is not optional. It is the Act that mandated its establishment.

“If that had been set up, way back, perhaps we would have had the fund with which to assist this proposal. This is the kind of time that this fund was anticipating.

“I think we should look into setting up this fund because we don’t know when next this kind of issue may come up”.

In his remarks, Mamman said the Executive arm is ready to contribute its part to the success of the proposal.

“We will give all the support as well as technical advice toward the realization of this objective. We are ready whenever our input is needed,” he said.

On his part, the NNPC GMD; Kyari, who noted that the issue of gas supply to the GenCos is critical to power supply in the country; said the proposal is workable if the issue of who is to carry the burden of cost and margins in the supply value chain is settled and agreed on by all the parties.

He further noted that the actual beneficiaries of the two-month free supply palliative have to be identified; since not every Nigerian falls into the category of the poorest.

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