By Sunny Ikhioya
IT is only in a country such as ours that people take public service for granted. Everyone wants a share of the cake but no one wants to partake in the baking. Unfortunately, without an efficient public service, nothing can work right. You need the clearance or approval of government for any business to take off. You also need the public servant, if you like call them civil servant, for effective monitoring of private businesses, especially as it concerns quality delivery services to members of the public and revenue.
The so much hyped anti corruption war is being stunted by people in government services. You can never get anything done from the government offices without parting with something, it could be anything. It is in this light that I ask the question: do we have an electricity regulating commission? If we do, what is its functions? Are people not supposed to feel it’s impact?
According to their website, we have one Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, with a mission to “Promote and ensure an investor friendly industry and efficient market structure to meet the needs of Nigeria for safe, adequate, reliable and affordable electricity”. To emphasise the power given to them, they published on their page that: “the commission was created by and performs its operations based on the guidelines as stipulated in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005”. They listed a whole lot of fancy things; how much do I pay for electricity? Which is further compounded by the different categories that are not well defined. How do I make complaint? Consumer Rights and Obligations, Energy saving tips and Report on accidents. They also have; licensing, tariff and market rules, NERC regulations, codes and standards, NERC orders, directives and decisions, petition, hearings and dispute resolution and renewable energy.
With all of these loaded profile and packaging, the question therefore is: Why have they not been visible? They have up to six commissioners with individual portfolios including the executive vice chairman. What have they been doing? We know of the efforts geared towards generation and transmission, how are they monitoring the DISCOs? We must know that the best way to judge electricity performance is how the businesses and the people feel it through the DISCOs, by NERC standards, have the DISCOS performed up to expectations? If no, how many sanctions have been applied? In other words, what remedial actions have been taken to forestall a re occurrence?
It is very obvious that while the DISCOs are taking the people for a ride, the officials at NERC appear to be sleeping and shirking on their responsibilities. The present board, according to their website came into being on the 7th of February 2017. It is enough time for us to start feeling their impact. It is a public service and their lines of communication must be open for people to easily access them. For now this is not so, their official lines on display are: 09-4621400 and 09-4621410. I have tried throughout this day, the 31st day of May, 2017 to contact them but to no avail , the first one kept ringing with nobody to pick up the call.
Engineer Sanusi Garba, the present executive vice chairman of NERC must begin to put his act together. The country cannot move forward without fixing the power challenges. It is the responsibility of Eng. Garba and his team to see this work through effective monitoring of the power companies. That is, to see that the overall goal of NERC as stated in their mission statement is achieved. They will not be the first to accomplish this if they do succeed as precedents have been set in the past. The late Prof. Dora Akinyuli, of blessed memory, took NAFDA from its lethargic state to the height that we see today. NAFDAC is visible in every part of the country and regulating things that come under its jurisdiction. Eng. Ernest Ndukwe and his team did the same with the National Communications Commission, NCC, today everyone can see what has become of that sector.
It is time for NERC to bare its fangs. This government came under the wings of transparency and promise of change, the present board was appointed by the present government, they should do what is right. They should give people access to reach them. They need to be more visible and proactive. They must demand from the DISCOs, to produce electricity that they promised to deliver. They must not sit idle while businesses and the people are dying as a result of the inefficiencies of our power companies. It takes real leadership to effect change. Engineer Sanusi Garba and his team at NERC must begin to make their impact felt.