The Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, yesterday, said they will meet soon with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, to address concerns raised by power Distribution Companies (DISCOS), over electricity pricing.
The senators who disclosed this in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during an oversight visit to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), said the current fluctuations in pricing was affecting the sector.
Chairman of the committee, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who led six other senators on the visit, said all options will be placed on the table during the proposed meeting with Fashola.
“We have had this discussion about pricing. We are taking it up with the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing. What we are looking for is a stable price. We do not want a system where things fluctuate. We will sit with them and look at all the variables,” Abaribe said during an interactive session with officials of PHEDC.
Abaribe told the the Acting Chief Executive Officer of PHEDC, Mr Kingsley Achife, who earlier complained about activities of vandals, to secure the services of men and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
He said they are empowered by law to protect critical national infrastructure and prosecute vandals. He said the police is limited in the prosecution of vandals.
He said: “The question about prosecution is key. There is a law passed by the National Assembly to empower the Civil Defence Corps. They have powers to prosecute people who engage in energy or cable theft. They have the power to do that. If you drag them to the police, the fines are less. With Civil Defence Corps, you get favourable judgments.”
Commenting on other challenges of the power sector and how his committee will intervene, Abaribe said: “The job of the National Assembly is to legislate and help with laws that will make business easier. This is one of the reasons we are going on oversight. The issue of right of way has come of age that we have to collaborate with state governments. It has to do with land use.
I do not think state governments give the permission to people to build along power lines.
“Because of the decay, people now do certain things and nobody gets fined. The laws are already there. It is the enforcement of these laws that is the problem. We need to work with state governments to implement these laws.
“Part of your corporate social responsibility is to ensure that the people in places where you do business are part of your campaigns. These problems are peculiar to our system.
“People now use transformer oil to fry akara and even cook. There are places in Nigeria where these things happen. We need to educate people on the dangers of these things. DISCOS need to carry out more awareness programmes to educate their people.
“We must begin to differentiate between the rich and the poor. The most vulnerable in the society should not pay. There is a place in Brazil where poor people stay. We visited them. We discovered that the whole community was connected, but they were not paying. We should have that system here.”
Speaking earlier, Achife enumerated challenges facing DISCOS: “One of the biggest problems is electricity theft. Very highly connected individuals are involved. About 130 people are currently in custody over this theft. We are appealing to the Senate to make hostility against electricity staff a crime. Our staff have been kidnapped, shot at and killed in their course of doing their duties. We need the help of lawmakers to put an end to this.
“Some communities reject metering here. Whenever our staff go there, they are either beaten up or chased out. This is a problem. In places where we have put metres, the communities have bypassed them and they do not pay their bills. This is a major challenge we are facing.”