After several failed promises, neighbouring Benin, and Niger republics reportedly remitted $10.1 million for the accumulated indebtedness on electricity supplied by Nigeria through the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET).
It would be recalled that Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola recently warned that supply of electricity to international customers that fail to pay their bills would be halted. According to recent reports, however, NIGELEC of the Republic of Niger paid $3.79 million, while the Community Electric du Benin (CEB) co-owned by Benin and Togo Republics remitted $6.32 million.
Failure by the concerned agencies in the neighbouring countries to redeem the accumulated debts necessitated recent threats of disconnection by Distribution Company of Nigeria (DISCO). It is however unfortunate that in spite of subsisting partnership agreement and a series of appeal the countries defaulted on promises to settle the accumulated huge sum of money.
It is also regrettable that several efforts by operators of power sector in Nigeria to engage the relevant authorities in Niger and Benin Republics yielded no positive result thereby prompting the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari.
A considerable proportion of the power generated in Nigeria is deployed in servicing the needs of international customers who are in the neighbouring countries. In spite of the indebtedness of these countries, DisCo committed a large portion of the 325,426 MW/h distributed to customers in the month of June of the current year. It is therefore unfortunate that Nigeria has to endure such frustration in spite of fulfilling her own part of the agreement that ensured stable and steady electricity in the neighbouring countries.
While it reeks of gross abuse of goodwill on the part of these countries to have defaulted payment as at when due; and curiously for so many years, it is, however, important to hold relevant authorities in Nigeria responsible for allowing such violation of an agreement to linger without decisive action.
It is imperative to emphasize that such abuse of privilege has become typical of neighbouring countries that often see Nigeria as a big brother that could be exploited. Therefore such unwarranted delay should no longer be tolerated by the concerned authorities in Nigeria. While Nigerians at home continue to endure payment of exorbitant bills amidst an acute shortage of electricity, it should, therefore, be deemed objectionable that payments were not made for electricity supply to neighbouring countries for years.
Moreso, it is worrisome how diversion of power to neighbouring countries where there is no ready assurance for payment could have made any economic sense over the years when consumers of electricity at home are desirous of more hours of regular power supply.
There is no doubt that Nigerians who are spending fortunes to power their generators at home and for commercial purposes would be happier to pay for constant electricity which is diverted to the defaulting neighbouring countries.
Following the privatisation of electricity in Nigeria, concerned authorities in the neighbouring countries ought to have been told in clear terms it could no longer be business as usual. If electricity consumers in Nigeria could be made to pay exorbitant pre-paid rates following privatisation; and in spite of epileptic power supply, the existing agreement with the neighbouring countries ought to have been reviewed long ago to reflect the prevailing pre-paid arrangement in Nigeria. It is only through a prepaid arrangement that delay in payment by the neighbouring countries could be avoided in future.
All over the world, there is a direct correlation between the stable electric power supply and economic growth. For a country to achieve significant growth and attained optimal economic development, stable electricity supply is vital. It is, therefore, an irony for Nigeria to be selling power that is inadequate for consumption in Nigeria without the appropriate monetary and economic value, while the citizens continue to wallow in acute shortage of power supply.
Although the decision by Nigeria to sell electricity to neighbouring countries may have been well-thought out decades ago, the situation today, however, calls for a rethink as more Nigerians need electricity beyond what is presently generated and transmitted. The primary interest of government should be the welfare and wellbeing of the people and the development of its economy.
It is therefore imperative that government and the agencies concerned should put necessary measures in place that would ensure prompt payment of electricity bills by international consumers at a rate that makes appropriate economic sense and without adversely affecting the needs of the generality of electricity consumers in Nigeria.