The proposed free two month electricity supply aimed to cushion the harsh impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic on Nigerians has taken a dramatic turn as both the Federal Government and the electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, denied responsibility for payment of power to be supplied within the period.
While the distribution companies insisted it was the responsibility of the government to pick the bills for the two month supply, the Federal Government on its own, said it has yet to take any decision on the issue.
Apparently reacting to the position of the DISCOs asking to pay, the government through the verified Twitter handle of Ministry of Power said the free two month electricity supply was still far from becoming a really.
The message reads; “Please Note: NO DECISION has been taken by the Federal Government to provide Nigerians with FREE ELECTRICITY for 2 months. If and when that becomes a reality, it shall be announced officially. “Be rest assured that FG is exploring ways to ameliorate any hardship on Nigerians.”
It would be recalled that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, had during a meeting between the National Assembly leadership and the Minister of Finance recently pronounced that the free electricity supply was necessary since it would have the highest impact on the entire strata of the Nigerian society.
He said, “We have the figures. I think we should look very seriously into that as part of our package for economic stimulus, because stimulus means something that will stimulate the economy. “When you are stimulating the economy, most of it will come from the informal sector.
“When you are saving people their electricity and the fact that they now have stable electricity for two months, you are also saving the monies that would go into the payment of those bills at least for two months. But as if they were under superior influence, the DISCOs lumped in to declare their commitment to completely align with the Federal Government and the House Representatives with the plans to ensure palliative measures, including ‘free electricity supply to all Nigerians for two months’, to make life easier, during the lockdown period.
“The spokesperson of DISCOs under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, ANED, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, had said in a late Wednesday night press statement that the companies recognised the challenging effects of the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic on the economic and daily lives of their customers, and that they fully aligned with the efforts of government to mitigate the hardships by its customers and other citizens all over the country.
He stressed further that the DISCOs were committed to the initiative to ensure more efficient power supply within this difficult period, as the nation battles with the impact of COVID-19.
They said, “We are also completely aligned with the plans to ensure palliative measures, including ‘free electricity supply to all Nigerians for two months’, to make life easier, during the lockdown period. Details of implementation to come soon.
“Again, as a key utility player in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), we hereby reiterate our commitment to improving service delivery to the nation during this pandemic period and thereafter.”
However, the same 11 electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, came up in less than 24 hours with clarification on why they cannot supply free electricity to Nigerians, while shifting the payment to the Federal Government.
According to the statement made available to journals Thursday, the DISCOs absolved themselves of taking any responsibility for the proposed free two month power supply, noting that the Federal Government will pay for all electricity to be supplied within the period.
Mr. Oduntan, who made the clarification in the statement said the power to be supplied would not be free and that it will be paid for.
According to him, “There is a need to make the following clarifications. The energy to be supplied for the two months is not free from the DISCOs but is being paid for by the federal government, in partnership with the National Assembly.
“As such, the ability for the DISCOs to go forward is subject to the stimulus package being passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by Mr. President.”
He said, contrary to reports that the power supply for the two months would be given free of charge by them, the Federal Government is backing up the action with some funding.
“The energy to be supplied for the two months is not free from the DISCOs but is being paid for by the federal government, in partnership with the National Assembly.
“As such, the ability for the DISCOs to go forward is subject to the stimulus package being passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by Mr. President.
“While this palliative seeks to mitigate the economic challenges that Nigerians are being subjected to during this COVID-19 period, it is our hope that we do not lose sight of the no-cost reflective tariff challenges that the DISCOs continue to suffer under.
“Regardless, we laud Mr. President, members of his government and the National Assembly for this Initiative.”