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Nigeria Government Should Hands-off Power Sector, Allow Private Sector Drive Competition, Power Expert Umeh Says

The Nigerian government has been advised to hands-off the country’s power sector and should only provide the enabling regulations that will allow private individuals to run the power sector.

Chukwueloka Umeh, a Chief Executive of Century Power Generation and a key player in the power sector appeared on ARISE News and said the federal government’s move to protect the citizens from “price gouging” is a right move that is being carried out the wrong way.

“I have said it several times, privatization is just the first step. People expected that once the sector was privatized you immediately start seeing 24/7 power, that’s not true,” Dr Umeh, an American-trained engineer and an alumnus of General Electric told ARISE News.

“I will give you an example, it takes about three years to build a Genco, a baseload generating plant, and before you start building you would have spent another three years just developing that project, so that’s six years to build just one plant.

“Now beyond building the plant, you also have the discos problem, you have to change assets in the discos, you have to metre people, this all takes time. So if you don’t start to see the right tariffs being charged, unfortunately, you are not going to see all these changes that I am talking about.

“The government through NERC is trying to protect the citizens from what they call price gouging, but unfortunately, I think we are trying to do the right thing the wrong way. I keep saying, government should allow this sector to be run by the private sector period. Government’s job is to provide the correct regulations that will allow this market to grow.

“You cannot regulate a market into existence. Government is trying to regulate this market into existence and it will never work. I am saying, for this to work, allow the private sector to drive the entire value chain of the power industry, allow competition to come in and drive the right pricing,” he said.

Dr Umeh is of the view that there’s a lot of misinformation in the power sector which has led to the public not getting all the information they need.

According to him “there’s supposed to be increases (on electricity tariff) happening since 2015, those increases haven’t happened and unfortunately, it was like a rude shock we got late last year when tariffs were increased almost by a 100% for most users.

“People didn’t understand that that particular increase we saw in 2020 was supposed to happen gradually since 2015, that’s the reality and unfortunately we have seen it just in one go.”

By Abel Ejikeme

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