uman rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has advised the Federal Government to sell the remaining 40 per cent shares in electricity companies to state governments, trade unions and other organised groups. The advice was contained in his remarks while chairing the presentation ceremony of a report, “From Darkness To Darkness”, made by a civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP).
The report was an unflattering verdict on the investments in the nation’s power from 1999 to date. Mr. Falana described, as excellent, the report, which was presented by Dr. Yemi Oke, Associate Professor of Energy/ Electricity Law of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. The report was facilitated by the Mac Arthur Foundation.
The lawyer observed that the report, relying on facts and figures obtained from official records, showed that over N11 trillion has been sunk into the electricity sector from 1999 to date. The bulk of the sum, he also noted, was criminally diverted by public officials and their public sector associates. On account of this, Mr. Falana noted that the report has challenged the Federal Government to undertake a transparent probe of the power sector privatization.
“After analyzing the reasons for the abysmal failure of the electricity sector reform, the report has demanded that the remaining public ownership of the 40% shares in the electricity companies be further privatized to avoid using government public resources to subsidize private entities. With respect, since the privatization of public enterprises has resulted in the fraudulent sale of public assets to private individuals, I am of the firm view that state governments, trade unions and other organized groups should be afforded the opportunity to buy the remaining 40% shares in the electricity sector,” Mr. Falana said in his remarks.
He advised state governments against applying for licences from the Federal Government to generate electricity outside the national grid, given that electricity is on the concurrent legislative list, not the exclusive one. “As the constitutional power of the National Assembly to legislate in respect of electricity is limited to the establishment of electric power stations, the generation and transmission of electricity from one state to another state governments are constitutionally mandated to establish State Electricity Regulatory Commissions to licence interested investors to participate and engage in off-national grid electricity generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in line with item 14 in the concurrent legislative list in the Constitution,” Falana stated.
He contended that if individuals can generate and distribute electricity in their offices and homes, it is illogical to maintain that state governments cannot generate and distribute electricity to people in the rural areas and places outside the national grid. He called state governments to be prepared to challenge several provisions of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act to free electricity from the exclusive legislative list.
“I fully agree with the view expressed in the report that the vesting of Rural Electrification Agency, Rural Electrification Fund and Rural Electrification Project in the hands of the Federal Government is patently unconstitutional,” he further stated.
Mr. Falana said the report could not have been presented could not at a better time, given that the issue of restructuring currently dominates national discourse. He maintained that Federal Government’s exclusive control of power generation and distribution outside the national grid is illegal and called on state governments to set up State Electricity Regulatory Agencies to generate and distribute electricity in all areas of the federation not covered by the national grid.
He added that in order to shield electricity consumers from further exploitation from electricity distribution companies, the Federal Government should immediately ensure the availability of prepaid metres. Falana recommended the report as a must-read for all patriotic Nigerians. He also declared readiness to collaborate with SERAP to ensure that its recommendations are implemented.