Of NEMSA bill and power sector reform

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Aug 16th, 2014
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SINCE the recent privatisation of the power sector in Nigeria, a lot has been said of the need to ensure that the privatisation policy where assets close to N350 billion committed into the hands of investors would boast of a technically sound regulatory agency to promote globally accepted standards. It is in this regard that this writer believes that the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Authority Bill 2014 (NEMSA BILL 2014) could not have come at a most appropriate moment.

The bill being sponsored by Senator Philip Aduda and Hon. Patrick Ikhariale, Chairmen of Committees on Power in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, has passed Second Reading in the House and is at the stage of Public hearing. When the first public hearing was held few weeks ago, both Senator Aduda and Hon. Patrick Ikhariale harped on the need for the power Sector to have an agency that is technically qualified to handle issues such as meter testing and certification, enforcement of technical standards / regulations among others.

They noted that these functions are not under the technical jurisdiction of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). Hon. Ikhariale specifically noted that the NEMSA bill when operational would serve to curb line and power cuts, electricity accidents, systems shutdown and blackouts amongst others, while Senator Aduda submitted that the Bill would instill the much needed standardization sanity which the Sector unfortunately lacks. Speaker of House of Representative, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, also added his voice to the urgent need for an effective and efficient regulatory authority that would promote best practices in the Power Sector.

“Trial and Error”, according to the Speaker, must give way to appropriate standards. It should be noted that the idea behind the NEMSA Bill is to effectively make the Electricity Management Services Limited (EMSL), one of the power successor companies, more effective and alive to its responsibilities as enshrined in part 1 (one) Section 8 of the Electric Power Sector Reforms Act 2005 and the Supplementary Regulations numbers 46 and 47 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria official Gazette No. 85 Vol. 97 and Government notice 374 of 2010 respectively.

The EMSL is an offshoot of the Electrical Inspectorate services (EIS) Department of the Federal Ministry of Power before the power sector reforms with full complements of technical staff and laboratory and test equipments spread across the country. Currently, EMSL has not less than 16 Area offices across the country in order to move its services closer to the people for greater efficiency. Apart from this, EMSL has three standard National Meter Test Stations / Laboratories located in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kaduna to perform functions of meter testing, calibration and type test to verify and confirm accuracies whether they conform with international standards or not.

Over the years, the issue of technical gap in the enforcement of technical standards and certification in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) has raised serious concerns amongst stakeholders. At the Asaba Power Summit in August 2012, the then Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, had directed in the summit communiqué that the EIS Department of the Federal Ministry of Power, now EMSL should continue to perform these all important technical statutory / enforcement functions.

Thus , the Bill when passed and NEMSA becomes a full fledged Agency, would have the mandate to ensure amongst others, that electrical materials, equipment and instruments used in NESI are of the right qualities, standards and specifications; that Power Systems and Networks put in place have been well planned, properly designed and executed before use to ensure that such systems are capable of delivering, safe, reliable and regular electricity supply to consumers nationwide thereby guaranteeing safety of lives and property within NESI and offgrid networks.

NEMSA is also to ensure that electric meters and instruments used in NESI are of the right type, quality, class and accuracy for proper accountability of energy delivered, supplied and utilized by the consumers. NEMSA would ensure that the inherited existing noncore assets such as meter test station, clinics, central stores, chemical laboratories, central mechanical and transformer repair workshops are efficiently utilized to provide improved services in the power sector amongst others.

At a recent meeting with Journalists in Abuja, the Managing Director/CEO of EMSL, Engineer Peter Ewesor disclosed that some of the services to be offered by EMSL when fully operational include facilitating “logistics services for the movement of generation, transmission and distribution equipment from ports to site and also transportation of damaged equipment to EMS repair workshops” while also providing “storage facilities for all electric power sector players and other related businesses” He also said that the EMSL would “utilize the printing press to print security and non-security documents e.g. bills, connection / disconnection forms, receipts etc.” and also “provide data, information and library services for stakeholders, investors, researchers, academic etc.” amongst others.

Although, some critics have argued that NEMSA Bill when passed would amount to duplication of functions between NEMSA and NERC but I beg to disagree as there is no where In the enabling laws establishing NERC where the above are embedded. Indeed, having suffered several years of backwardness and crass inefficiency in the Power Sector, Nigeria certainly deserves no less than the best which NEMSA Bill seeks to entrench in the industry. The National Assembly should be commended for the speed with which it has processed the bill and should be encouraged to pass it without further delay.

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