Experts divided over FG’s proposed privatisation of TCN

The announcement by the Bureau of Public Enterprises of the proposed privatisation of the Transmission Company of Nigeria has been greeted with different reactions from industry experts.

Bloomberg reported last week that the Director-General of BPE, Alex Okoh, said in an interview that the agency was looking at various strategies to reform the TCN.

“The agency will share its proposal very shortly with the National Council on Privatisation that the state-owned corporation be unbundled and then privatised,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2013, the Federal Government privatised the distribution and generation companies carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.

The Managing Director, TCN, Sule Abdulaziz, said in the company’s April 2021 newsletter that the notable challenges in the TCN included the need for a very functional and efficient Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system and Automated Meter Reading system, and poor budgetary allocation for government-funded projects.

A Port Harcourt-based energy expert, Bala Zakka, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, kicked against the proposed privatisation of the transmission arm of the country’s power sector.

According to him, the country will regret it if the TCN is sold to private investors.

He said, “I have never supported and will never support the sale of national assets. Any emerging economy requires huge intervention from the government in infrastructural development, because of its weak nature. This does not mean private-public partnerships should not exist.

“PHCN was unbundled, and now we have distribution companies; to what extent have they been able to guarantee better power supply? A country of 200 million people with strategic industrial, domestic and commercial sectors relying on less than 7,000 megawatts of power?

“All the Discos have been doing is to repeatedly ask for bailouts. Look at the billions they have received in terms of government intervention. This shows we are not ready for full-scale capitalism. If the TCN is sold, we would only be dumping the country into perpetual economic slavery,” he added.

An energy economist, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, said he had always supported processes that would engender competition, improve efficiency and reduce direct government involvement in economic activities.

Adenikinju, who was a member of the Power Sector Recovery Plan Committee during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, said this was because of the poor performance record of government enterprises.

He said, “I have always believed this privatisation should have been done earlier, where competent private owners take over these state-owned enterprises. Doing it now though is never too late.

“I support the sale of the TCN but we have to be careful. We have to avoid the mistake we made with the Discos, where we privatised but we excluded technically and financially sound players in the process.”

According him, the country must learn from the experiences of the 2013 power sector privatisation.

“The proposed sale of the TCN has to be transparent, credible, and should at actualisation boost the performance and efficiency of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry,” Adenikinju added.

The TCN boss had noted in the company’s April newsletter that the issue of whether the company should be privatised had been an ongoing discussion in the public space.

“Even though I do not advocate for the privatisation of TCN, the future has a lot of unravelled mysteries, which could make TCN’s privatisation the next big step in the sector, but until then, we are doing our best to build TCN into a world-class transmission company comparable to any standard grid,” he said.

PUNCH

Leave a Reply