2023 Electricity Act and NDDC’s illumination of 5 Ondo LGAs after decades of darkness By JEROME-MARIO UTOMI

Each passing day brings to mind evidence that Niger Delta region is on the march to becoming a zone of peace and sustainable development as promised some months ago by Mr. Chiedu Ebie, Chairman, Governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Through their actions and inactions so far, the board/management have demonstrated to be the true response to the social and economic challenges in the Niger Delta region.

Reports and organized commentaries from critical stakeholders also indicate that both the governing board and management are laced with capacity to articulate the developmental needs of the people of the region as encapsulated in the agency’s mission and vision statement ‘to offer a lasting solution to the socioeconomic difficulties of the Niger Delta region and facilitate the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta region into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful’.

Out of so many examples supporting the above assertion, the latest that stands out is the recent news report that the Niger Delta Development Commission, in line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, renewed hope agenda, completed and connected the 132/33kv electricity substation built at Ode-Erinje in the Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State to the national grid.

Aside from the power station boosting economic activities in the state coupled with a promise by the agency to replicate this legacy project across all states in the Niger Delta, also very remarkable is the fact that the power substation would provide electricity to over 2,000 communities across five local government areas within the oil-producing region of Ondo State that had been without electricity for the past 15 years, and will significantly impact lives by ending decades of darkness.

“We are committed to lighting up all the local government areas and the oil-producing communities in Ondo South Senatorial District. This is part of NDDC’s mandate to provide infrastructure and development projects in the Niger Delta region.”

Very unique is the awareness that before the ‘dust of excitement’ that trailed the agency’s breakthrough in Ondo state could settle, another was up. This time around in Edo state. It was reported a few days ago that the agency is in a similar style set to commission a 1×15mva 33/11kv electricity project, electricity injection sub-station in Amufi-Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, Benin City, Edo State.

Without doubt, these double feats, for reasons that will be stated in the subsequent paragraphs have finally made Niger Deltans with critical minds to conclude that NDDC is serious with its ambitious goal of transitioning from a transactional entity to one deeply committed to sustainable development and transformation in the region.

Here are the point why NDDC’s current effort is not only newsy but adjudged commendable.

Electricity is globally recognized as one of the most important blessings that science has given to mankind. It has also become a part of modern life and one cannot think of a world without it. Electricity has many uses in our day to day life. It is used for lighting rooms, working fans and domestic appliances like using electric stoves, A/C and more. All these provide comfort to people. In factories, large machines are worked with the help of electricity. Essential items like food, cloth, paper and many other things are the product of electricity.

Also, the world is in agreement that modern means of transportation and communication have been revolutionized by it. Electric trains and battery cars are quick means of travel. Electricity, it was recently argued, provides means of amusement, radio, television and cinema, which are the most popular forms of entertainment as a result of electricity. Modern equipment like computers and robots have also been developed because of electricity. Electricity plays a pivotal role in the fields of medicines and surgery too — such as X-ray, ECG. The use of electricity is increasing day by day.

More specifically and of course a fundamental reason why what NDDC governing board and management are presently doing in the region should be appreciated is the fact that it is seamlessly in concord with the President Tinubu’s burning desire to have electricity reach every nook and cranny of the country-a desire that birthed the 2023 Electricity Act, which replaced the Electricity and Power Sector Reform Act of 2005.

The 2023 Electricity Act brought about the de-monopolization of Nigeria’s electricity generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity at the National level and empowers states, companies, and individuals to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. It replaced the Electricity and Power Sector Reform Act of 2005. It provides a framework to guide the post-privatization phase of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) as well as encourage private sector investments in the sector. States can issue licenses to private investors who can operate mini-grids and power plants within the state. However, the Act precludes interstate and transnational electricity distribution.

Under the Electricity Act 2023, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) will be able to regulate the electricity sector within Nigeria without prejudice to the powers of the states to make laws and create electricity markets within those states and to regulate those markets.
The Act mandates how NERC can transition regulatory responsibilities from itself to state regulators when they are established. Until a state has passed its electricity market laws, NERC will continue to regulate electricity business exclusively carried out in those states.

The Act grants lawmakers the power to carry out oversight responsibilities and function over the NESI through its respective Committees on Power in the Senate and House of Representatives. This is to be carried out notwithstanding the supervisory powers of any government Ministry over government-owned enterprises or other entities operating in the Nigerian electricity supply industry.
Electricity generation licensees are obligated to meet renewable generation obligations as may be prescribed by NERC. Under the Act, electricity generating companies will be mandated to either generate power from renewable energy sources, purchase power generated from renewable energy or procure any instrument representing renewable energy generation.
It also mandates the imposition of renewable purchase obligations on distribution or supply licensees.

The Act also states that anyone may construct, own or operate an undertaking for generating electricity not exceeding 1 megawatt (MW) in aggregate at a site or an undertaking for distribution of electricity with a capacity not exceeding 100 kilowatts (KW) in aggregate at a site, or such other capacity as NERC may determine from time to time, without a license.

Indeed, while there is no argument anymore that 2023 Electricity Act has revolutionized electricity generation and supply in the country, which has in turn brought significant stability in power supply in the country, of which credit goes to Mr. President, this piece will in a similar vein align with the recently formed opinion by Niger Deltans of goodwill that under Mr. Chiedu Ebie led governing board and management of NDDC, the interventionist agency has finally gotten a board with the understanding that it is their duty to serve our communities and embrace its aspirations, both now and in the future, by assuring the people economic growth, education, health, security, stability, comfort, leisure opportunities and freedom in ways that will allow for the most conducive atmosphere to achieve the targets that will guarantee our welfare and a bright future.

  • Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos

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