Inside Ondo State Power Sector Reform 2020, By Tunji Ariyomo



 

At the swearing in of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN on February 24 2016, only 7 local government areas in Ondo State, namely Akure South, Akure North, Ondo West, Ondo East, Ifedore, Idanre and Owo had access to electricity from the national grid. This represented less than 40% of the number of local government areas in Ondo State. Among these areas that experienced some functional connections to the grid, less than 30 per cent of Ondo East had access to electricity from the grid. Less than 60 per cent of Owo had access to grid tied electricity.

 

In Akure South where access to electricity was the highest, the longest hour verifiable per day was less than 12 hours per household. The people of the four local government areas of Akoko in Ondo North were forced by circumstance to mobilize their notable sons and daughters for direct intervention in the repairs and upgrade of abandoned distribution infrastructure before some of the local government areas could regain access to the grid.

 

The situation in Ondo South was more appalling as years of irresponsible neglect of distribution networks had led to the vandalization of the primary infrastructure at the transmission-distribution interface while entire lengths of critical electricity facilities were simply pilfered and carted away. The people were helpless and expectedly, they protested. The agitations became fever-pitch.

 

The state government had to intervene with off-grid energy solutions in selected communities as the restiveness was teetering on the edge of violence and breakdown of law and order.

In order to ensure that the intervention is sustainable, the state considered it expedient that there is in place an enabling law that entrenches investment protection in areas not covered by the national grid whilst also providing institutionalized legal framework (close to the masses) for vigorously protecting the consumer interests of the people in every part of the state. The emergent scenario evidences a decentralization of authority as a workaround antidote to the inhibitive over-centralization that has been the implicit menace of the industry.

 

 

There are therefore two planks upon which the Ondo State Electric Sector Law 2020 rest: (i) the constitutionally protected power of the Ondo State House of Assembly to put in place requisite institutional frameworks and authorities for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in areas not covered by a national grid system, as enshrined in Sections (14) and (15) of Part II Second Schedule (under Concurrent Legislative List) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); and (ii) the inalienable right of states’ Houses of Assemblies of the federation to enact laws for the protection of consumer interests of their constituents.

 

The paradox is not lost on the Ondo State Government, that while the word consumer occurs only once in the entire 1999 Constitution (as amended) and incidentally that is solely in relation to electricity – the electric power sector is by far one in which interests of consumers have been intolerably inverted and recklessly violated. The Ondo State Electric Sector Law 2020 situates electricity outputs as any typical product for which the fundamental contract is between the buyer and the seller thereby challenging the erroneous mind-set that implied a state protection for egregious violation of consumer rights and privileges; an epidemic that has stifled last mile responsiveness of electric product distributors. This is the raison d’être of the mandate to empanel a state’s ombudsman for the protection of consumers’ interests in any part of the state.

 

 

The Ondo State Technical Committee on Power is grateful to the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN for his uncommon leadership that broke new grounds. Also, due appreciation to the Speaker and Members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Members of the Ondo State Executive Council, Commissioner and Staff of the Ondo State Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Bar Association (Ondo State Chapter), the Nigerian Society of Engineers (Ondo State Chapter), the Nigerian Institution of Power Engineers, the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Retired staff of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders and Elder Statesmen across the state, Women and Youth organizations in the 3 senatorial districts and members of the press. This is to God’s glory and the benefits of the people of Ondo State.

Engr. Tunji Ariyomo, FNSE
Special Adviser to the Governor on Energy
& Chairman, Ondo State’s Technical Committee on Power.
31st December 2020.