N42bn Debt: Army Chief Meets Power Minister, Appeals For Intervention

The Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Lt. General Taoreed Abiodun Lagbaja has appealed to the Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo Adelabu for intervention over the N42 billion electricity debt burden of the Nigerian Army.

Lagbaja regretted that some barracks and cantonments since January have been in total blackout, describing the situation as a security threat.

He spoke on Thursday during his courtesy visit to the Power Minister in Abuja.

The Chief of Army Staff who disclosed that the main reason for the visit was to discuss the consequences of the power outage in army formations and the way forward, noted that “the debt owed is loaded on the meter, so no matter the amount of credit we put, the meters pick it automatically.

“Corpses in the Army mortuaries are decomposing and the owners of the corpses are protesting”, he lamented.

He further stated that it was impossible for the Army to raise funds to pay the entire debt and solicited for liquidation as was done in 2005 by the then President.

He, however, assured the Minister of the army’s unflinching support towards developing intelligence strategies in curbing the menace of electricity infrastructure vandalism.

In his response, the Minister assured the Nigerian Army of his readiness to dialogue with Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to relieve the Nigerian Army of its electricity debt burden.

He, however, noted that the payment could only be restructured, and not written off.

Quoting the Minister, the Special Adviser, Strategic Communication and Media Relations, Bolaji Tunji reiterated the importance of liquidity and funding in the sector adding the debts could not be written off but the Minister would intervene in order to restructure the debt payment if there was assurance of regular payment by the Nigerian Army.

Adelabu further revealed that debt owed by distribution and Generating Companies (GENCOs) is not the only challenge bedevilling the Power sector, he added that vandalization of power infrastructure which often leads to National grid collapse, theft, inefficiency in billing and collection process, poor metering gap, liquidity, shortage in gas supply, transmission stations being blown up with explosives in volatile areas are all part of the issues being experienced in the Power sector.

“The fundamental issues in the power sector value chain could be traced back to the last 50 years and a government that is barely eight months old cannot use a magic wand to proffer a solution. There is a saying that you won’t know what is happening in Rome until you get to Rome “, he said

The Minister who acknowledged that Power outages are not peculiar to army barracks but a national issue said the DISCOs and GENCOs are profit-oriented organizations and “we can only plead with them to adopt a repayment plan on a monthly basis instead of embedding the whole debt in their meter.

While encouraging the Army to continue assisting the Ministry in safeguarding power facilities across the nation, the Minister pledged to seek collaboration for the Army through any of the development partners for the installation of Solar PVs and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) as an alternative power supply in Army barracks and cantonments.

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