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Friday, 23 February 2024 13:42

Blackout: Corpses in Army mortuaries decomposing, COAS laments

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, has appealed for the liquidation of the N42bn electricity debt of the Nigerian Army following the disconnection of various Army barracks and cantonments by power distribution companies.

Lagbaja also revealed that the blackouts in barracks had led to the decomposition of corpses in Army mortuaries, a development that had warranted protests by owners of the corpses.

The Army chief made the appeal when he visited the Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, in Abuja, where the minister told him that the debt would be restructured and not written off.

Lagbaja, in a statement issued in Abuja by the media aide to the power minister, Bolaji Tunji, said the main reason for his visit was to discuss the consequences of the power outage in Army formations and the way forward.

He regretted that some barracks and cantonments had been in total blackout since January.

He was quoted as saying, “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.”

According to the statement, “he (Lagbaja) further stated that the army couldn’t raise funds to pay the entire debt, as he solicited liquidation as was done in 2005 by the then President.”

He also described blackouts in army barracks and cantonments as security threats.

Meanwhile, the Army chief assured the minister of the Army’s unflinching support towards developing intelligent strategies in curbing the menace of electricity infrastructure vandalism.

Responding, Adelabu assured the Nigerian Army of his readiness to dialogue with the power distribution companies to relieve the Nigerian Army of its electricity debt burden amounting to N42bn.

He reiterated the importance of liquidity and funding in the power sector, adding that the debt could not be written off.

Adelabu told his guest that he would intervene to restructure the debt payment if there was assurance of regular payments by the Nigerian Army.

He further revealed that the debts owed by power distribution and generating companies were not the only challenges bedevilling the power sector.

According to the minister, the vandalism 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, were 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 stated.

The minister said power outages were not peculiar to army barracks but a national issue, adding that the Discos and Gencos were profit-oriented organisations.

“We can only plead with them to adopt a repayment plan monthly instead of embedding the whole debt in their meter,” Adelabu stated.

He charged the army to continue assisting the ministry in safeguarding power facilities across the country and pledged to seek collaboration for the army through any of the development partners for the installation of solar PVs and Battery Energy Storage Systems as alternative power supply sources in army barracks and cantonments.

A lot of government agencies and parastatals owe power distribution several billions of naira in electricity debts that have continued to drag on for years.

On February 20, 2024, The PUNCH reported that no fewer than 86 ministries, agencies, and departments of government were owing the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company to the tune of N47bn.

A public notice by the management of AEDC listed the Presidential Villa as owing the Disco the sum of N923.9m; National Security Adviser, N95.9m; Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory being supervised by Nyesom Wike, N7.57bn, while Adelabu’s Ministry of Power owed N78m.

In the notice, AEDC said it would be constrained to list the names of MDAs with “long outstanding unpaid bills for services rendered to them through the provision of electricity supply in that our previous attempts to make them honour their obligations have not been achieved the desired result.”

The power firm had threatened to disconnect the MDAs in 10 days should they fail to pay their debts.

[Punch]

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