By Prof Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo


The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission recently announced a new tariff which Nigerians are taking with a lot of mixed feelings.

To many, the new tariff has just scratched open the pains felt in the hands of staff of various Distribution Companies (DISCOs) across the country.

While most electricity consumers worry more about when and how long they will get their share of the rationed power in the location, a greater percentage of these same users either suffer from estimated billing or lack basic power infrastructure that supplies power to them. 

In a bid to revolutionise Nigeria’s energy sector and address the longstanding issue of power shortages, experts and stakeholders are rallying behind a bold proposal: mandating the Federal Government to issue power distribution companies (DISCOs) nationwide licenses to operate nationwide.

The initiative, which was recently re-echoed by Prof. Barnabas Ikyo, a renowned professor of Physics, aims to overhaul the fragmented power distribution system and enhance the efficiency, reliability, and accessibility of electricity across the country.

Currently, Nigeria’s power distribution system is characterised by a fragmented structure, with multiple DISCOs operating in different regions under exclusive territorial licenses.

According to the expert view of Prof Ikyo, this fragmented setup has contributed significantly to the inefficiencies and challenges plaguing the sector including: inadequate coverage.

Many areas in Nigeria, particularly rural and remote communities, suffer from inadequate or unreliable access to electricity due to the limited coverage of existing DISCOs. This lack of access hampers socio-economic development and perpetuates poverty in these regions.

The next challenge is poor service quality. Consumers often face issues such as frequent power outages, voltage fluctuations, and slow response times to maintenance requests, leading to dissatisfaction and frustration among electricity users.

Estimated bills, disconnections, bribery before attending to customers, lack or no education on billing, no awareness of efficient energy use and poor (if any) customer relationship are some of the challenges being experienced.

Related News

Another stubborn area is the delaying or refusal to provide meters to customers, and the fraudulent extortion of money from users to procure infrastructure like cables, and transformers which ought to be provided by the DISCOs. 

We also have lack of competition. The absence of competition in the power distribution market has resulted in a lack of incentives for DISCOs to improve their services and invest in infrastructure upgrades. This, in turn, causes imminent monopolistic or exploitative tendencies that have stifled innovation and technological advancements in the sector. 

Prof Ikyo posits that proponents of the nationwide operation mandate will consolidate power distribution operations under a unified regulatory framework that will yield several benefits including improved efficiency, expanded access, enhanced service quality, and stimulated competition. 

Improving efficiency will eliminate duplication of resources and streamline operations; a nationwide mandate will enhance operational efficiency and reduce wastage, leading to cost savings for both DISCOs and consumers.

Mandating DISCOs to operate nationwide would ensure broader coverage and more equitable distribution of electricity across urban, rural, and underserved areas, thereby accelerating electrification efforts and fostering inclusive growth.

A unified regulatory regime will enable standardisation of service quality and performance metrics, incentivising DISCOs to improve their service delivery and customer satisfaction levels.

A key achievement of national operation is the stimulated competition it will instill in the operation space. The nationwide competition would spur innovation, investment, and service differentiation among DISCOs, ultimately driving improvements in the efficiency, reliability, and affordability of electricity services. The peak of such a revolution will be that the crusade to go for more energy-efficient appliances will be driven by the DISCOs and not just by unheard academics. 

Despite the potential benefits, implementing a nationwide operation mandate for DISCOs will pose certain challenges and require careful planning and coordination. The regulatory agency will need to project a robust regulatory framework to govern nationwide operations and ensure compliance with quality standards, consumer protection measures, and fair competition practices would be crucial. Significant investment will also be needed to upgrade and expand the existing electricity infrastructure to support nationwide operations, including transmission and distribution networks, substations, and metering systems.

A phased approach may be necessary to facilitate the transition to nationwide operations, allowing sufficient time for the DISCOs to adjust their business models, upgrade their capabilities, and comply with regulatory requirements.

 We also need stakeholder engagement: Close collaboration and consultation with stakeholders, including energy experts, DISCOs, government agencies, regulators, consumer advocacy groups, and the private sector, will be essential to garner support, address concerns, and ensure a smooth implementation process.

As Nigeria continues its quest for sustainable development and economic prosperity, reforming the power distribution sector emerges as a critical imperative.

By mandating the DISCOs to operate nationwide, the country can unlock the full potential of its vast energy resources, catalyze socio-economic development, and empower millions of Nigerians with reliable and affordable electricity access. Unbundling the geographical operational limits of the DISCOs will naturally bring competition. With concerted efforts and visionary leadership, Nigeria can embark on a transformative journey towards a brighter, electrified future for all.