The N44.5bn electricity debt owed by the military is weighing on the activities of power distribution firms across the country.
Daily Trust findings show that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force owe a cumulative debt of N22bn between 2013 and 2016.
There is also a backlog of N22.4bn from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Analysis of the military’s budgets showed that N1.8bn only was provided for administrative electricity charges in four years, Daily Trust reports.
Data obtained from the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) showed that of the 11 privately – owned power distribution companies (Discos), the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) is being owed the highest debt of N4.1bn while Yola disco recorded the lowest debt of N509m.
Daily Trust findings show that electricity bills budget only reflect those for administrative buildings and residences.
The breakdown of the post- privatisation debt of N22.665bn obtained from ANED indicates that the Army owe N18.7bn, the Navy N1.7bn with another N2.181bn being owed by the Air Force.
ANED spokesperson Sunday Oduntan said in Abuja that many barracks, bases and formations were not making enough efforts to pay.
He said staff members of Ibadan, Abuja and Kaduna discos had faced challenges of military harassment over power supply and payment of bills.
ANED said it had written to the Ministry of Defence over such cases seeking that justice be done. He said before the massive disconnection began in May, heavy debtors were notified and given 10 days to clear their bills significantly.
Oduntan said: “This is because such debts have accumulated and there are no signs that the debtors especially the Army is making efforts to clear them.”
Electricity bills budgets
However, analysis of the budgetary allocation for four years obtained from the Budget Office shows that only N1.8bn was budgeted for electricity charges when there is N44.5bn waiting to be paid.
Within the four year budget period, the Nigerian Army (NA) was allocated N689m for electricity charges, the Navy, N685m and Air Force, N463m.
Discos under pressure
The Chief Marketing and Customer Services Officer at Kaduna Electric, Murtala Bello explained that the new rule of Discos paying 100 percent of their energy bills necessitated that they collected their debts from long term debtor customers.
“The military alone owes us N8bn and it is a huge sum of money for any business and that is why we have embarked on the disconnection of debtor customers and military formations. We have had issues where we get harassed while doing our duties.
“Like in Gusau, Zamfara state, our member of staff was harassed and the same happened at the 44 Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna. At the Kalapanzin Barracks in Kaduna, about 16 of our staff were detained over disconnection. It is uncalled for and we condemn such act as we are only carrying out our duties,” Bello said.
Kaduna’s N8bn debts
The zone covers Kaduna, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto states. Formations in the district include the Nigeria Defense Academy, Armed Forces Command College Jaji, headquarters of One Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Commandant Nigeria Army Depot, Nigeria Air Force Base.
A breakdown of the amount owed by the formations indicates that the NDA old site owes over N261m, the Armed Forces Command Jaji, over N1.1bn, One Division’s Cotokona barracks N1.2bn, Ribadu Cantonment over N700m, Fallen Barracks over N292m and Headquarters One Division over N52m.
Head of the media department of Kaduna Electric Abdulaziz Abdullahi confirmed the debt saying the military formations were only some of the institutions owing the firm.
Kano Disco debts
As at May 31, 2016, military formations in Kano and Katsina states were owing Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) a total of N855m, the spokesperson of the company, Muhammad Kandi has said.
Kandi said “the breakdown of the outstanding bills indicated that the 73 Battalion of the Nigerian Army Janguza Barrack (1) in Kano state owed KEDCO N107m, while Janguza Barrack (2) was indebted to the tune of N107m, making the total of outstanding debt owed by the formation to N214m.
“The 35 battalion Nigerian Army Natsinta Barrack (1), Katsina state has a total outstanding electricity bills of N98m, while Natsinta Barrack (2) owed N221, 072.24. The subtotal of the outstanding debt for the Barrack stood at N99, 058, 246.24,” he said.
Kandi further explained that the Nigerian Army Bukavu Barrack (1), Kano state owed the electricity coy a sum of N534m, while Bukavu Barrack (2) was yet to settle the N7m outstanding debts, saying the subtotal of the outstanding bills for the barrack was N541m.
He said although the company had faced some difficulties in recovering its debts from the military formation in the past, the attitude of the military towards payment of electricity bills was gradually changing.
“The military have started changing their behaviour recently. Unlike in the previous years, they started offsetting their outstanding bills by dropping some amount of money to KEDCO every month. And if they can maintain the tempo for sometimes, I am sure they can reduce the debts,” he said.
Eko Discos debts
Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) said it was currently being owed N600m by military institutions under the zone, which is one of the biggest debt customers owed the power company.
Managing Director of the power company, Engineer Oladele Amoda, who revealed this in a chat with our correspondent, added the debt spread across the 192 accounts the military maintained with the zone in the state.
According to him, Army owes 60 percent of the debt, Navy 30 percent, while Air force incurs 10 percent.
“What the military authority usually tells us is that it is the headquarters that would pay the debt and that they have not received appropriation from the National Assembly. Some of them pay paltry sum of the debt.
“There was a time we sat down with one of their GOC’s who made spirited efforts to ensure payments of the mounting debts. This has not translated to considerable compliance as only the Air force shows willingness to pay,” he said.
He said for private residence, military officers were supposed to pay their individual electricity bills.
Armed Forces response
When contacted over the electricity bills debts owed by the Nigerian Army, its spokesperson Colonel Sani Usman said: “This allegation is not true. The Nigerian army has been paying electricity bills which is remitted into single accounts of the various electricity distribution companies.”
In its response, the spokesperson of the Air Force, Group Captain Ayodele Famiyuwa said: “I can tell you that Air Force has been paying. I will not tell you that Air Force does not owe, and the debt we owe is as a result of accumulated bills over time. Remember that before they decentralised it, it was being paid centrally. What the Air Force does is that it remits money to each of its units and they pay for their bills.
“What Air Force is trying to do is pay the current bill they bring and see how to put a little of what has been outstanding, believing that over time it will be able to offset the bill. Remember there is paucity of funds right now, and military draws money from government coffer.
“So we may not be able to offset all the accumulated debt over the years, but there is an arrangement in place to keep paying for what is consumed, while you can put a little of what owed Remember that allocations are not coming as at when due, when the funds is released that is when we pay to PHCN,” Famuyiwa said.
In his response, the naval spokesperson Commodore Christian Ezekobe said: “The Navy has an arrangement with the electricity distribution companies but the problem is that maybe there were some arrears that the current administration inherited. So those are the ones that are outstanding, as for whether we pay, we all pay.”
However, Daily Trust was unable to get a response from the Defence spokesperson Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar at the time of filing this report. He didn’t reply to text messages sent to him over the issue.