“We decided early that it would not be possible to establish the trust of our customers and other stakeholders unless we develop and enforce a strict policy of integrity.”
Exclusive interview with Robert Dickerman, MD & CEO, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company. He will address the upcoming WAPIC in Lagos in November on “The practical challenges of modernising a utility network in a capital constrained environment”.
Enugu Electricity Distribution Company has a long and proud history, can you give us some highlights of accomplishments you are particularly proud of?
We have established a new culture at EEDC, one of Integrity. We decided early that it would not be possible to establish the trust of our customers and other stakeholders unless we develop and enforce a strict policy of integrity. The days are behind us when contractors could get a sole source contract through relationships with executives, or when marketers could illegally connect customers for cash payments. We have redesigned our recruiting and employee retention plans based on merit and a highly transparent selection process that focuses on education and experience, not relationships with powerful people.
Any projects that you are involved in that you are particularly excited about currently?
I am most excited about an upcoming project to meter all of our customers. It has become increasingly obvious that customers in our territory will pay their bills as long as energy bills are based upon actual usage. We have a large number of unregistered customers, but we are addressing that income gap scientifically with a comprehensive, satellite-based enumeration program. On the heels of enumeration, we will roll out smart meters to all of our customers, from residential through industrial classes of trade. This will boost our cash revenues to a level that will enable us to self-fund many other projects, including restoration of transformers, conductors and switch gear.
Any success stories that have/will make a big difference in the lives of consumers that you can share?
We have already replaced 30% of the transformer capacity in our network in the first 10 months of operation. Many customers note the improvement, but we realize we have so much farther to go before power reliability is at an acceptable level.
What in your opinion are the biggest challenges to the power industry in Nigeria? And in the region?
It seems clear that, at this early stage of privatization, capital shortage is the biggest challenge to the power industry in Nigeria. This shortage applies to generation, transmission and distribution. It will be solved as we collectively improve and investors and lenders increase confidence in the sector.
What is your vision for this industry?
My vision is quite simple. For Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, we will be known for three core principles: Integrity, Customer Service and Performance. Integrity must be central to every interaction we have with stakeholders and each other, in order to build trust. Customers are our only source of income, so we must do everything possible to earn their trust and confidence in the reliability and quality of our distribution system, as well as their interactions with us to resolve issues, communicate effectively and support our communities. Performance includes operational as well as financial performance. When our transformation is complete, our performance as measured by Key Performance Indicators will be highly transparent.
What has surprised you about your work?
I moved to Nigeria from the USA and have been extremely pleased to learn two qualities about the Nigerian people, inside and outside the company. The first is that Nigerians are naturally very warm and welcoming to strangers and friends. It took no time for me to get comfortable interacting closely with people 7,000 miles from home. The second quality I noticed is that the workforce is, for the most part, highly educated and Nigerians value education very highly, as do I.
What will be your message at WAPIC this year?
My message will be to share some of the practical experiences I have had in my first year as CEO, from personal stories to professional challenges and how our company is addressing these challenges. I believe strongly that what we are doing here is important to the development of the largest country in Africa.
How important is this event on the power calendar of the region?
It is a significant event, which is why I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak at it.
Anything you would like to add?
Only that I am looking forward to meeting many more people at the conference and learning from their experiences.