Sunday, 7 July 2013

Power Sector: Are Nigerians Running Out of Patience?

In what looks like a season of excuses, the Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, has in the past one month been reeling out reasons for the appalling state of power delivery in the country as members of the nation’s business community continue to count losses incurred through the adoption of alternative power generation, reports Festus Akanbi
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Prof Chinedu Nebo, Power Minister

An attempt to seek the opinions of some members of the Nigerian business community last week on the present state of power provoked a combination of indignation, frustration and disillusion.
Most of the respondents to THISDAY’s enquiries were particularly frustrated with a system, which, in spite of huge resources expended so far, and government assurances, has failed to improve the state of power delivery to homes and offices in the country.

This development is coming on the heels of a shocking revelation from the power ministry that of Nigeria’s 160 million population, only 40 million have access to electricity through the public power supply system.
The Minister of State for Power, Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, who made the disclosure last month, said “Privatisation is at its conclusion stage come July; what we need to focus on is the commercialisation of the power sector, considering where we are and the fact that we are only giving power to only 40 million. We have 160 million Nigerians now and we are only giving power to 40 million of that population.”

Some business owners who spoke on the condition of anonymity regretted that in spite of the claims by government officials of improved electricity supply across the country, the reality on the ground is that very little has changed in the lives of Nigerians, who still have to depend heavily on standby generators as their primary source of electricity.

 They maintained that companies that had long given up on public power supply, because of its erratic nature, continue to invest heavily in alternative sources of power to keep their production lines running in a very difficult business environment created by acute shortage of electricity.

The Figures
Their state of near hopelessness has also been captured in a number of newspaper’s editorial, which argued that rather than witness any improvement as promised, information obtained from official sources have contradicted the government’s claims of improved service delivery by the troubled public utility, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), which has a monopoly of electricity supply in the country. For instance, official records showed recently that power generation capacity suffered a significant decline from an all-time high of 4,517 megawatts recorded last December to a miserable level of about 3,300 megawatts in the middle of April.

Is Power Ministry Overwhelmed?
In an apparent realisation of the erosion of the initial confidence that greeted his appointment last December, Minister of Power Chinedu Nebo has continued to apologise for power supply interruption to some states of the federation but industry affairs commentators said Nigerians no longer take the ministry seriously and have come to the conclusion that the on-going power problems have indeed overwhelmed the present administration.
The minister, for instance, explained that the recent power failure in states like Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and even Niamey in Niger Republic was due to rain storm which led to the collapse of three units of 330kV towers. He noted that the ministry was now restoring the supply by utilising spare towers available to the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

 He said there was a drop in service delivery on May 24 on the main 330kV transmission lines in the South West axis of the national grid, adding that it “led to the significant loss in the amount of transmission capacity which eventually resulted in total system collapse.’’
The minister said that the unfortunate incident coincided with the on-going repairs at the Ughelli Power plant hence the prolonged delay in restoring the system.

“The ministry wishes to assure Nigerians that the Transmission Company of Nigeria Plc is repositioned and being funded to meet the expectations and requirements,’’ Mr. Nebo had said.
Just as in previous cases, the current drop in power generation has been attributed to system collapse.
Last year alone, the country suffered a total of 24 system failures, out of which 15 were total collapses.

 According to figures released by the PHCN National Control Centre in Osogbo, Nigeria has recorded 124 system failures in the past four years.

 Worsening conditions have been traced to reliance on obsolete equipment in the face of a rapidly expanding population and urbanisation.

 Critics of the power sector reforms said since 2005, when the Electricity Power Sector Reform bill was passed into law – primarily to hand over the ownership or management of PHCN to the private sector – the government has still not successfully privatised the sector.
According to them, it’s only recently that the government mustered the courage to sell some of the 18 companies into, which PHCN was subdivided in 2005, alleging that the exercise has seen the companies going into wrong hands.

 The alleged further that most have been sold to companies with virtually no antecedents in electricity business, thus paving the way for failure even before they commence operations.
However, when contacted, Chairman, Presidential Task force on Power, Mr. Reynolds Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack, who expressed disappointment in the current level of performance, said President Jonathan’s administration is determined to tackle the problems in the power sector once and for all.

 Justifying the slow pace of progress, Dagogo-Jack listed insufficient experience and understanding of the challenges involved in creating a brand new electricity market as one of the problems facing the present administration in its drive to hand over the sector to the private sector.
Source: ThisDayLive

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