Power problems cannot be fixed immediately – Uzoigwe

Mike-Uzoigwe, CEO Egbin Power Station27 August 2013, Lagos – The Chief Executive Officer of Egbin Power Station, Mr. Mike Uzoigwe, spoke with select journalists on the state of the power situation in Nigeria and the progress of on-going repair works at Unit 6 of the 1,320megawatt-capacity power plant, which is the biggest power generating plant in the country.

Many Nigerians are worried that a lot of investment has been made in the power industry but supply is still very poor. Why are we not getting it right?
In Nigeria, everybody is a specialist in any area where people have concern and interest. On the days we play important international football matches, everybody becomes a coach. The same thing happens in the power industry. In the power industry, people make statements and say things they know nothing about. It is frustrating that Nigerians will not get power after so many years. But those of us, who are professionals in this industry, had always known that whenever government became serious with the power industry, they would have to invest heavily for a very long time to get it right. If it had taken 15 to 20 years to degenerate to where we are today, things cannot suddenly be fixed immediately.

The point I am making here is that when the government say that billions have been invested in the industry, people say that they have not seen the effect. People have not seen the effects because there are other problems people don’t know about. There are transmission lines that are passing through troublesome terrains and Nigerians are the ones making things difficult for these projects to see the light of the day. The government would put the money in place but the execution of the contract would face problems from the same Nigerians who are waiting for power. People don’t take cognisance of problems associated with these projects before they criticise. They (government) will tell you that in two months’ time, power will be reach this level but in four months’ time, it will neither be here nor there because of other genuine reasons.

We understand that the Unit 6 of Egbin Power Station has been out of operation for about seven years. How far have you gone with the repair work?
I will like to expose to fellow Nigerians the works being carried out here at Egbin on Unit 6, which is ST-06, which is a 220megawatt steam turbine. Unit ST-06 was commissioned in November 1987.

In 2006 during operation, the Unit boiler exploded due to some water tube issues. The contract was awarded on August 21, 2009 for the repairs of the boiler and it was completed in 2010. While the boiler was under repairs, ST-06 generator rotor was discovered faulty during overhaul. Since ST-06 was still down undergoing repairs, its rotor was immediately taken to replace the ST-02 Generator Rotor and bring the unit back to operation.

ST-02 Generator Rotor was then shipped to Japan for repairs at Hitachi, the Original Equipment Manufacturer, OEM, factory. The Generator Rotor was later returned fully repaired. Before then, however, ST-01 Turbine failed in December 2010. Since ST-06 was still down awaiting repairs of its rotor, we had no option than to transfer ST-06 LP Turbine to ST-01 to quickly repair and resume operation of ST-01. At a point therefore, ST-06 had its generator rotor in ST-02 and its LP Steam Turbine in ST-01.

Apart from these major parts that were cannibalised from ST-06 to keep other units running, several other parts of ST-06 were taken to manage operations of the remaining five units over the years, given the poor funding situation we found ourselves in.

However, in 2011, we started thinking of bringing ST-06 back to operation. Funding was a problem as most parts of the Unit needed to be replaced. We started first by repairing the bad LP turbine. This was done by General Electric Company of America at a cost of about N250million, with the help of the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) money paid to the power station.

Between 2011 and 2012, we were in a position to order and replace all the cannibalised spares and also award contract for the final repairs, which cost over N924million. Unit ST-06 repair job will last for 90 days after which the unit should be handed over completely repaired and ready for operation. This will put to rest the rumours that money meant for ST-06 repairs was diverted sometime in the past.

Why was the repair of Unit 6 delayed for several years?
The delay in flagging off the job was because we did not get the nod of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, early enough to award the contract due to their exhaustive procedure of making sure the contract price was right. We have started anyway and hoped that we will deliver on time. We are on the interim discovering everyday some other parts we need to replace. This will cost some more money and we will soon take it up with the Minister of Power to source for more funds.

This unit has been out of operation for seven years and each time we have problems in other units, we would go and take spares from this unit to operate the other running units. For seven years, we have cannibalised Unit 6. Therefore, when we started repairing it, we had in mind that we had captured all that we had taken away from the unit. We were keeping records as we were cannibalising the unit but because many departments collected spares from Unit 6, it was not easy to capture all the parts taken away.

Before we started repairs, we did a plant audit to really capture what we needed to buy. We formed a committee that sat for nine months to update ourselves about what we needed to have to effectively start the project. That is how we started but some of the times we realised that we did not remember all we took away.

There are concerns that new owners will soon take over these assets yet the federal government is still spending money for the maintenance of these assets. Don’t you think it is better for the repair and maintenance of these facilities to be left for the new owners?
Some people make arguments that appear very reasonable. They say that this plant is going to be sold. So, why do we still spend money on it? The point is that the process of privatisation started since 2005, that is eight years ago. If we had stopped repairing this plant since eight years because some people were coming to buy it, this plant would have been running only two units by now. But because we have been repairing this plant since eight years ago, we are currently running five units to generate 1,080megawatts instead of 440 megawatts from two units. That is why we are going ahead to repair unit 6. The money is already in place and we are thinking that Nigerians will be better for it if power supply improves by tomorrow. Nigerians will be better for it if the power becomes available tomorrow, instead of waiting for the new investors to come in and do the repairs.

Though privatisation and take-over of this plant may soon happen, we have a philosophy of continuation with all what we are supposed to be doing here until the day the new investors take over, otherwise this plant will be operating only two units and the country would be in deeper darkness. It is hoped that by the end of this year, power supply situation or available capacity in this country will generally improve, considering the completion of ST-06, which will make all the units in Egbin to operate and deliver the installed capacity of 1,320 megawatts.

This country has never privatised the power industry. So, we don’t know how it worked. If you read journals and internet, you will see some countries that tried privatisation but went back to where they were before because there were many challenges they never knew. In our own case, there are problems of bad infrastructure and political issues that are posing challenges to what the government has genuinely started. But we promise everybody that a day is coming in the future when there will be power all over the country.

– This Day

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