Failure in power sector almost made me cry – Nebo

…Says Buhari’ll be wrong to reverse power privatisation

Oscarline Onwumenyi 08 May 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo has advised the incoming administration of Gen. Muhammadu BUhari not to reverse the sector’s privatisation, warning that such an action will not be in the interest of the country as it will take the nation backwards.

Professor Chinedu Nebo, Nigeria's Minister of Power.

Professor Chinedu Nebo,  Minister of Power.

He also confessed that failures experienced in the sector, caused by the damages to gas pipelines which have made it difficult to get gas to the power plants have often brought him close to tears.

Nebo, who spoke with State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, said the privatisation exercise remains one of the legacies of the out-going administration.

Nebo said, “I think the incoming government will be ill-advised to reverse privatisation and liberalisation of power generation, transmission and distribution because any attempt to do that would be to set Nigeria back many, many decades.

“The gains of privatisation are very obvious. If we can solve the problem of gas like we are talking about energy mix, we are not just going by gas we are doing hydros. It was this same administration that flagged off Zungeru hydro power plants for 750 megawatts (Mw) and its a bid to flag off Mambilla 3,050 Mw, Shiroro has been improved, revamped, Kanji revamped and improved, the same as Jebba.

“So, there is a lot of work being done by the government. However, to turn back on privatisation would mean stopping all of these companies and then reversing the massive in-flow of investments coming into the power sector.

“Nigeria’s power consumption per capita is one of the lowest in the world and that is part of the efforts of government to reverse that. So, I don’t think it is in the best interest of the country.”

The minister debunked allegations that the power situation had grown worse since the privatization, explaining that he does not share the belief that there is frustration with post-privatisation power situation.

According to him, “Every month, the Nigerian Gas Company spends a minimum of N120 million to fix gas pipeline. Every two weeks, the western axis pipelines are vandalised and that is pure sabotage, the eastern axis pipelines are vandalised and that is oil theft. At the end of the day, the gas that is supposed to go to the turbines don’t get to the turbines to generate electricity.

“As I speak to you today, we have now installed capacity which is more, but available if you give us gas right now we will produce 5,500 megawatts.”

He added, “But when the pipelines are in the state of disarray as there are now, in fact the recent thing they are doing is testing the integrity of the entire system. And when you have broken something over and over again, you have to really look at the entire spectrum to make sure whether the rest of the pipeline has integrity to bear gas.

“The four major joints they are working on is going to cost them N1.5 billion. Is that the way to give light to the country? But again, that underpins the problem of planning and putting all our eggs in one basket which this administration has done everything to reverse.”

Nebo said he felt like crying sometimes because the damages to the pipelines keep coming as soon as repairs were carried out.

He said: “The past three weeks have been horrible because both the east and the west are affected and as a result, gas that is available is too small, many of the turbines are sitting there idle. Many of the power companies generating are 30 per cent capacity.

“It is not that this government has not done much, it has. Available capacity exceeds 5,500 Mw, willing capacity exceeds 5,000Mw but today we are down to 2000, 3000 because of these repairs which we were hoping by that by yesterday (Tuesday) we would have finished to shore up 4,000Mw. Again, more discoveries are being made.

According to him, the overall policy objective of the policy is to increase access using renewable energy mix, create new business opportunities and new jobs, support global efforts towards green economies and addressing climate change problems.

He said: “In addition, the policy will also promote and encourage efficient use of energy and energy conservation in Nigeria.”

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