Labour leaders and electricity consumers in the country have called for the resignation of the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, if his claim that power generation will hit 10,000 megawatts by December this year is not realised.
The minister had told a delegation from India on Monday that the Federal Government would next month summon a forum of all electricity distribution and generation companies, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Electricity Management Liability Company and Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company to fashion out how to achieve the target of 10,000MW.
Nebo, according to a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press, Federal Ministry of Power, Mr. Timothy Oyedeji, also said the government would hold the National Council on Power in August in order to look at measures to further boost electricity supply to Nigerians.
The labour leaders, who spoke to our correspondent in separate interviews, described the statement by the minister that the nation would achieve 10,000MW by December as unrealistic.
Power supply in the country has been on the decline for months now despite the privatisation of the sector due to gas shortage for the thermal plants and low water levels for the hydro stations, as well as serious hitches in the transmission system.
Last Saturday, the Transmission Company Nigeria announced the shutdown of the 415MW Afam Power Plant and said this would lead to a nationwide drop in power supply for 10 days.
It said in a statement, “The TCN wishes to inform the general public that due to unavoidable drop in the quantity of power available for the TCN to transmit to the distribution companies, there will be nationwide load shedding for 10 days from 6am, Sunday, July 20 to Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
“The expected reduction in power generation will result from the shutdown of the 415MW Afam Power Plant, following routine maintenance work at the Okoloma gas plant, which supplies gas to Afam. It is, however, expected that the power plant will commence generation on Thursday, July, 31, 2014, when gas supply from the Okoloma gas plant would have resumed.”
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on Sunday that over 1,852MW of electricity was off the national grid as a result of gas supply shortage and other constraints.
Reacting to the minister’s statement, the Secretary-General, Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said Nebo should be ready to step aside if the government failed to achieve the feat.
He said, “I have stopped reacting to such comments, but I expect the minister to tell Nigerians that he will resign if 10,000MW is not achieved. This is because we now have a minister who operate son the pages on newspapers and not really in the power plants and the transmission lines to make sure that Nigerians have stable power supply.
“So, I will comment if he should say that he is going to resign by December if power fails to hit 10,000MW. I challenge him to come out with that statement because those are political statements, especially as we countdown to the elections.
“Some of us are not carried away by such statements. Is it based on the availability of gas? Is it based on the enhanced transmission network? Is it based on the refurbished distribution network? Where is he basing his analysis of giving Nigerians 10,000MW on? Is he talking of sustainable 10,000MW? The government has not done enough work; if it has done enough to get us 20,000MW, then we can talk of 10,000MW in December.”
The President, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, Mr. Bede Opara, told our correspondent that the 10,000MW target was difficult to achieve.
He said, “What is giving him (minister) that confidence? Unless he is talking about the new power stations that are going to be inaugurated; but for the old ones taken over by the investors, I am yet to know of any that has been rehabilitated to produce that kind of power.
“If it is about the new projects that are on ground and whether they are going to be inaugurated before then; well, we will cross our fingers and watch.”
The chief executive of a power distribution firm told our correspondent that it would be difficult to generate 10,000MW of electricity by December.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “It is not impossible but difficult. I say this considering the fact that the problem of gas supply to the generation companies has not been addressed.
“The minister may be optimistic in his statement, but the reality on ground presently shows that it will be difficult to get that amount of power by December.”
Nebo had told the Indian delegation that the Federal Government was considering a permanent nature for the NBET and noted that the bulk trader was conceived as a stop-gap agency for the transitional stage of the power sector.
“We may need to consider NBET a body that will outlast the current proposition. With the new thinking, the NBET can be structured on a Public-Private Partnership model that is permanent in nature, as electricity is always an ongoing concern,” he said.