23 April 2016, Lagos — The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has in recent times faced criticisms by some Nigerians who engage in a debate on seemingly low pace in meeting the expectations of the people in terms of providing their electricity needs. While some people believe that it will take quite some time before a steady power supply could be achieved due to the dilapidation and vandalism of the Sector’s infrastructure over years, others argue that the PMB administration is doing little to improve on the successes achieved earlier in the power sector.
No matter the divide of the argument one finds himself, it may not be out of place to say that it is too early to assess the scorecard of President Buhari’s government in terms of providing the electricity need of Nigerians. Although many people will not readily appreciate the efforts of the government in addressing the country’s power needs, a cursory look at the trends of development in the power sector is certainly assuring. There is a clear sign of backstage activities aimed at boosting power supply in the country.
One of these clear signs is the expected dividends from Mr. President’s foreign trips, which has stimulated investors’ confidence and drive in Nigeria’s power sector. The Minister of Power Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN, in his recent, write up as a Guest Columnist in one of the national newspapers, revealed that Nigeria is engaging with countries like United Arab Emirate and China to bring significant investment into various areas in the electricity sector. He noted that Nigeria would engage with UAE to bring solar power to the country at an attractive price while China has signed a collaboration agreement with Nigeria in the area of power infrastructure development.
As part of the efforts to increase power generation, the Minister recently met the Head of the International Nuclear Agency in Abuja who visited to assess the progress of Nigeria’s nuclear power development. The plan ultimately is to start to produce nuclear energy- 1,200mw at start expanding up to 4,800mw. The Minister is also developing an energy mix that will harness the various potentials of renewable energy sources in the country. In doing this, consideration is given to the issue of the location of the power production facility in relation to the source of power.
For instance, the government will be developing solar projects in the Northern States like Jigawa and Kano which have been identified as the most prolific solar area in the North. In the North- Central Zone, the energy mix in that area will be a combination of solar, hydro and coal. In South-South and South West, it will largely be gas. In part of South East, it will be a combination of gas and coal. The Minister has through his negotiating skills been able to resolve critical issues of unresolved court cases, relocation of facilities and gas supply constraints which had hindered electricity supply. The most recent are the brokering of a truce in a three-year-old dispute between Geometric Power and Enugu Distribution Company that had stalled the completion of a 141mw power project for the people of Aba in Abia State. The resolution of this feud will certainly boost power supply to the people of Aba and to the traders in Ariaria. According to the Minister, “the development would be a major boost for made- in -Nigeria goods for which the markets in the area have been famous”. Speaking on the significance of the truce, Professor Barth Nnaji former Minister of power stated “Today to us is a historic day and it is historic because a sector that is largely driven by the private sector has its first major crisis resolved and I think it is wonderful that this has been done by the efforts of the Minister of Power and this administration”.
The Minister was also able to broker a truce between two groups over sharing of scarce gas that had impeded the powering of over 200mw of idle power from Egbin Power Plant, owned by AES. Similarly, in Alaoji, the Minister resolved a problem where the transmission network cannot be energized to evacuate 450mw because of telecoms mast located very close to it. He was able to convince the Globacom Telecoms Company Chief Executive, Mike Adenuga to patriotically and in the national interest remove the transmission mast.
The Minister has also been negotiating an out- of- court settlement of a 13 years long dispute between the Federal Government and a private company over a 2003 meter supply contract. Hopefully, the government will soon take delivery of over 300,000 meters that have been locked up in a warehouse; these will help to close up the metering gap in the country that stands at about three million.
As a way of addressing transmission issues in the country, a lot of planning has gone into strengthening and expansion of transmission infrastructure. 24 transmission projects have been earmarked for focus in 2016 budget. The same number will be undertaken in 2017 and expand from there in 2018. Obviously, this trend will aid incremental power to the grid and to consumers.
There are other initiatives introduced by the Minister to boost power supply and add integrity to the electricity value chain.
One of such initiatives is the introduction of monthly meetings that have enabled sectoral interface and team building in the sector. It is on record that through those monthly meetings, issues of gas supply and the inability of distribution companies to take on their responsibilities were resolved. As at today, the general public now knows which of the DiSCo CEOs to call when there is a problem in a particular area as all their contact details have all been published in the newspapers.
Prior to now, incidences of electrical accidents and electrocution without sanctions to the defaulting DisCOs had been a regular occurrence. This has since been checked by the Minister. The unfortunate incident of the 300 level student, Miss. Justina Oluchi Anakwe, who was electrocuted in the University of Lagos is a case in point. Through the intervention of the Minister, the defaulting DISCO has since compensated the family of the deceased girl.
Armchair critics will easily argue that these initiatives have not translated into the much desired physical power supply. Nonetheless, with this government’s sustained vigor and political will to move the power sector forward, obstacles on the way of achieving reliable electricity supply will surely be dismantled; thereby boosting power supply in the country.
*Uche Aneke, General Manager Public Affairs Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency