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Nigeria, 50 years behind stable power supply

Nigeria, 50 years behind stable power supply

| On 06, Sep 2014

Unarguably, the provision of stable and uninterrupted power supply is key for accelerated economic and industrial development of any country.

Analysts are quick to point out that Nigeria’s quest to become one of the 20th economies in the world may as well be a mirage without stable electricity supply.

They say that stable electricity supply will reduce the cost of manufacturing and services; boost investment and employment, among others.

However, in spite of its importance, efforts to guarantee sustainable stability in the power supply chain have remained elusive despite huge investments in the sector by successive administrations since independence.

For instance, available records showed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government spent over $3 billion on its National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) as at 2007.

This, according to Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, the Chairman, Joint Transaction Technical Committee, is out of the over $10 billion earmarked for the NIPP.

He said that the amount was also inclusive of the $2 billion Federal Government’s counterpart funding for Mambilla Hydro Power project and the $1.4 billion set aside for additional nine turbines plants.

At the moment, four of the projects which on completion would generate 4,774 megawahts, had been completed, while six others are at 80 to 90 per cent completion.

To further boost the initiative, the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has strengthened the power sector reform by privatising the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The exercise eventually resulted in the unbundling of the PHCN and the establishment of power distributing companies (DISCOs) across the country.

Although the reform is yet to significantly improve power stability nationwide, the World Bank, however, applauded the government for the initiative, with a call on other African countries to emulate the policy.

Mr Mukhtar Diop, the bank’s Vice President, Africa, made the commendation while listing some infrastructural achievements in Africa, during the recent African Union Summit on Financing Infrastructure Development, in Dakar, Senegal.

According to him, the power reform is one of the ways of solving Africa’s problems by Africans.

“We must commend the leadership in Nigeria for the successful completion of the privatisation of the country’s power sector.

“The electric reform in that country is one of the ways of solving Africa’s problems by Africans. We commend the country for that,” he said.

It is, perhaps, against this backdrop that President Goodluck Jonathan promised to restore uninterrupted power supply to Nigerians by the end of 2014.

Jonathan gave the assurance while commissioning the NIPP 500MW Omotosho II Power Station at Omotosho in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State.

He said that his optimism was based on the progress in the completion of the ongoing 10 independent power projects spread across the country.

“My administration is committed to boost electricity supply in the country. Today, we are in Ondo State to commission Omotosho Power Plant that will also serve the people of these areas and improve electricity supply in the country,” he said.

But in spite of the government’s assurances, pundits doubt that uninterrupted and stable power supply to Nigerians would be achieved by the end of 2014.

Mr David Ladipo, whose company, Azura, is spending $700 million to build a 450 megawatt plant in South Africa,  insists that with situation on ground, it will still take Nigeria 50 years from now to enjoy stable power supply.

Ladipo told Reuters that Nigeria would need about 140,000MW to guarantee stable power supply.

“Nigeria is still scores of years away at this threshold. At present, it generates a meagre 4,000 MW for a population estimated at 170 million.

“South Africa, with a population of about 50 million people, produces about 40,000 MW  of electricity and has been trying in recent years to increase output.

“It will probably take Nigeria another 50 years before it attains the same level of electricity consumption per capita as South Africa currently enjoys today,” Ladipo said.

However, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State believes that with patience and commitment, Nigerians will soon enjoy the dividends of the ongoing power sector reforms.

Fashola expressed the optimism in Lagos at the closing ceremony of the 7th Lagos Economic Summit, tagged: Ehingbeti.

According to him, the privatisation of the power sector will not be successful without the cooperation of investors and consumers.

He urged the public to develop energy conservation culture and manage existing power infrastructure adequately.

“We should desist from illegal connections of electricity and ensure that our bills are paid appropriately.

“Electricity poles should not be used as speed breakers by reckless drivers; we should all protect the infrastructure from being damaged,’’ the governor said.

Professor Chinedo Nebo, the Minister of Power, shares similar sentiments, noting that the Federal Government had concluded plans to explore ways of implementing the Indian power sector model in order to further boost the nation’s capacity to generate more power.

Nebo stated this recently in Abuja when he received a delegation on power from India.

The minister said that the Nigerian power sector which was still in a transitional stage after the privatisation still had a lot to learn  from the Indian experience.

According to him, this is because of the peculiarity between both nations’ power sector.

He said the ministry would soon summon a stakeholders’ forum of all Generating Companies (GENCOs), Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and the regulatory bodies to take a closer look on how India transformed its power sector.

Nebo also invited the Indian delegation to the first National Council on Power conference slated for August 2014 in order to have a robust discussion.

The minister assured the delegation that the Federal Government was committed to achieving 10,000 MW by the end of the year despite the challenges.

Speaking on behalf of the DISCO, the Chief Executive Officer of Eko Disco, Mr Oladele Amoda, said the company had already had a technical arrangement with Tata of India.

He urged the India delegation to take seriously the issue of transfer of technology so as to fast-track the development of the sector.

The Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Ajjampur Ghenashyam, who also spoke,  advised Nigeria, as the hub of economic activities in the West African sub-region, to take the lead in the development of regional power market.

He said that India had achieved over 400 per cent leap in generation capacity in the last 10 years due to the competitiveness of the market.

Ghenashyam said countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan had already been enjoying from seamless cross-border market and this had further boosted confidence for investment flow into the sector.

The envoy said that India was ready to partner with Nigeria in the development of the nation’s power sector.

Nonetheless, analysts have advised the government to also invest in the development of alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar, in order to boost the capacity of the country to meet its energy requirement.

They also advise the government to fast-track the completion of the NIPP projects in order to realise the objective of providing uninterrupted power supply to Nigerians by the end of 2014.

Sani Adamu Writes

Originally published in Tribune