BY UCHE ANEKE
The Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo has applauded the successes already recorded in the power sector transformation agenda. Professor Nebo who spoke with a cross section of the Nigerian media recently in Abuja said that slow and steady progress has been recorded especially in government’s efforts to boost power supply in some parts of the country.
In a definitive tone of assurance, the Minister stated that “we are determined to give light to Nigerians and we will surely do that”. Indeed, government’s interventions in critical projects in the generation, distribution and transmission companies have led to obvious improvement in power supply in some parts of the country as evidenced by a litany of testimonies across the country.
Recently jubilation broke out in parts of Anambra State South East Nigeria, in appreciation of significant improvement in electricity. Also two weeks ago, Mr. Frank Ilogu, Manager of the White View Hotels in Akwa acknowledged the 24/7 power supply in that city. Mr. Ilogu said that his public acknowledgement was to give kudos to the federal government and to certify that the impact has brought a lot of positive changes in the hospitality industry as funds which hitherto were used for diesel purchase to power generator sets are now being used to address other needs of the sector.
In another testimony, the Minister of Power revealed that a friend of his in Akwa called to inform him that generator sellers in that area are complaining that it has been bad business since the city recently began to receive 24/7 power supply. Prominent people in Kaduna state have also been writing to thank the federal government through the Power Minister for improved power supply in that State.
Statistics recently compiled by a power sector observer groups indicate that on the average, daily power supply in Akwa stands at 24 hours, Kaduna 22 hours; Enugu 20 hours, Lagos 18 to 20 hours while Abuja, Kano and other parts of the Federal Capital Territory gets 18 to 22 hours. On the whole, NOI Polls’ international indicate a 38% general improvement across the country.
Speaking on this development, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali described the improvement as the tip of the iceberg, assuring Nigerians that service delivery in the power sector could only improve given the attention and the energy being directed into the sector. According to him, when the ongoing critical emergency maintenance on some plants is completed, power supply will be boosted across the entire country and areas which have not started to experience long hours of power supply will begin to do so.
He applauded the efforts and the political will of President Goodluck Jonathan whom he said has since given approval for the emergency funding intervention required for the critical projects. The implication of this is obvious as dark days which characterized the sector for years will soon disappear. Small and medium scale businesses are expected to peak while economic and social activities will surely thrive on the much needed and indispensable power.
But those who may not be excited by the improved service delivery are those who are in the business of selling generator sets. Improved electricity supply in the country potentially puts this class of the country’s population out of business. When asked about the fate of the generator sellers in the country, Professor Nebo advised them to start winding up as their services may not be required in the not too distant future.
He disclosed that he stopped using a generator in his house as soon as he was appointed Minister. This he said is to enable him share the same experience with those Nigerians who experience epileptic power supply.
However he was quick to say that by the grace of God and going by the efforts of the government, many Nigerians would soon join him in jettisoning their generator sets. To arrive at the present state has not been an easy journey. This is because the Minister of Power was confronted with some critical problems on assumption of office which include, but are not limited to, inadequate funding for critical elements of the sector and zero funding of generating and distribution companies in the 2013 budget.
The zero funding was based on the assumption that the companies would be taken over by the new owners by December 2012 but this was not the case. Using his depth of knowledge and administrative competence, Prof. Nebo quickly sought the urgent and decisive intervention of Mr. President and this has resulted in the noticeable improvement in power supply in some parts of the country. The Minister has continued to focus on improving service delivery through the implementation of the transmission emergency programme as well as the timely conclusion of the privatization process, now at its climax
Today, the labour issues in the sector are being concluded with the payment of the severance package for PHCN workers. 10 DisCos and 5 GenCos have been privatized and new owners have already paid 25% of their financial commitments to government. Official records indicate that many of the new owners paid 75% balance early this week. Full takeover of the companies is therefore imminent, ushering in the much expected transitional electricity market.
Just recently, the power reform train moved on faster, as successful bidders were announced for Afam GenCo and Kaduna DisCo. Similarly, the National Council on Privatisation, a couple of days ago, prequalified 82 consortia for the sale of 10 National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) plants across the country under the federal government privatization policy for the power sector.
There is also a sustained effort to diversify the energy mix in the country through international partnership. For instance, Nigeria and China recently entered into a bilateral agreement with regard to power development. Power China Corporation is to establish gas–fired plants to generate 20,000MW and help raise resources to build 10,000km of super grid. A Chinese firm is to build a 1,200MW coal plant and also contribute 20-25% equity for transmission lines.
A Korean company is to provide 1,000MW of solar energy every year for the next 10 years. It is also on record that the 700MW Zungeru power plant project was recently flagged off by President Jonathan while the 3,050MW Mambilla project will soon be underway in line with the dogged determination exhibited by power sector Managers of recent, in reforming the industry. From the foregoing, it is clear that Nigerians are in for brighter days. What is required is a more dogged push as well as the support and goodwill of Nigerians for result-oriented efforts for the government to actualize its ambitious goal of providing stable electricity to all Nigerians.