*Nebo, others call for stiffer penalties
Before the November 2013 handover of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN to 10 successor companies, who emerged after a bidding process, the issue of vandals had been a threat to the quest for steady power supply. But the situation seems to have assumed an alarming dimension resulting in the current drop in power supply nationwide.
This development has has undoubtedly affected all the short, medium and long term plans to address the acute power shortage in the country.
Alhough the gains of the recent privatisation are not expected within a short term, given the enormity of the rot inherited by the new owners, investigations by Vanguard Features, VF shows that neither the Federal Government, the new owners nor the consumers is comfortable with the recent drop in supply being experienced across the country.
Grieving over this development, the Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nnebo alleged that about 22 per cent of power outages experienced recently was as a result of vandalism of the pipelines supplying gas to the power plants.
The minister who noted that the trend is frustrating the gains of privatisation said, ‘’The act of sabotage of our gas pipeline which is sometimes done by unscrupulous persons using dynamites on the lines, for instance, the western trunk from Warri through Escravos was found to have been damaged at many points for more that it was initially imagined.”
‘’Another one at the Eastern axis at Boko Loma was punctured at many points and it would take the next one month to fix. These vandals have injured the nation’s economy and they should not be spared,” he further lamented.
The problem associated with vandalism, he said, necessitated the convocation of a stakeholders’ forum by the Office of the National Security Adviser. The forum brought together all security agencies to tackle the menace.
Against this backdrop, the Minister called on the National Assembly to pass the relevant laws needed to curb the menace. Nebo is not alone in this call. The Chairman of Power Logistics, an ingenious power company, Dr. Samuel Danhutu told VF that if urgent steps are not taken, the new investors in the sector would have a rough beginning.
Describing some of the challenges currently experienced as teething problems, he insisted that so long as the gas used to power the power stations is supplied through pipelines, the issue of vandalism would continue to be a recurring challenge. Danhutu did not dismiss the possibility of reducing the menace to the barest minimum through concerted efforts by concerned stakeholders.
’’The low power generation currently being experienced nationwide, is terrible. That this is coming at a time when much is expected from the sector is worrisome. But the Discos and Gencos should be spared the blame,’’ he said.
Who then is to take the blame? Responding to that poser, Danhutu said, ‘’Those economic saboteurs who bust the pipelines are to be held liable for the current situation. It is regrettable that these guys are trying to bring us back.’’
Explaining further, he said, ‘’Our power stations need gas to operate. Even if you generate so much, if you don’t have a reliable means of transmitting to power stations, it will appear as if you have done nothing. With this recurring disruption of gas supply through the lines, gas can not be supplied to power stations, resulting in the plummeting of electricity supply.’’
When asked what could be done to arrest the situation, he said,’’ the nation is not new to what is happening. The only thing is that the trend is escalating, particularly at a time when we are hoovering around 4200 megawatts of electricity. The solution is for proper policing of the pipelines by the security agencies saddled with that responsibility.
There is also an urgent need to make the illegal business less fashionable by ensuring that suspects are brought to book. But it is sad that we are in a country where oil thieves and cable thieves go unpunished or sometimes are are given soft penalties.’’
A retired Deputy Director with the defunct National Electric Power Authority, NEPA, Mr. Onyechere Uzoukwu, an engineer, charged the government to impose stiffer penalties on pipeline vandals. ’’Yes we know that pipeline vandalism and theft of power sector cables are not uncommon but what we are witnessing now, is on the increase.
That is why the government should wake up and ensure that the Civil Defence and other agencies, whose responsibility it is to guide the installations, are well empowered,’’ he posited Sounding passionate, he said, ‘’I want a situation where you journalists will be reporting about people jailed for vandalism and not harvest of arrests without prosecution. That will deter intending offenders, even if it involves capital punishment, I dont mind.’’
Alarm by TCN
Meanwhile, the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, one of the 18 companies that emerged from the unbundled PHCN has raised an alarm, alleging that the entire power delivery system is being threatened by acts of vandalism.
According to TCN, these vandals like canker worms attack and destroy its lines and towers carting away equipments worth billions of naira to satisfy the selfish greed of a few people.
Recently, the vandalism of two major gas pipelines which supply gas to eight power generation stations across the country drastically cut power supply by 1,598 megawatts (MW). The affected pipelines take gas from the Okoloma gas plant and Escravos and supply to Egbin/AES thermal stations, Olorunsogo, Omotoso, Geregu NIPP as well as Afam IV and VI thermal power stations and Independent power station in Rivers State.
Major vandalism of gas pipelineFollowing this major pipelines vandalism which threw almost the whole country into darkness for days, the Chairman, South West branch of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Mr. Olumide Ogunmade has called for a 34-hour security surveillance along pipeline routes in System B2 in the South West.
He said: “They have ruined our economy and our business. They are destroying the nation’s legacies. We want to say that enough is enough. We are now coming out forcefully on the vandals,”he said.