By Yemie Adeoye & Oscarline Onwuemenyi
LAGOS â€” THE Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has thrown Lagos State and its environs into darkness, with power supply dropping from an average 800 Megawatts (Mw) to 300 Mw daily.
Although when contacted, officials at the corporate headquarters of the public utility claimed total power generation nationwide averages 2,200Mw daily, no explanation was given for the drop in supply to Lagos.
Meanwhile, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has said it is willing to invest billions of dollars in the generation and distribution of power, especially through coal, in the country.
Investigations at the two distribution companies in Lagos â€” Eko and Ikeja confirmed that only an average 300Mw of electricity is supplied daily, even as total suppressed demand for the state is put at an average 1,600Mw.
Both commercial and residential areas in the state have continued to experience total blackout as some communities have not received power supply for over three weeks.
The Eko Distribution company which supplies most commercial areas in the state is currently receiving less than 200Mw of electricity supply while its counterpart, the Ikeja Distribution company is also experiencing the same fate as it also receives far less than 200Mw of supply from the grid, in spite of an installed capacity of about 800Mw.
It is of note however that the two distribution companies in Lagos require well above 1600Mw to function effectively and distribute adequately.
A recent visit to the Egbin thermal station, which is the largest thermal power plant in the country revealed that the plant is generating only about 400Mw, much below its installed capacity of 1,320Mw of power.
Commenting on the development, the spokesperson for the PHCN, Mrs Efuru Igbo told Vanguard that the situation has earlier been addressed by the Minister in a recent interview where he identified gas as the main problem bedeviling the sector.
Little power generated shared nationwide
She stated further that while the situation remains lamentable, the Federal Government has not relented in its efforts to ensure the availability of gas for power generation purposes.
Mrs Igbo who placed the current power capacity at 2,200Mw, stated that the reason it may not be felt in major cities, especially Lagos is because of the sharing system which ensures that the little power being generated is circulated nationwide.
It was however discovered that the crises in the Niger Delta could also be responsible for the current low generation as the major pipelines suppling gas to several parts of the country have been repeatedly sabotaged.
Mrs Igbo also corroborated this, noting that the minister of power also alluded to this when he said the situation has been further fueled by the crises in the Niger-Delta region which has frustrated the availability of gas for power generation.
Chinese bank seeks to invest in power
Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Mr. Jiang Jianqing, who made the bankâ€™s plan on power generation known yesterday during a visit to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, in Abuja, said the abundance of coal deposits in the country made it a viable destination for investment in power generation.
Jianqing, who was accompanied by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Xu Jianguo, and the Chief Executive of StanbicIBTC Bank, Mr. Chris Newson, said he was in the country as part of a four-nation investment tour of African countries including Uganda, South Africa, Botswana and Nigeria.
â€œOur reason for choosing to visit Nigeria last was because of the importance we attach to the country in the light of its immense mineral resources and the development strides the country has taken in the past few years,â€ he explained.
Jianqing explained that his bank had recently signed a $1.4 billion agreement with the government of Botswana to construct four coal-fired power plants, and was willing to replicate same with Nigeria.
He added that across the world, Nigeria was noted for its huge oil and gas deposits, and little is known about the abundance of other mineral resources such as coal, gold, iron-ore, bitumen, uranium, among others.
According to him, â€œThroughout our interactions with government officials and other business people, we have found out that among all the issues they consider as challenges to the growth and development of the nation, power topped the agenda.
â€œShortage of electricity is a symbol of underdevelopment, and a nation such as Nigeria with so much resources must do everything necessary to correct the imbalance and redirect its economy.â€
Jianqing further explained that ICBC was the largest bank in China, and with over $240 billion in total assets, the bank remained the most profitable bank in the world when it turned in over $16.4 billion as profit last year, in spite of the global economic meltdown.
He said, â€œWith 16,000 branches in China alone, and 400 million individual customers and 4 million corporate customers, and with huge investments in infrastructure across the globe, we believe we are in a solid position to partner with the Nigerian government in developing key sectors of its economy, especially power.â€
In her remarks, the Minister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke said the country was â€œin dire need of extra power in the national gridâ€ to boost available supply, even as she noted that the coal-to-power project initiated by the administration would eventually lead the nation out its present energy woes.