By Suberu Tosin Francis & Stanley Anounye
BARELY four months to    the end of the year, Nigeria which has witnessed highly epileptic power supply for more than four decades, is gradually catching up with her target of generating 6000 Megawatts of electricity by December 2009. Owing to the importance of electricity to socio-economic development of the people, successive administrations in the country have focused on improving the country’s power situation by putting epileptic power supply to a permanent halt.

Hard as those administrations try, the power situation seems to defy all applicable strategies such that many pessimists – home and abroad see uninterrupted power supply in Nigeria as jinxed and doomed. Their fare is due largely to what we have experienced in the past as a nation considering the fact that one administration over another struggle to fix the hailing power sector without success after spending colossal amount of money. A case in hand was the immediate past Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

As part of Obasanjo’s efforts at repositioning the old National Electric Power Authority NEPA-as it was called then, he spent N16 billion to improve power generation, power transmission, and power distribution after which NEPA was renamed Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). The change of name however did not immediately lead to change of attitude based on lack of political will to effect some fundamental changes within the stratum of the sector. Obasanjo afterwards set a target of 10000MW by the end of 2007 which he was unable to achieve before handing power over to President Yar’Adua – the failure which he (Obasanjo) had admitted on several occasions.

Be that as it may, with coming on board of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who initially promised to declare a state of emergency on the power sector, but later decided to be more strategic in his approach. Yar’Adua’s administration has since remained focused and poised to ushering in positive change into the sector. The ministry of power under the leadership of Babalola Lanre has been building new power stations and connecting them to gas plants which will power them.

Since attaining 6000MW by December 2009 and 10000MW by 2011 is one of the president’s seven point agenda couple with the strategic importance of regular power supply to achieving the remaining six goals in the seven point agenda; Yar’Adua’s administration gives priority to power sector as shown in his administrations budgetary allocation since 2007. In 2008 budget, the sum of N139.78 billion was provided for the development of infrastructure in the power sector making it 15.6 percent higher than the 2007 allocation to energy sector. Part of the allocation was used to funding of the on-going Power Transmission Projects and the rehabilitation of key power stations in the country.

To ensure that the current pace of development in the sector continues and to ensure efficiency, Yar’Adua brought on board a down-to-earth visionary leader in the person of Dr. Lanre Babalola as the Minister of Power to drive home his ideals and bring about the needed rapid and positive change in the sector. The efforts made so far by the federal ministry of power in tandem with the federal government’s 6000MW targets by December 2009 is however being frustrated by the activities of saboteurs operating in the name of militants in Niger Delta region of the country. The restive militants seem to take special delight in destroying power plants and gas pipelines in the region and this is seriously slowing down the country’s progress in the sector.

However, in an attempt to find a lasting solution to the crisis in the region and disarm the militants, Yar Adua recently granted amnesty to the repentant militants. Now that more militants are embracing amnesty by the day, peace is gradually returning to the troubled region and enabling environment is being created for gas companies to thrive and supply gas to the rehabilitated power stations.

Available statistics from Amnesty and Disarmament Committee shows that a total of 78 assorted arms, 1482 ammunition and 105 magazines have been submitted so far. As said by Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, a member of the Federal Government Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament; it is time for those who have carried arms for whatever reason to drop them and embrace peace, so that real peace and development can come to the region. We have had enough of violence.

This is the time for peace. Since it is obvious that the There is no gainsaying that the activities of the militants in the Niger Delta region have adversely affected the power sector and socio-economic development of the country since the restive youths took to arms. To start with, Nigeria relies on crude oil exploration for up to 80% of its total revenue from the troubled region. Thus, crude oil which comes predominantly from the region is absolutely pertinent to the sustenance of the Nigerian state itself. More importantly, the activities of the militants is said to have caused about 20% fall in the nation’s total oil and gas output.

Already, Steady progress is now being recorded by the government on its efforts at meeting the set target. Nigerians should not lose sight of this as the Federal Ministry of Power is doing very well in its bid to improving the power situation in the country. Development is currently going on in seven coal fields for power generation, major repairs are on at Egbin power station, and its power generation output has hit 500MW due to the recently restored gas supply. The National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) is 75% near completion across the nation. Also the federal government recently released N67.48billion for the various power projects in the country. On welfare package, PHCN staff just received 13% salary increase so as to motivate them to discharge their duties efficiently.

New transformers have been imported to boost transmission capacity nationwide. Places like Alimosho in Lagos state, Owerri in Imo State, Mando in Kaduna, Ughelli in Delta, Combe in Gombe State and Apo in Abuja are to be installed with new 60MVA and 132/33 KV power transformers. Power generation in the country has now hit 4.500MW as Shell Petroleum Development of Nigeria restarted the Utorogu plant to supply gas.

To ensure accountability and speedy completion of all the ongoing power projects in the country, the federal government has set up an Inter-ministerial Budget Monitoring Committee, chaired by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Muhtar to monitor the capital projects provided for in the 2009 budget, especially those relating to power generation, transmission and distribution.

Nigeria should appreciate the fact that despite various attempts by saboteurs to derail the federal government from achieving its set target, the present administration has remained focused and committed to ensuring that it delivers on its promises to the people. We all on our part should contribute our quotas to the positive trend going on in the power sector by shunning all acts of violence and vandalism of power installations. Nigerians must begin to see generation of 6000MW and 11000MW as a realistic promise.

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