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Nigerian power improvement program: Strategy for success

By Okechukwu Onwuka
Almost everybody is in agreement that the power problem in Nigeria is long overdue for resolution. A number of national leaders and ministers had made bold promises that never materialized. The power situation has been blamed for the continuing business failures in the country, particularly the manufacturing sector.

Although the Federal Government has the primary responsibility to provide necessary infrastructure for national development and growth, it remains our collective responsibility to help get us out of the doldrums.

Some technocrats have made cases for the use of qualified technical professionals in Engineering, Power, Distribution, Energy, Construction, operations or other fields that have one impact or another on Power Generation and distribution. But having taken a deep review of the situation, I think the greatest bottleneck to the power situation is in Stakeholder Management.

Stakeholders- According to the Project Management Institute, Project Stakeholders are persons or organizations who are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project.  Whichever way you look at it, Stakeholders exert in ?uence over the project, its deliverables, and possibly the composition of the project team members.

It becomes very important for project management teams to identify both internal and external stakeholders on any given project. Such a step will assist in determining the project requirements together with the expectations of all parties involved.  The Power Improvement effort is not a project but actually a Program or Portfolio of Projects. The program objective will be to design and implement a number of projects under the POWER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM to achieve stable and reliable power supply in Nigeria as a whole.

The projects will include Power Generation Plants (Thermal, Coal, Natural Gas, Hydro, Solar, Wind), Power Plant Fuel Generation (Gas Gathering and Compression Facilities, Coal mining, Dam Construction, Solar/Wind Energy traps), Fuel Distribution to Power Plants (Pipelines, booster stations, rail networks), Power Distribution (Transmission grids, Transformers, etc), Power Consumption Metering (Domestic and industrial  consumption metering systems), Maintainability and Reliability (To ensure projects perform as installed), Consumption Data Management (For use in future capacity upgrades). There are quite a number of sub-projects that will make up the suite of projects and activities under the Power Program.

On the surface, it will appear as if the most daunting challenge is technical capability or expertise. On the contrary, as I stated at the beginning, the major challenge is stakeholder management. Although we shall all benefit from the successful completion of such a power program, there are many people, groups and organizations that are threatened by the same success.  Who are these people?

The answer is quite obvious. They include the following *Companies whose primary business is in importing and selling Diesel  *Generator Manufacturers, Importers, Distributors and spare parts dealers.
*Generator Maintenance companies *Banks whose biggest customers are Diesel merchants
*Operators of Diesel Tank Farms

*Tanker fleet Operators
*People in sensitive positions who approve purchase of diesel and generators
*Corrupt leaders in National or Private Power companies who derive significant revenue from illegal maintenance programs
*The International financial institutions that finance many power projects although they have no measurable evidence of honest, professional or reliable use of previous credit facilities.
*Overseas refineries whose major market is Nigeria
*Overseas product manufacturers (US, Europe, Asia, South Africa) who benefit from the poor local infrastructure and power system by introducing cheaper goods of all classes.

*Politicians who see the Power program as great money spinning vehicle to finance future election campaigns
A review of the above stakeholder listing will reveal that such stakeholders cannot be taken lightly. These are people whose immediate revenues are threatened by the likelihood of an improved power infrastructure.

They can be safely categorized as Negative stakeholders in this project case. Managing them successfully requires more than national rhetoric. Emphasizing the importance of the power project succeeding will not work either. We all know that individuals and people all over the world will feel threatened when confronted with anything that aims to cut-off their primary means of livelihood. Without developing a strategy to identify and manage these stakeholders, Nigeria’s power improvement projects stand no chance of success.

Strategy: My advised strategy is this
*Identify a proven Program/Project Manager/Executive to lead the effort. This individual must have a history for managing or leading complex projects to success. They also have to be politicians or have significant political and networking experience.

Potential candidates to include Donald Duke, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola(SAN), Gov. Rotimi Amaechi, etc. Interpersonal skills, ability to retain focus to complete huge and long projects and not necessarily 100% honesty is a key requirement, given that honesty does not translate to competence. With the scarcity of honest people in the land, we have to select from available resources to drive us forward.

*Give the overall program manager the Authority to recruit his executives, project managers and leaders.
*Develop and implement a robust plan for Stakeholder workshops. Also conduct informal meetings with various stakeholders. The workshop and meeting purpose will be to arrive at practical strategies that does not destroy the stakeholder business overnight or where it does, meaningful alternatives may be arrived at.

*Develop a formidable alliance of powerful stakeholders whose interests will be enhanced by the program success.
Spread the campaign maximizing the influence of new alliances of powerful groups to gather further support. Strive for win-win scenarios.

*Develop a tentative timeline for implementation. Resist the temptation to announce ambitious completion dates. At least until you get major stakeholder buy-in.

*Recruit resources for Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and controlling the various projects to success. Plan, Execute, Check, Continue and Complete – Of course the strategy is subject to revision as progress is made but I’m convinced that if the Initiation process and strategy is wrong, there will be no foundation for success.


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