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At last, turbines move to site

At last, the chaos that followed in the wake of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) set up by the federal government under the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime is set to come to an end as the turbines for the generation of electric power, have started being evacuated to sites.

According to media reports, the turbines which have been languishing at the Calabar ports for about three years, are now being moved to Odukpani in Cross River State, where a power station, on completion, will inject no less than 561 megawatts into the national power grid. It is likely that the same is happening to the ones dumped at Onne and Port Harcourt ports.

The main reason the turbines have suffered undue delays in moving them to the construction sites was that some of the bridges linking the ports to the NIPP sites were too weak to carry the weights of these giant, heavy machines. As a result, the Federal Ministry of Transport had to move to construct bypass structures to enable these mammoths be moved to where they will soon start producing electric power.

The stalling of the movement of the turbines to site has caused this nation a lot of pain. The nation was thrown into confusion when figures started flying in all directions as soon as the Obasanjo regime ended in a hand over to newly elected President Umar Musa Yar’ Adua.

The nation expected that since the incoming government was an offshoot of the outgoing one as they were produced by the same ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the NIPP venture aimed at restoring the nation’s power infrastructure would proceed full steam ahead.

However, very soon, the Federal Government decided to halt the programme, alleging that it had to study why after over ten billion US Dollars had been sunk into the power rebuilding effort, little was on ground to justify the huge expenditure.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Dimeji Bankole, also gave his own figure of over 16 billion USD as the amount the Obasanjo regime poured into the NIPP. The House of Reps subsequently set up the Hon Ndudi Elumelu probe panel, which, after going round the various NIPP sites, came back to deliver a verdict that the programme actually “did not exist”.

Former President Obasanjo, whose defenders said not more than six billion dollars was spent on the programme, was invited by Reps to give evidence before the Elumelu Panel. The issue quickly became politicised and Obasanjo was allowed to forward a letter to the lower House. Shortly after, Hon Elumelu was arrested by the law enforcement agents over alleged graft.

This confusion, as well as the crisis in the Niger Delta went a long way in slowing down efforts to rescue the terrible power situation. The Yar’ Adua regime had set December 2009 as the date by which it would raise the total power generation output to 6,000 megawatts in its renewed efforts to push the programme forward, but it admitted defeat before the date was up.

It is still baffling that a big engineering project such as the NIPP could be conceived, budgeted for and implementation commenced without also taking into account the logistical costs such as movement of equipment to site before contracts were awarded and these turbines supplied only to be dumped at the ports.

Nigerian leaders and their supporting staff in the public services should be a little more serious and sensible than this. When the root cause of this avoidable chaos is identified, it might not be unconnected with good old corruption and clash of political interests.


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