By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THE rumour mill in Delta State is abuzz with speculation, fuelled by the opposition group, that Gov Emmanuel Uduaghan awarded, June, last year, a phoney contract for an Independent Power Project (IPP) at Oghara, in Ethiope West LGA, which money running into billions of naira.
It says they money was shared by him, the contractor, a member of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Victor Ochei,Â and others.Â No doubt, a sizeable amount of money had been expended by the state government on the project, but there was nothing on ground in Oghara when Saturday Vanguard visited to point to the fact that a project of such nature was going on.
So, where is the money? We spoke with the Commissioner for Energy, Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay and Hon Ochei. Macaulay, a one-time chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was practically on the hot seat as he took questions on the allegations that he was awarding bogus contracts in his ministry to amass money for the governorâ€™s re-election campaign, while Ochei faced interrogation on the purported sharing of â€œbootyâ€ with the governor.
Why Oghara IPP project is delayed
What the state government has been doing so far through the Ministry of Energy is to build infrastructures to support the Federal Government and I can boast that no state in the country has done 25 per cent of what Delta state has done in terms of building power infrastructures across the state. We also have the Rural Electrification Agency, a extension of the Ministry, whose job is to build power infrastructure in the rural areas, while the ministry concentrates more on the urban centres.
We have done that very well, planting transformers, building transmission lines but we donâ€™t have power to generate the energy we put in these transmission lines and that is why it seems as if the stateâ€™s efforts are not yielding enough results.
The state government has also given a lot of support to the Federal Government in this sector. We built over 50 7.5MVAs. We are building a number of 2.5 MVAs and we are installing almost on a weekly basis,Â transformers across the communities in the state to the extent that it is only very few communities that are yet to have transmission lines and we are taking it up in the current budget.
We want to make sure that every local government and communities in the state have power infrastructures. This is because we know the usefulness of power, as a basis of development.
N15 billion paid for federal IPP project
When the issue of IPP came up, the state was one of the first to make a contribution of over N15 billion to the national coffers and, of course, the governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is a member of the national IPP, such that when the federal government is able to get it right, the state is already positioned to benefit reasonably.
Alongside with that is that the Uduaghan government has also taken up its own IPP project. But power is not road construction project, which if the bulldozers move to site, you would say the contractor has moved to site.
The minimum it will take to produce a turbine is 24 months, otherwise itâ€™s a 36 month- project, either in Europe or United Kingdom. So, even from if you paid for it, you need a minimum ofÂ two to three years for it to be produced. What people want to see is the site construction but that is the last aspect of the project. The engineering, design and procurement part is the major part of it.
That again is a matter that goes forward and backward, just before you came in to talk to me; I was holding a meeting with different engineering consultants on our IPP project to make sure we get it right.
Why thereâ€™s no structure in Oghara yet
It is not just a question of going to put a structure there. We can go there and build a structure, bring in turbine, install it and at the end of the day, it cannot evacuate the power. So, we need all the studies and expertise to get it right. So many states have done IPP and today they are useless for them.
I donâ€™t want to be part of the government that will get it wrong, so we are taking our time. We are spending sleepless nights; we are sending people to Europe virtually every quarter of the year, regarding this IPP to work with the manufacturing company. Recently, the governor was able to pay a substantial part of what was left in the cost of producing the first two turbines.
And so what we owe on the cost of producing today will be minimal, which is a critical advancement in the pursuit of power because without those payments, those turbines will not be produced. But even if you decide to mobilize somebody to go to the site because you want to play politics, when you finish constructing the site, what happens? Do you know you must have the engineering designs?
What design are you going to use? These designs are not done in one year because itâ€™s not like a building you can call one architect and he gives you a drawing and tomorrow, you start excavation. You need a lot of expertise because a lot of technicalities are involved. These people have been coming to Nigeria also and we look at what they are doing with our consultants to check every minute detail.
There is also the legal aspect of it, the legal framework so that at the end of the day, the federal government will not say you did not do this. We also have to do the EIA studies. You see, itâ€™s a whole package and if you listen to the President when he spoke on the power sector sometime ago, he said it that engineering is not like a road construction.
It doesnâ€™t come in piecemeal and for people to appreciate it, the holistic thing must have been put together and this does not come out physically for you to see in three years.
Turbine takes at least 24 months to manufacture
So for those who are thinking that some people have shared the money, they are ignorant of what it entails. If he wants to share the money, why announce it that he wants to do something. We have named the company that is manufacturing the turbines, the Rolls Royce of United Kingdom.
They can go there and find out whether it is being paid to them or not. And at the appropriate time, we will start the construction at the site and of course, very soon, we will take to the executive council the memorandum for the construction, because the road that we are even going to move the equipment is not the ordinary road that we have now.
It will not carry it and so, we have to construct a road to the site. It is only after that that we can move to the site. I can bet you that some people are just being mischievous because they are educated and should know that the process is cumbersome and if you donâ€™t follow it step by step, if you miss it, you either forfeit the whole investment or you return back to square one.
So, you donâ€™t miss any step and it is not a race which you say I must run and do it in the next one year, no. The time is already fixed, nobody can produce a turbine for you in 15 months or even in 23 months. And you cannot just go and buy a ready-made turbine because you ought to have a design for what you are making. If you go and buy a ready-made one and come and make noise by calling people, what happens if tomorrow you are not able to install it? You have wasted the resources of the people.
So the governor and the Ministry are taking our time to follow the procedure and that is why I consult every minute with the experts and get them to advise us on the best way to go about it.
Any other IPP outside the Oghara one?
No, for now, we are embarking on one. We are projecting 350 megawatts but what we are having now is 120 to deliver about 100.Is government partnering with a private sector?
The state is involved in the Oghara IPP but the state is ready to provide the atmosphere for any private sector that wants to come up with IPP in the state in terms of land, security and help them in legal issues. Before now, there were a lot of proposals in that regard, but due to the recession in the banking, some of them fizzled out.
What in concrete terms are there to show for the stateâ€™s massive investment in power. You have talked about an over N15 b paid to the federal government and other billions they donâ€™t know about.
What I am saying is that they just have to be patient because we want to get it right. Like now, building a power station is another thing, evacuation is another thing and in preparation for that, you can see that we are rushing our 132 KVA line to Ozoro in Isoko and virtually to end up in Ogwashi, and if you go to Ozoro, you will see that the sub-station is being built and the power will come straight from Power Four Station and without that, you cannot evacuate this power at the end of the day. So we are upgrading a lot of our facilities.
Like the Owhe area in Isoko, the whole of that area will not benefit but we have completed a 7.5 to upgrade it. We have also awarded a contract to upgrade Oleh to 7.5 as well.Â Without this, they cannot benefit when eventually we get it right. So, we are preparing the grounds.
The major thing is funding challenge. When we started, banks were ready to fund us but with the recession, they have drawn back. But the state was determined to go the whole hog and it decided to fund it from internal resources.
We heard your were made Commissioner for Energy in order to award contracts at bloated amounts to fund his 2011 campaign.
Well, I am not aware of that but whoever is saying it should prove it. This is not the only ministry that has budget. We have other ministries. Why should the governor concentrate here to get money for his campaign?
By the way, how much is the budget of this ministry and is there any job that has been awarded by this ministry that is not being done? The infrastructural projects that we awarded, are they not being done? Are the street lights not being done? Are they not seeing them?
The contractors are working or are they saying the contractors are doing charity work and after executing all these projects, I take the money and go and give the governor to keep? Or are they saying we are not paying for the energy projects?
Like I told you in the case of the Rolls Royce, do they think we have not paid and the money was kept? Are they saying that street lights that were imported were not paid for or that the road that will be built to the IPP site will be built by ghost and the ghost wont be paid?
Our target for now is 350 megawatts
For domestic requirement, Delta state needs a regular supply of 350 megawatts but for industrial needs, we need over 1,000 megawatts.
Companies like Chevron and others have their own power supply because PHCN cannot guarantee them regular power supply. So am talking about other industries. Domestic need is those that do not fall under heavy industrial usage like barbers, hairdressers and all that.