AGAINST the backdrop of President Goodluck Jonathan’s promise of a remarkable improvement in power generation and distribution , the country still supplies barely 3,600 to 3,800 megawatts of electricity currently. With the prevailing situation, doubts are high about the possibility of his administration delivering on his promise a year after. CHARLES KUMOLU reports.
“By God’s grace, by December 2012, Nigeria will not only celebrate one day of uninterrupted electricity supply, but we would celebrate one week, one month and so on of uninterrupted electricity supply,” President Goodluck Jonathan assured his audience, at the inauguration of The Roadmap For Power Sector Reforms, on August 26, 2010 in Lagos.
Besides, this pledge that was made at Eko Hotel and Suites, the President had during his numerous campaign tours to Bauchi, Nassarawa,Kano,Kaduna Ondo among other states, promised an improved power supply before the end of the year(2011) through the Integrated Power Project (IPP) initiative of the Federal Government.
In Bauchi particularly, Jonathan had during a courtesy call on the Emir of Bauchi, Alhaji Rilwanu Adamu, pledged reasonable power supply in the first quarter of his administration, if elected president in 2011.
Also, a summary of the power sector promise, as gathered by VanguardFeatures,VF, indicated that in the days preceding the April 19, 2011 presidential elections, the president promised to provide stable power supply by the year 2015 so that small and medium scale industries can thrive again; ensure that Nigerians do not use generators more than two times in a week; explore the coal deposits in Benue and Kogi states for improved power supply; construct more dams to build more hydro-power stations; reduce the importation of generators at least 90 percent in the next four years; raise power generation to about 4,747 megawatts by December 2011; put an end to epileptic power supply in the country just as fuel queues at petrol stations were ended.
This deluge of promises, no doubt raised the hope of Nigerians, who had been groping in darkness
But more than a year since the promises were made, there are more questions on the pledge than answers.
However, investigations indicated that the federal government did not go to bed after the pledge, as efforts where reportedly made to increase the inherited 3,600 megawatts ,MW.
For instance, in the past year, about 4,200 megawatts of electricity was reportedly generated from the various power stations in the country, until 13 December, 2011.
Supporting this claim is the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, who told Nigerians in February, that the nation’s power generation, as at then, was 4,400 megawatts, representing more than 40 percent of the expectation in 2012.
He said that the power generation had increased by more than 40 percent since President Jonathan was elected in May, 2011.
“This is a tremendous achievement for the president and the government to have improved power supply that way; why you see people all over the country saying there is availability of power and that they are receiving power now better than before,” he said at the opening ceremony of a gymnasium built for workers at Egbin Power Station in Lagos.
Further checks also revealed that in line with the promise of an improved power sector, the government recently said it has completed four projects that will boost electricity supply in Lagos and Kaduna states.
In a statement, Yakubu Lawal, the spokesperson for the company, said that the projects had been handed over to PHCN and according to the statement, the projects which were delivered on March, would strengthen transmission and distribution infrastructure in the country. It said that two of the projects were located in Oworonshoki and Ojo transmission stations in Lagos, while that of Kaduna were located in Zambia Crescent and Narayi sub-stations.
Lawal also said that Ojo and Oworonshoki sub-stations, which initially had transformers with installed capacity of 2×30 MVA, had been upgraded to 2×60 MVA each, and added that the projects were executed under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) Lot 11 contract.
Also, the ongoing unbundling of the Power Holding Company,PHCN, despite the controversies trailing it, is also seen as part of the promised road map to constant power supply.
It was also gathered that the issue of the power sector, was also central among the reasons the President visited Germany recently.
A Presidency source, who confided in this reporter, stated that “Power sector reforms is dear to Mr. President, you will be glad to know that he also sought technical assistance in Germany recently, people did not know, the man is concerned about it and very soon the machines would arrive Nigeria.”
Similarly, the Gas Revolution, which was launched in March 2011, is also seen as important to the power sector reforms, given that most of the nation’s power plants, depend on gas turbine to operate.
While all these efforts were supposed to have translated into significant increment in the generation and distribution of power supply, VF gathered that the desired output is yet to be achieved.
“Nothing has happened in the power sector since the President promised steady power supply, I have not seen any thing, there is no different from what we had in the past, he needs to get focused on this power issue, hence it is a problem that can be solved, “” a social critique and former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Sav, told VF.
Continuing, he said, “as far as I am concerned, Jonathan has done nothing in the power sector since he became President. Corruption has increased in his tenure, darkness has increased also. The recent claims that he has fulfilled his campaign promises is not true, because we have not seen anything done. The best thing is to declare an emergency in the power sector, so that the problem can be tackled totally. Power is the engine room of the economy, so he should focus on power. It will be a disservice to the nation if after all the promises he made, the power situation in the country would remain in its present state.”
Sav’s position, which also captured the mood of the generality of Nigerians was not totally denied by the government, as Power Minister recently apologised to the nation for the drop in electricity generation from 4,000 to 3,000 megawatts, a significant drop that has compounded power problem in the country.
“We are sincerely sorry for the ongoing load-shedding being experienced as a result of the scheduled maintenance of some gas plants in the country,” Nnaji said.
This failure, inquiries showed, was occasioned by the shutdown of 1,080MW Egbin power station and the 760 MW Kainji Hydro Power Station, in February and March this year.
While Egbin was on technical grounds, Kainji, it was gathered, was because of excessive water leakage which could cause a flooding of the station.
Accordingly, the shut down of Kainji Hydro Power Station came on the heels of the loss of 625MW power supply from shortfalls in gas supply to leading thermal power plants in the country.
The gas supply shortfall led to a drop in daily electricity generation from 4400MW to 3775MW; the loss of 330MW from Kainji left the country with about 3445MW daily.
Egbin, Olorunsogo Phase 2, Sapele, Geregu, Omotosho and Ughelli power plants were affected by disruptions in gas supply to the Escravos- Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS) which provides natural gas to key thermal power stations in the country.
The decline by over 180 million standard cubic feet (mscf) led to a considerable loss of electricity generation.
And the implication is that a nation that was promised about 9000MW at December 2011, is currently managing barely 3,600 to 3,800MW, against its 10,000MW daily need.
Given that this power promise which was made during the electioneering period, is yet to have a clear direction nearly one year into the life of this administration, doubts are mounting whether the President would deliver on this promise.
The public anger
Like Sav, who passed a vote of no confidence on the presidency, President of Akaikenga (a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation) Dr. Sylvian Ebigwei, is among those, who are not comfortable with the slow pace of the ongoing fixing of the power sector.
He regretted that huge efforts at ensuring steady electricity since Jonathan came on board, has not translated into meaningful result.
“I just came back from my home in Okpanam, Delta State and I am using generator as I talk to you right now. All through the period we where at home there was no electricity, even though we have a sub station there. The government is doing a lot and spending a huge amount of money on the power sector but it has not really translated into a meaningful impact on the population. And we keep on saying that the way and manner the government is going about it, is faulty. That is a faulty start,”he lamented.
Explaining, why he is angry about the manner the President’s Power Promise is being pursued, Ebigwei, said, “a country like Nigeria that is volatile in terms of political and economic instability, should not have based the generation of electricity on gas. We are not comfortable with it. To produce electricity from gas is easier but you have to look at your environment before embracing such method. The source of the gas is not reliable because of the attendant volatile nature of our polity. Today Jonathan is the president of the country, which made the militants to stop damaging pipelines. No body knows what will happen tomorrow when Jonathan leaves.”
Also reechoing Ebigwei stance, National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change,CPC, Engr. Rotimi Fashakin said, “the recent admission by the President that planning defect (by his government) for the Independent Power Project (IPP) has accounted for the bungling of the schedule of the delivery of power to the Nigerian People, is enough to vitiate the unfortunate statement that the president has fulfilled his election promise. The Nigerian roads are in more parlous state than the situation two years ago. The poverty level in Nigeria has become worsened to the extent that millions of Nigerians are still living below one dollar ($1) per day.”
But the Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi, would not agree that there has not been an improvement on what was obtainable before now.
He told this reporter that, “We are regulators but honestly, I would be fair to say that there is marginal increase, there is a departure from the past. It was obvious in the early period of the year. Although there were technical faults that led to reduction, but the re-engineering of the sector is ongoing. We are aware that the minister has apologised for this, what the government needs is support. This is not time to crucify the authorities. Even the increment in the tariff is part of efforts to fix the sector, I am assuring Nigerians that they would soon get value for their money.”
He however, acknowledged that there are teething problems at the moment, adding that, “other problems, which have remained intractable, include inadequate supply of gas and water, as well as the slow pace of the privatisation of the sector.”
Nonetheless, in view of these problems militating against the reforms a lot of people want the government to evolve new ways of surmounting the hiccups holding the power sector roadmap down.
The way forward
Against this backdrop, Ebigwei suggested that the nation taps into its abundant deposits of coal.
“The United States for example, generate the bulk of its electricity from coal and US is the largest user of electricity in the world. So, once you fire a coal turbine, to stop it is very difficult. Nigeria has abundance of coal. I would suggest that we tap the opportunities offered by coal, that would save us from the challenges posed by gas turbine. There is every need for government to embrace the coal alternative, he maintained.
Continuing, Ebigwei stated thus; “Let us forget the issue of environmental pollution because the greatest polluters of our environment, is the US, China, Japan, but all these countries depend on coal for their energy needs. Gas energy is just a palliative when compared with power generated by coal. The gas is just not there, that is why we are suffering today despite all the funds and efforts channeled into it. I can equate our situation to running a race outside the track.
“You have to be sure that you have adequate supply of gas before you start using it for power generation. Nearly everywhere that there is gas turbine, there is no gas. Hydro is equally good and better than gas, but unfortunately Kainj dam has not been serviced for many years. I will advice the government to put more energy on the production of electricity through coal and hydro, rather than wasting resources on gas turbine. We can also explore the utilisation of wind and solar energy. We have to emulate countries that have got it right in their power generation efforts.”
In other climes
Comparatively, countries like South Africa with a population of about 47 million people generates 43,000 megawatts, a sharp contrast to our paltry 4,000 megawatts, MW, of which 1,100MW is generated from the private sector including Shell and Agip. Also, Brazil with a population of 180 million has an installed capacity of 90,000MW.. Thailand, with 70 million citizens, has 40,000 MW; the United States of America with 300 million people generates 937,000MW; the United Kingdom, with 60 million people enjoys 77,000MW while Germany, a country of 83 million people, generates 11,5000MW.
Relatedly, VF discoverd that Nigeria’s per capita power capacity is 29 watts per person compared with Brazil’s 480 watts per person or America’s 2,900 watts per person or India’s 110 watts per person. Ghana with 1,800MV for its 21 million citizens, has about 85 watts per person.