BY CHARLES KUMOLU
FOR the umpteenth time a people living in darkness have been promised that gloom will give way to light by December 2013. Ordinarily, the pledge would have elicited unrivaled enthusiasm across the country, given that light would finally shine in a land overshadowed by darkness, but the reverse is the case.
Reason: The pledge of improved power generation and distribution, is now worth ten a penny. At a time when the 6,000 megawatts promise in the last dispensation is yet to translate into improvement in the power sector, Nigerians were yet again told that come December this year, Nigeria would experience an improved power supply.
This, according to the Minister, would guarantee 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply in every part of the country.
“We envisage 10,000 megawatts by December 2014. With our short term, long term and immediate strategies that we have in place, in addition to working assiduously with other stakeholders in the power sector, we will get there. We have the NIPP work going on, and the Niger Delta Power Company coming up for commissioning by December 2013; we look forward to 10, 000 megawatts come December 2014,’’ Nebo stated while briefing the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party ,PDP, on the activities of his ministry.
Nebo’s pledge was also re-echoed by the Minister of State for Power, Hajiya Zainaib Ibrahim Kuchi, who said the power generation will peak at 10,000 megawatts by the end of December 2013.
This promise, nonetheless, raises questions, and doubts have continued to trail its possibility given an unbroken history of failure at fixing the sector.
‘’We are used to such promises. Every administration comes with pledges but we continue to descend into darkness. The Minister might have good intentions but the system that has undermined every good intention in the power sector must be demobilised,’’ a former Chairman Power Projects, Mr. Abdulateef Kadiri, told VanguardFeatures,VF.
Dream of a rejuvenated power sector
However, findings revealed that the pledge by the Minister requires an indepth scrutiny to determine if he was saying the usual or if the realisation of the dream of a rejuvenated power sector has come.
Accordingly, it was gathered that the latest move would be driven by massive involvement of the private sector.
This, VF was told, would be achieved through the Independent Power Projects ,IPPs, which has brought with it great expectations. Disclosing this, the Managing Director of Power Solutions, an independent power company, Dr. Silas Chukwukadibia, said: ‘’The initiative marks the determination of the Ministry to ensure that Nigerians have the ownership of the scheme with some foreign, direct investments. This signals that there will be a synergy in building consortiums, while the IPPs address matters concerning power requirements.’’
He further said: ‘’The oil sector has become an albatross as it has overshadowed other sectors in Nigeria. But as the Minister once observed, the power sector will soon become Nigeria’s bridal economy. Thus, the current move to unravel various potentialities in the sector by the Power Ministry is appealing. This singular effort will also change the destiny of Nigeria for good because the anticipated meteoric increment in the megawatts will become Nigeria’s springboard in jobs creation, and general private sector development.’’
However, further checks showed that the current rejuvenation efforts is not unconnected with President Goodluck Jonathan’s resolve to solve the perennial power quagmire.
‘’Jonathan’s vision in unbundling the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, into 18 companies to enhance productivity and efficiency has proven to be the best decision ever taken. The creation of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc has also brought light in achieving Nigeria’s electricity dream in the near future. It would be recalled that Jonathan inaugurated the CEO and board of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc in August 2011,’’ a former Marketing Director with the defunct NEPA, Alhaji Gambo Gobirawa, told VF.
He, however, cited the coming of the Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Lighting Scheme as one of the few indications that it is no longer leap service in the sector.
‘’ I can tell you that another giant stride in this sector which has made the environment conducive for the private sector participation in the power sector is the coming on board of a credit-worthy off-taker of power, NBET Plc,’’ he stated, adding: ‘’The firm has become the springboard in boosting the morale of the power generating companies that they will be paid for power produced. The administration also flagged off the Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Lighting Scheme.’’
Energy efficient bulb
Gobirawa further explained thus: ‘’ The goal of this project is to encourage the use of energy efficient bulbs and lighting systems which is capable of massive energy conservation. To wrap it up, the Jonathan administration entered into an MOU with worldwide leaders in the power sector, General Electric.’’In addition, he said: ‘’The deal indicates that the General Electric will invest about 15 percent equity in power projects in Nigeria. This rounds up to 10,000MW capacity by the year 2020.
The power firm also plans to build packaging facility with local contents for small aero-derivative turbines in Nigeria which will promote job creation.’’
Not done with his optimism about the future of the sector, he said: ‘’The Federal Government also entered into an MOU with the Exim Bank of the United States to provide an investment opening of about $1.5 billion for investors willing to invest in the Nigerian power sector. There has never been a time when such sumptuous amount of money was ever provided by the US Exim Bank for a specific sector in Africa.’’
When asked why he is so optimistic despite challenges which have made past policies unfruitful, he said: ‘’One basic hindrance, according to Nebo, has been the transmission challenges which make attempts at putting 5000 megawatts into the transmission network unworkable. But the milestone in the renewed electricity quest is the effort at repositioning various Nigerian Independent Power Plants as well as the Niger Delta Power Company which is billed for commissioning in December this year. Records show that this will generate 10, 000 megawatts in December 2013.’’
As the December target draws near, it is still left to be seen whether the promise would become a reality.
Ten distribution companies
Meanwhile, VF gathered that the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria ,PHCN, has been completed. Further findings showed that the Federal Government wiould hand over privatized successor firms of the PHCN to private investors on September 21, 2013.
Ten Distribution Companies, DISCOs and five Generation Companies, GENCOs, have been handed to the successor companies that rose from the balkanisation of the defunct PHCN. The companies are those which completed the payment of the 75% balance on their bid price for the companies.
Power Minister, Professor Nebo, said as at the deadline period, all preferred bidders had paid up, except the Enugu Distribution Company, while the preferred bidder for Sapele Power Station had made substantial part-payment.”
He made this disclosure in a statement signed by his media assistant, Kandel Daniel.
The statement said: “The completion payment now entitles the preferred bidders to take full possession of the 15 PHCN unbundled entities (10 distribution companies and five generation companies)” .
Nebo described this development as a great milestone in the Power Sector Reform Roadmap that should give hope to all Nigerians and inspire confidence in government’s power reform programme and President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.
Nebo also reassured Nigerians and investors of government’s resolve to pursue the transformation agenda to the end, and monitor the emerging transition market, in order to protect the interest of both the citizens and the investors.
He said the stability of the national grid was being enhanced to ensure effective transmission of any quantity of power being generated in the new dispensation.
The new owners
According to the Minister, efforts are on to provide more electricity off-grid, especially for the rural areas, while also sustaining subsidy for low income electricity consumers in the nation’s tariff structure.
The new owners paid $2.238 billion.
The successful consortia are: West Power and Gas, the preferred bidder for the Eko Distribution Company; NEDC/KEPCO, Ikeja Distribution Company; 4power Consortium, Port Harcourt Distribution Company; Vigeo Consortium, Benin Distribution Company; Aura Energy, Jos Distribution Company; Kann Consortium, Abuja Distribution Company; Integrated Energy Distribution and marketing Company, the preferred bidder for the Ibadan and Yola Distribution Companies; Sahelian Power, Kano Distribution Company; Trancorp/Woodrock Consortium, Ughelli Power Plc; Mainstream Energy Limited, Kanji Power Plc; and CMEC/EUAFRIC Energy JV, which made the part-payment for the acquisition of Sapele Power Plc.