Friday, May 27, 2011

When Will Nigerians Enjoy Stable Electricity?

I just got back from Nigeria and the highlight of my visit is the pervasive darkness when night falls. Thanks to Fashola, things are not as bad in Lagos, but the problem have left night life and the attendant economic activities after 7:00pm comatose in every other states.

I am no friend of Obaigbena's Thisday, but his rag sheet did a thorough job a little while ago on this issue. I archived it then and I will reproduce it for those of you interested in the history of power generation in the last twenty years. Btw, as I reiterated earlier, I just came back from gidi, and I will in a short while write up my impression on what I found. For now, we should commend efforts by the likes of Fashola on this issue.
Here you go:

From ThisdayWhen Will Nigerians Enjoy Stable Electricity?
THISDAY’s Investigative Team: Kunle Akogun, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Stanley Nkwazema, Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, Ike Abonyi, Ali M. Ali, Patrick Ugeh and Julius Atoi, 04.07.2008

Ever since President Yar’Adua complained that $10 billion had been spent on the power sector between 2000 and 2007 without commensurate result, the nation has been awash with stories of scams and shocking revelations. What is the state of the power projects today? What went wrong along the line? Who is lying and who is telling the truth on the amount of money that was spent? Why is Nigeria still in darkness despite all measures applied since 1999? What is the way out? THISDAY investigates and reports Power to the People? What Obasanjo Met… When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as President on May 29, 1999, the power sector – represented by generation, transmission and distribution – was on the verge of collapse. The nation was constantly in darkness. The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) had its acronym reinterpreted: Never Expect Power Always.

Even the feeble attempt to make it look like a publicly owned company, with the change of name to National Electric Power Plc (NEP Plc) only gave more mischievous ammunition to the public who defined the new acronym as “Never Expect Power, Please Light Candle”. The entire economy ran on generating sets as NEPA could only muster 1,500MW, out of a projected need of 4,000MW, for transmission and distribution across the country.

The diagnosis was that epileptic supply was a product of the dilapidation of the power infrastructure in the country. The generating stations were not being serviced; transmission lines were routinely vandalised; and the distribution transformers were worn out without replacement of parts or service. NEPA itself was in a sorry state as corruption was the order of the day. The accumulation of these inefficiencies brought a height to the decay and periodic system failures that had variously thrown the entire country in darkness. Obasanjo inherited four thermal stations: Egbin, Ughelli, Sapele and Afam.
There were also three hydro electric stations at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro. Whereas the installed capacity was 3,500MW, production had shrunk to as low as 1,500MW. Out of the 78 generating units in the country then, only 28 were generating electricity and feeding a paltry 1500MW into the nation’s economy. Hope raised and dashed… Obasanjo, having lamented the rot, set out to address the problems. He started on a wrong footing, many would say, by appointing a seasoned lawyer and politician, Chief Bola Ige, as Minister of Power and Steel, rather than a technocrat who would have understood the terrain better because of the technical nature of the sector.

Ige promptly promised that by the end of 2002, Nigerians would experience uninterrupted power supply, a promise he was forced to retract when he was confronted with the enormity of the problem later on. Obasanjo would later say in 2007, more than six years after the assassination of Ige, that the former minister “did not know his left from his right”. But when Obasanjo set out to address the problem in 1999, he had the objective of turning NEPA around within the first six months. Generation increased same year, obviously not as a result of his ingenuity but because of the rainy season which had improved power generation at the hydro stations.
In March 2000, he set up a Technical Board for NEPA with Senator Liyel Imoke as chairman. Obasanjo released funds for the importation of spare parts and new transformers for the reactivation and rehabilitation of generating, transmitting and distribution infrastructure. The Federal Government was said to have spent $1.3 billion (N1.319 billion) for the supply, installation and commissioning of additional materials and spare parts for the completion of major rehabilitation work for NEPA’s 330Kv and 132Kv circuit breaker at major power stations located at Afam, Sapele, Kainji, Egbin, Ikorodu, Akangba and Jebba. Total generation rose to 3000MW by December 2000 and 4000Mw by the end of December 2001. In generation, the reactivated Afam, Delta 11 and the injection of the AES-Enron Independent Power Project into the Egbin unit had brought 276MW, 150MW and 270MW respectively into the national grid. The Abuja Emergency Power Project and the Agip IPP at Kwale (Delta State) also imputed 150MW and 450MW respectively to the power pool.

To achieve the set target, the government embarked on rehabilitation of another set of 20 generating units at the various power stations to bring additional 1,500MW of electricity into the system. In the area of transmission, government awarded 26 contracts for the re-enforcement of existing lines and substations and another 30 contracts for the construction of new lines, which increased the transmission capacity by 2000MVA, while in distribution, the Federal Government installed 1000 power and distribution transformers, which brought another 420MVA of electricity at 33Kv. Additional 4000 distribution transformers were also delivered. This was expected to increase distribution capacity by another 1600MVA. The Imoke-led Technical Board focused mainly on generation through rehabilitation of old units and by the time its assignment was over in December 2001, Obasanjo was setting new targets for the power sector: 10,000MW by the year 2005. There was considerable debate then on what the government should do: privatise NEPA or keep funding it?

This was a major decision to be taken on the future of the utility. If the decision was for privatisation, it meant government had to stop pumping funds into NEPA; if the decision was to continue funding, there was the perennial issue of government inefficient management of utilities in Nigeria. While the debate was on, and a decision was finally taken to privatise, there began a phased withdrawal of government funding. NEPA began to run its activities with an increased drive for commercially generated revenue. The marketing staff were given targets to meet – a situation that developed into complaints about “crazy bills” from consumers nationwide. In the meantime, works had virtually stopped on the rehabilitation of older units at the power stations as the power sector reform bill – designed to liberalise the sector – lay untouched at the National Assembly. Gradually, with reduced funding and a reliance of the old turbines, the power situation continued to decline and the nation was thrown into darkness again.
To be cont'd