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Power line

Less than eight months to the expiration of President Goodluck Jonathan’s four-year term, his government is still struggling to meet the target set for the power generation in line with the Power Sector Reform Road Map. But a new 10000 megawatts generation capacity target by December 2014 offers a redemption opportunity, writes Olisemeka Obeche

 When President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office on May 6, 2010, the quantum of power generated in Nigeria was about 2,800 megawatt.  In recognition of  the vital role steady power supply could play in boosting the nation’s economy,  the president promised in his inaugural address to improve power supply across the country. “I want to reassure all Nigerians that the pledges which we made to improve the socio-economic situation which we face through improved access to electricity, water, education, health facilities and other social amenities would continue to be given the needed emphasis”, he declared.

Shortly afterwards, Jonathan set up a Presidential Action Committee (PAC) and Presidential Task Force to develop and facilitate the implementation of an action plan on the revival of the power sector, with achievable targets, especially with reference to power generation, transmission, distribution. And on August 26, 2010, President Jonathan launched an ambitious power sector reform road map in Lagos.

On that day, Jonathan once again reiterated his administration’s resolve to address the problem of epileptic power supply in the country when he declared: “A friend of mine jokingly asked me: Can Nigeria celebrate one day of continuous (uninterrupted) power supply? Then I answered: By God’s grace by December 2012, Nigeria will not just celebrate one day, but one week, one month, and even better. It’s actually with that vision and mission that we are here today to launch the Roadmap for Power Sector Reform.”

The initial target of the power sector reform road map was to add at least an additional 5,000 megawatts from the private sector built power plants to the national grid (hovering around 2,800MW at the time) by 2013.  Indeed, this was the commitment made by Jonathan during his campaign for the April 2011 presidential election.  While commissioning a power project in Kano in early November 2010, President Jonathan had proclaimed that he would make less promise and deliver more.

The Presidency had every reason to celebrate a milestone in the power sector in February 2011 when power generation reportedly hit 4,000 MW, the highest the country had attained in over a decade. It was an opportunity for President Jonathan to re-assure the nation that his power sector reform programme was on course and yielding  the desired results: “We are doing everything humanly possible to improve on the power sector and improve we will,” he had pledged.

However, between February 2011 and January 2012, only 100 MW of electricity was injected into the national grid while the privatization of successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was not hitch-free due to the disagreement between the federal government and electricity workers over latter’s severance package.


Litany of failed targets:

When power generation had reached a historic peak of 4,517MW in December 2012, against the anticipated 9,000MW, it sparked a frenzied celebration in government circles. The Presidency had in August 2012 boasted that power generation in the country would hit 9,000 MW in a few months’ time once the 10 projects under the National Integrated Power Plants (NIPP) were completed. “Government has improved power generation from under 3,000 MW in 2011 to 4,300 MW by August 2012. Therefore, when the 10 NIPP projects are fully on stream, which will be within the next few months, the total national generation capacity will not be less than 9,000WW, a 200 percent increase in generating capacity as compared with figures for 2011 and the highest ever by any administration since independence”, a statement from the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs signed by Mr. Olusanya Awosan read in part.

Despite the accolades the Presidency earned for the improvement in power generation by December 2012, it could neither sustain nor improve upon the record. And by the middle of the second quarter of 2013, power generation had slumped to 2,866.4 MW due to a plethora of factors ranging from gas supply to power station shortfalls, low-level of water table at the hydro dams, vandalism or theft of power equipment, system collapse and repair or upgrade.

The Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, also blamed demonic forces, high rainfall, excessive growth of vegetation along transmission lines, and weak electricity transmission assets as major hindrances to the government’s quest for improved power generation.

Having failed to realize its power generation targets, government officials began making new and conflicting projections. For instance, the Minister of State for Power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi while addressing the Senate Committee on Power in May last year, projected that power generation would increase to 6,000MW in July before hitting 10,000MW by December 2013.

Kuchi would later beat a volte-face on her projection, telling the National Working Committee (NWC) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that the 10,000 MW target would be attained in December 2014 instead of a year earlier. Her words: “With all the other NIPPs coming up and to be commissioned by December 2013, we look forward to 10,000 megawatts come December 2014. This is what we are working towards.”

And by the minister’s estimation, the 10,000mw would be enough to end decades of epileptic power supply across the country. “By our calculations and data we have on ground we will give at least between 17 and 18 hours of power supply to Nigerians. The 24 hours power supply will happen but we are working steadily towards that,” she added.

Prof. Nebo had earlier reviewed downward the ‘10,000MW by December 2013’ target set by his predecessor—Professor Barth Nnaji, based on what he called ‘the realities on ground’ but insisted it would be attained in the first quarter of 2014. “As an engineer, and knowing the realities on ground, we will achieve this (10,000MW) by the first quarter of 2014. We need time to achieve some of the targets. We will get close to it. But the truth is that we cannot get 10,000 MW by December 2013,” Nebo explained.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, also corroborated Nebo’s projection. “By our projection, we will get up to 10,000 megawatts by first quarter of 2014… This is because, with what is on ground and the activities going on, we would have done well based on the expectations in the market,” he said.


Face-saving stratagem

Expectedly, the Presidency was forced to review its strategies for transforming the power sector when it failed to either significantly scale up power generation or improve power supplies across the country by December 2013. Instead of the much touted improvement, power generation and supply plummeted as the year rolled by.

Obviously rattled by its inability to deliver on numerous targets set under the power sector reform road map, with the country’s total electricity output still around 4,000MW, the Presidency in January 2014 issued fresh ultimatum to private investors and key operators in the sector to engineer visible improvement in electricity generation and supply across country by June.

Prof. Nebo during the inauguration of the Board of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in Abuja said:  “I wish to charge all the principal sector players to commit to ensuring that power supply to our customers is significantly and visibly improved by June, this year as directed by Mr. President. Much is expected of us all and the entire nation is waiting for us. Government will no longer tolerate any excuse of non-performance from any of the sector players, particularly our new private sector partners. Nigerians must enjoy the dividends of the reform programme and no one will be allowed to frustrate this vision of Mr. President.”

However, at the end of the first quarter of 2014, power generation remained at less than 5,000 MW, contrary to expectations that it would hit between 7,000 MW and 10,000 MW as government had promised in May 2013. The official reason given for the failure to achieve the milestone was the destruction of gas pipelines which affected gas supplies to power stations.  “The issue has to do with generation. For instance, the gas issues are there and vandalism of some of the pipelines conveying gas to power plants is another concern affecting power generation. That we inaugurated substations cannot guarantee constant power supply if there is poor generation,” explained the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr. Mack Kast.

However, many heaved sigh of relief when power supply made a rebound in August despite power generation still hovering around 4,500 MW. Spurred by the positive development, the minister declared in late August that efforts were in top gear to ensure steady supply of electricity in the country by October 2014 through constant availability of gas at power stations to boast power generation.  “The cheering news from all of this is that if you have noticed throughout the country, people have been getting much better power supply. The gas is now beginning to come back and it’s something that gives all of us a lot of joy and we know that it will continue to grow that way even until December,” Nebo said.

According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been mandated to help clear outstanding gas related debts (N23 billion) in the power sector as part of government’s effort towards sustainable improvement in power generation and supply across the country. “The good thing about this is that arrangements are being made to ensure that all the generation companies get their money as at when due. The gas producers have come to a place where almost all of this is being taken care of, and then, the new gas we are expecting, we will have them trickling in right,” he added.

The minister’s fresh declaration was not well received in some quarters, with some prominent labour activists declaring it an unrealistic target.  Comrade Joe Ajaero, the Secretary General of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), said he was not swayed by new target as it was only a political statement.

It would be recalled that President Jonathan had declared in August 2013 that he was no longer going to make promises on the power issue. “I have learnt not to promise figures. I only said power supply is going to be reasonably stable. The key thing I assure Nigerians is that by the time we conclude the privatization, we would have solved a major problem. Immediately the privatization process is concluded, Nigerians will forget about the issues of power”, he said, blaming the failed targets on ‘occasional deliberate sabotage’.

The questions many are asking are: Will the federal government sustain and improve upon the current steady power supply in parts of the country beyond October? Will the Jonathan-led government achieve the elusive 10,000 megawatts of power before the expiration of his current tenure? Only time will tell.


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