Nigeria’s Progress In The Power Sector Would Be Shortlived If The Privatization Of The Power Sector Is Reversed By In-Coming Administration As Canvassed

Tony Ailemen, Abuja

Federal Government yesterday advised the successor incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari against reversing the power privatization programme, saying doing so would drag the nation back many decades. Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, gave advice yesterday after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja Responding to questions of alleged plans by incoming administration to reverse the exercise, Nebo said such decision will serve as disincentive to investors, both local and foreign, who had committed money in the sector. It will be recalled that federal government commenced the exercise by unbundling the Power Holding Company of Nigeria to 15 successor companies, made up of five generation and 10 distribution companies. Government had on September 30th, 2013, handed out 10 Distribution Companies and Five Power Generation companies to core investors from which it realized about $2.137B The DISCOs companies include Abuja, Benin, Eko, Ibadan, Ikeja, Jos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Yola and Enugu, For the GENCOs Egbin, Geregu, Kainji, Ughelli and Shiroro. “I think the incoming government will be ill-advised to reverse privatization and liberalization of power generation, transmission and distribution because any attempt to do that would be to set Nigeria back many decades”, he said.

He noted that despite hiccups experienced in the power privatization, which include the persistent destruction of gas pipelines, government had made tremendous progress going forward. “The gains of privatization are very obvious. If we can solve the problem of gas! We are talking about energy mix; we are not just going by gas we are doing hydro. It was this same administration that flagged off Zungeru hydro power plants for 750 megawatts and we also have Mambilla with 3,050 megawatts. Shiroro has been improved, revamped. Kanji revamped and improved the same as Jebba. “So there is a lot of work being done by the government, however to turn back on privatization would mean stopping all of these companies and then reversing the massive inflow of investments coming into the power sector”. “Nigeria’s power consumption per capita is one of the lowest in the world and it is part of the efforts of government to reverse that. So I don’t think it is in the best interest of the country to reverse them”, he said. Speaking on the current power supply problems, Professor Nebo blamed the problem on persistent pipeline vandalism which he said had made it difficult for government to meet the power supply target. “I have never in my life seen anything as frustrating as what we are experiencing today”, Nebo said. According to him “every month, the Nigerian Gas Company spends a minimum of N120 million to fix gas pipelines.

Every two weeks western axis pipelines are vandalized and that is pure sabotage; the eastern axis pipelines are vandalized and that is oil theft. At the end of the day, the gas that is supposed to go to the turbines doesn’t get to the turbines to generate electricity.” “As I speak to you today, we have installed capacity which is more; if you give us gas right now we will produce 5,500 megawatts. “But the pipelines are in the state of disarray. In fact, the recent thing they are doing is testing the integrity of the entire system. And when you have broken something over and over again, you have to really look at the entire spectrum to make sure whether the rest of the pipeline has integrity to bear gas. “Four major joints they are working on would cost them N1.5 billion.

Is that the way to give light to the country? But again that underpins the problem of planning and putting all our eggs in one basket which this administration has done everything to reverse. “So, we continue to depend on gas, which is so vulnerable and susceptible to attacks on a regular basis. There are days I feel like just crying. You finish the repairs over two weeks and within 36 hours, they are busted again. As you finish the repairs again in two weeks they burst it again at various points. “The minister of power is not the defence or whatever. I can’t go and mount sentry for 24 hours a day to monitor this thing, but the government has been working very hard to make sure that a system is developed digitally to make sure these things are minimized. “The past three weeks have been horrible because both the east and the west are affected and as a result, gas that is available is too small; many of the turbines are sitting there idle.

Many of the power companies generating are 30 per cent capacity. So, it is not that this government has not done much, it has. “Available capacity exceeds 5,500 megawatts, willing capacity exceeds 5,000 megawatts but today we are down to 2000, 3000 because of these repairs which we were hoping by last Tuesday, we would have finished to shore up 4,000 megawatts again, but more discoveries are being made. “So these are the real reasons we have darkness nationally. We apologise for that but again it is our own nationals that are doing this to Nigeria”, Nebo said. Speaking further, Nebo attributed the bursting of gas pipelines to ‘evil forces’ wondering how sane persons could go to burst gas pipelines. “Can a sane human being go and burst pipelines that is bringing gas to power stations? Stopping the industries from working, manufacturers cannot work, governments cannot work even hospitals cannot work.

Can a sane person do it without demon possession? These people are possessed! That is the extent of depravity that will lead people to punish their country the way these hoodlums are doing”, he said. He however revealed that government was already dealing with the vandals and called for support from the communities to effectively deal with the problem “I stand on good authority to say that a lot of people have been jailed; the only thing is that a lot of noise is not being made about it. People are being arrested; some even said how much they were paid to bust the gas pipeline, for nothing”. “That is they don’t get anything for busting it but they get paid for busting it and some of them are even people involved in finding people that will fix it. So a lot is being done”, he said

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