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Vandalism: The Cancer In The Power Sector



Embedded power transformer.

TWO years ago or thereabout, President Goodluck Jonathan told Nigerians to be prepared to crown him the most popular President of the country. This was on the strength of a comment by one of the participants at a media chat that any President who solved the problem of electricity in Nigeria would go down as the most popular President in its history.

Obviously, the President’s confidence in that riposte could not have been misplaced. It must have flowed from these critical elements-the desire in his heart, the ideas in his head, the plan on the drawing board, and the steps he was already taking to create that reality.

Of course, two years earlier, he had set the ball rolling with the inauguration of the Roadmap to Power, a template detailing each step to be taken in the direction of providing uninterrupted power to the country. It was a work-plan that seemed well cut out for him and those he relied upon to do the job. Pronto, he went about doing the needful–getting the right personnel, providing the right funding, making the right contacts, domestic and international and generally creating the fertile ground for all stakeholders to be at their best, doing their utmost in bringing the vision to fruition.

The cumulative result four years on, appears quite amazing. For the first time in the history of the country, the generation output is at all-time high. From a 50-year production benchmark of 2,800megawatts, the capacity has hit well above 7,000megawatts and still counting, in just four years. This came about as a result of a number of far-reaching activities in the sector–the actual completion and commissioning of most of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs) and the Independent Power Plants (IPPs), a well-articulated and robust gas production and distribution initiative to power the thermal stations and the a vigorous private sector participation engendered by a deliberate and consistent government policy.

Aside boosting the generation capacity, the President’s support for the transmission and distribution value chain of the industry, has also been quite remarkable. The result is that today, the transmission lines to evacuate generated power has been strengthened from just 270kilometres to well over 650kilometres, while tripling the number of injection sub-stations across the country.

The strengthening and upgrading of critical infrastructure as a result of the huge investment induced by the President has also led to a drastic reduction of the technical losses witnessed in the transmission and distribution of power.

In the distribution chain, the President has also provided the needed support for the distribution companies to rev up their capacity in distributing transmitted power. Tens of thousands of transformers were acquired and distributed to them. Most recently, he approved the purchase of one million metres for distribution to consumers to reduce the hues and cries associated with inadequate metering in the distribution value chain. Of course, the seamless completion of the privatisation of government stakes in the generation (Gencos) and distribution (Discos), remains the icing on the cake.

The combination of all these interventions, would have seen the President rolling out the drums today to celebrate the crowning of his efforts. The outcome, would evidently have led to huge political dividends for him too, and would have provided one of the strongest planks upon which the platform for his re-election dreams would have rested.

But this appears not to be. The well-deserved celebration has been punctuated in the most brutal manner. Like the biblical story, enemies, diverse, strong and awesome have taken advantage of the darkness of the night to plant weeds in the blossoming garden of hope.

The dictum, it is easier to destroy than to build could not have been more apt. All they needed do to totally demolish the gigantic superstructure the President has created is to target and hit its soft underbelly. Each night’s activity of blowing up the gas pipelines, apparently the easiest and deadliest target, simply does the job. What follows thereafter is the wailing and lamenting similar to the scene of a night marauder’s visit.

That was the picture a few days ago when they came calling once again. In what analysts have zeroed down to the current politics in the country, the latest attack appeared well-targeted. The devastating blow came on the heels of the presidential election earlier slated for February 14. Its import, it is believed, was to throw the country into darkness throughout the week so that the voters in the election would visit the anger flowing there from on the President, a candidate.

Before the incident, there had been pockets of attacks on the pipelines on a consistent basis, leading to a seeming ding-dong affair where repair works are followed almost immediately with another blow. This is in spite of the boots put on ground from the nation’s security forces through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), to secure them.

In fact, the latest incident, by its intensity, location, and effect was believed to have been programmed to have a maximum effect. Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, who led a team of sector leadership to cry out to Nigerians at a world press conference recently painted an awful picture of how the noise alone from the explosive used in blowing up the pipelines not only jolted surrounding villages, but sent the clear message that the intensity of the damage they intended to inflict was to last long this time.

Expressing the extreme sadness of himself, his team and the President, he said: “No administration has brought to the power sector the amount of revamping, rectification of anomalies, reconstruction, extension, expansion of both transmission and distribution of infrastructure as the current administration.”

Giving insights into the other areas of the President’s intervention apart from romping up of the power generation, transmission and distribution capacities, he cited the revamping of the hitherto moribund Rural Electrification Agency (REA), and the concerted efforts to diversify the fuel mix in the sector, stepping up investments in the area of solar, coal, wind, biomass, hydro and coal to mitigate the effects of gas disruption.

Uyonwa, an energy expert wrote from Abuja

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