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‘Power sector holds the key to poverty eradication’

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Gwamna

Dr. Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna is the Managing Director of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO). In this interview with LEO SOBECHI, he explains how the firm has been grappling with challenges of supplying electricity in troubled northern Nigeria. He also examines KEDCO’s growth in terms of network capacity, staff training, initiating modern programmes and vision of becoming the best service-delivery distribution company in Nigeria.

Given the complex and volatile environment, challenges of poverty and industrialization in the north, coupled with the dynamics of the power sector, how do you see KEDCO thrive and prosper in the next five years?
THE Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) is one organization that has been built into a system. And, the system operates within the context of contemporary demands vis-à-vis power distribution. We are moving with time and keeping pace with technology. We are using that approach to ensure that we remain relevant for the future and thrive against all odds.

Yes, we have our fair share of challenges and we have also approached those challenges with far-reaching solutions. That is how we have been able to survive despite our operational environment as one of the DisCos in northern Nigeria.

I believe that the power sector holds the magic key to poverty eradication in this part of the country. If power supply is sufficient, major companies will spring up, especially the Agro-allied companies. Knowing full well that the strength of the north lies in Agriculture, when industries begin to spring up as a result of improvement in power supply, then there will be more jobs and markets to grow the economy of the north.

Bearing that in mind, we know that the onus of thriving to upscale our operation for the growth of the sector is key. That’s why you hear of so many reforms and constant training on our part.

We are also opening up to partnerships with relevant government agencies in the sector as well as other private organisations and individuals who want to build industries to fast track development in the area. Power sector is huge; as such it demands synergy to achieve results. Going forward, we are working out modalities to see how the sector can be improved from all perspectives.

Your firm has been attending the series of workshops in Abuja organized by foreign stakeholders, what is the rationale?
Like I said earlier, we want to improve and if it means that KEDCO will go to school to get more research hints to unlock the energy potentials of the north, why not?

It is deliberate! We prioritize our customers and our staff. During the workshops our staff were able to window-shop for useful ideas that would enrich our company. Some of the modern tools for power distribution and the technological know-how are key to overcoming the challenges of the power.

What are the major improvements you are looking forward to for KEDCO? 
We are looking at expanding our network base to be able to accommodate all the demands of our growing customers. Also, we are looking forward to strengthening our rural electrification programme as a way of empowering the economies of communities within our franchise areas.

I believe that improvements are what sustain any organization and we are keen on that. This is why we also make employees’ welfare a priority, because they are the main drivers of our visions and targets. Only recently, in keeping to our promise of enhancing our staff’s welfare, we increased the salaries of over 1, 500 staff and promoted several others. This is part of the improvements we are driving at.

Could you itemise peculiar challenges of KEDCO as a northern Nigeria-based DisCo?
Our biggest challenges are energy theft, meter bye-pass and vandalism. Power sector is extremely expensive and when equipment, such as transformers and other installations are stolen, then that becomes a major setback.

We lose millions of naira to these challenges when any occurs. In an attempt to arrest the challenge, we recently launched a task force to see to that. We cannot afford to take such risks in a business of this nature. It is a major economic sabotage we face as a DisCo in northern Nigeria.

Of course another challenge is the refusal of some customers to pay electricity bills after being served. You can imagine that there are customers who have not been paying their bills for the past six months despite getting supplies and they expect us to buy power from GENCO for them? No! That is not the way forward, however, we are getting positive responses in that regard now.

Metering has been a recurring issue. How do you perceive NERC’s metering programme?
The new metering scheme initiated by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission is a good thing in that it would go a long way in addressing the high level of complaints from customers, which often crop up from estimated billing.

And so, this provides DisCos the opportunity to make their money too. When people complain about estimated billing, no one dares to ask also how Discos get their revenue when some customers refuse to pay for power that had been supplied to them.

So, in a way, it is a win-win for all as the customers would have to now buy credit units for their meters and when exhausted, they renew. So, it will cut out the issue of disconnection due to non-payment of electricity bills.

When does KEDCO plan to comply with the MAP initiative?
We have already complied. KEDCO is law abiding and we have no reason not to comply with an initiative that is meant to address some critical aspects that relate to customers’ satisfaction. We are passionate about the feelings of our customers and if the MAP initiative will do the magic, we are 100 per cent in it.

Currently, we have engaged five-meter vendors following the conclusion of our meeting with NERC officials few months back.  The five meter vendors are Mojec International 175, 000 for Kano Central and East, Cresthill Engineering Ltd 100, 000 for Katsina North and South, Armese Consulting Ltd 100, 000 for Kano Industrial and Jigawa South, Momas 50, 000 for Kano West and Katsina Central and Meron Nigeria Ltd 50, 000 for Jigawa North. We have already concluded plans while we await further approval from NERC and when we get the go ahead, we will immediately switch into action.

You often describe KEDCO as a performance driven organization, what are the motivating features of that?
The concept of performance-driven system is one area of human resource management that is key to us in KEDCO. Modern studies have proved that performance, as far as the contemporary dealings are concerned, is now a strategic issue for organizations in their pursuit of excellence in addressing employees’ deficiencies. So, we can’t be left behind. All things being equal, it is this tool that can be used to also reward labour without short-changing the employees.

If you work very hard as a staff, your performance should earn you extra as an evidence of your diligence to duty calls. That has been our secret of achieving results and I don’t see us changing the tactics, considering the fact that it has paid KEDCO in more ways than one.

Performance-driven approach helps to facilitate employees’ development as well as assists in accurate assessments of the deficiencies in employee performances, which can culminate into series of trainings for such employees. That is one of the reasons KEDCO has been facilitating multiple workshops and training programmes that are specifically designed to meet the needs of our employees for their development.

Besides, performance remains one of many ways to measure an organization’s success in meeting or achieving its strategic objectives vis-a-vis its employees. For this evaluation to be effective or of substantial value to the organization, it needs to be systematic and purposeful. I can say that we have made that possible in KEDCO. 

Can share your perspectives on the outcome of the company’s 2018 performance appraisal? 
I said earlier that we found performance as key to assessing who gets what and in what measure. So, after the appraisal, management decided based on the analysis of the performances of the employees to increase the salaries of over 1, 500 staff.

The increment was with arrears as it has been effective from Jan 1, 2019. Soon more incentives might be introduced based on realization of our target. If our targets are met, it means people actually went out of their way to get extra things done and those gestures as far as KEDCO is concerned can’t go unrewarded.

Why did you factor research and innovation into KEDCO’s developmental paradigm?
We are doing so to remain relevant and compete with our counterparts anywhere in the world. Since our business is power distribution, we want to leverage on every innovation to do better than our previous years.

We are already thinking towards having a distribution channel that poses less risk to our customers and engineers. With time we will look in that direction where in our cities you may not see lots of wires. We are working towards having an alternative and safer means of packaging distribution processes

What is at the core of KEDCO’s corporate social responsibility over the years?
We all belong somewhere at one point in time and it is only fair we contribute our quota to develop our host communities. Over the years, we have trained and given empowerment programmes for the good of the communities and build good relationship with those communities.

That has been one of the many ways we have been exploiting to secure our installations. When you turn your way to the other side instead of helping these communities as an organization, you are only creating hate and hate is toxic for business. We have good plans for our host communities and soon we will begin to consolidate on most of our existing CSR initiatives.


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