Efficient production, delivery of safe, reliable power critical to growth, says Ewesor
The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency Act, 2015, in May established NEMSA to take over the functions of the Electricity Management Services Plc. By the new Act, NEMSA takes over the functions of statutory electrical inspection, testing and certification of all electrical installation hitherto carried out by the Director of Electrical Inspectorate Services and the Electrical Inspectorate Services Division of the Federal Ministry of Power. Among other things, the agency is to carry out electrical inspectorate services for the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry; enforce all statutory technical electrical standards and regulations as published by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and all other relevant bodies. The agency is also to collaborate with the Standards Organization of Nigeria and other relevant government agencies to ensure that all major electrical materials and equipment used in Nigeria are of the right quality and standards. In this interview with some newsmen in Abuja, Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of NEMSA, Peter Ewesor speaks on how his agency hopes to discharge its duties. EMEKA ANUFORO of our Abuja Bureau captured the highlights. Excerpts.
What is the operational focus of the agency on technical enforcement? We are glad that the Electricity Management Services limited (EMSL) has now transformed into the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA). Our Act has been signed into law and gazetted in line with government procedures.
It metamorphosed from the Electrical Inspectorate Service (EIS) of the Federal Ministry of Power who were saddled with the functions and responsibility of ensuring that technical standards, specifications, inspections and certifications are carried out in the industry to ensure and guarantee efficient production of power, and safe delivery of that power to the citizenry.
It is also to ensure that the safety of lives and property is guaranteed. You know that electricity is a very good servant but a very bad master, and if it is not properly maintained the consequences are always devastating. So EIS has done this job over the years.
We set a very clear vision and it is targeted at possibly becoming the model of African economic success story. Our aim has been to grow enterprise, create jobs and ensure prosperity for all. Our strategy has been such that for us to achieve these dreams, we need to move away from depending on the receipt of Federation Account and Allocation Committee and that which comes to every state on a monthly basis, to having an economy that has a proper value chain with opportunities that abound.
But with full privatisation and the distribution companies (Discos) and generation companies (Gencos) been handed over to private owners. To ensure that the function of enforcing technical standard and regulation is not done under ministry bureaucracy, government decided to take inspectorate services out of the purview of the ministry.
The Ministry of Power took the bold step as a policy directive in the power sector and in line with the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) 2005 Section 8. An approval was also given for the transfer of all engineers and technical officers in the Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Power to EMSL which is now NEMSA.
Government has also transferred the 15 Zonal Offices of EIS to NEMSA to ensure smooth take off and implementations of the activities of the agency in the area of ensuring and enforcement of standards and carrying out certifications in the industry. EMSL was established originally with the intention of ensuring quality control of meters.
During the NEPA days, government had national meter test stations in three locations: Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kaduna. The test stations were used for internal control of metering equipment coming into the country so that we don’t have bad meters in the systems.
This too is part of the enforcement functions of the EMSL so that Nigeria is not turned into a dumping ground for all manner of meters.
Beyond these functions, there are the ancillary services which contribute to the efficiency of power generation, transmission and distribution like the transformer repair workshop.
It is not just to carry out repair alone; it is also for the analyses of power equipment brought into the country to see if they meet the requirement.
Today, we have all manner of transformers and cables in the industry. The facilities which we are already upgrading now will be used to carry out those functions. With these, every function and activity would carry out as enacted by the Act. One thing I will like to clear is that we are not just restricted to generation, transmission and distribution.
We go to homes, factories, industries where installations are going to utilise the power that comes from the grid to ensure that when the power is connected to the premises, there is proper connection synchronism between the power that is coming and the equipment that will receive it.
All these are to guarantee the safety of lives and property and ensure safety in the use of electricity. We equally have the authority to inspect and certify sole source supply.
They are those facilities that are generating electricity to serve themselves alone and are put into the national grid, they are not selling power, but they generate power for their own use. These are facilities that are generating electricity to serve their needs. They are not selling power to the national grid, but for their own use.
This country has a law which says that you cannot bring in equipment in Nigeria to generate electricity, that are not in consonance with our frequency and voltage levels and if there is no agency like us that is going to enforce that, then it means anybody can violate the laws of the land.
Between 2003 to 2005, I led the team that went to inspect the Bonga FPSO and what we found out was that they had gone against the legislation of the land on that installation by using different colour codes and at the same time, instead of partitioning between high, low and medium voltages, everything were put in the same cubicle which is not allowed not just in Nigeria but worldwide according to what we call level of authorisation in the operation of the power industry.
There are people who are allowed to work in houses alone and there are people who are allowed to work up to 11kV and 33kV. All these are put together to ensure that anywhere we are using electricity within Nigeria, they are not just producing for themselves alone, they are operating within safety requirements and standards and to ensure that there is no injury either in and around their facilities.
That basically is the crux of our activities as Nigeria Electricity Management Services now backed up backed this new Act. What will be your level engagement with other stakeholders in the sector to forestall possible conflict of mandates? It is very simple. One problem with this country is that there is hardly synergy between agencies of government.
When this happens, progress is very much limited. In our own case, we are reaching out to other agencies that are involved in the electricity industry.
When we started the Electricity Management Services Limited (EMSL), the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) was the first agency that we engaged with.
This was simply because we know that they are the agency of government saddled with the responsibility of sector wide standards regulation and enforcement while EMSL was put in place to enforce standards specific to the power industry. We started collaboration with SON and never had any conflict. We engaged them when we wanted to revalidate our national pole manufacturing directory.
We knew that there were requirements from them and we wanted to have those requirements in place and publish an encompassing directory that is in compliance with sector wide requirement and industry specifics. SON is pleased with our coming on board and made it clear that we have no conflict.
They are collaborating with us to make sure that we enforce standards. Today, we serve on the committees of SON. The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) is an agency of government that needs EMSL because we have the expertise to help determine infringements on the rights of consumers and we have gone to them to form collaboration.
It has begun with a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) that is expected to be signed in a couple of days. The MoU would detail our limits to avoid conflicts because everybody has got its own Acts and limits.
We will always maintain these boundaries and support these services to ensure that they do well and give consumers the satisfaction that is required.
We are going to put a check and testability solution now on electrical installations in Nigeria so that if there is any kind of installation, the contractor will have to provide us with a kind of identification nameplate on that installation.
The name plate will be there for as long as the installation is being used and the person is going to state his name as a contractor as well as dates of installation and sources of materials used.
These will enable us to trace what has happened in cases of accidents beyond the installation period. We realised as well that before now people were quick to attribute any type of fire incidence to electrical faults.
So, we felt the need to engage the Nigerian Fire Service which we had in the past engaged in our inspectorate services functions at the Ministry.
We did this to ensure that every aspects of installations will be covered by the Fire Service and the Department of Petroleum Resources for instance at hazardous locations.
We are also going to enter into MoU with them to reestablish the relationship that existed with them and their zonal offices before now so that if there is any fire, we can investigate the incident once the fire is extinguished and uncover the faults.
Are you going to help electricity distribution companies check incidences of meter bypass? This is not new in the power sector. It has always been there and all that is required to be done is for the country to have a very strong punitive legislation in place that we can enforce if cases of meter bypass are reported.
There are legislative procedures in place. Our functions and activities are specifically to ensure the safety of lives and properties in the use of electricity.
We are to ensure that such meters have been checked and satisfied good and fit for use and that they will not cause hazard to those that are using it. I think the issue of bypass of meters requires that the Discos think out of the box to find out how to manage these developments.
There are so many ways to checkmate bypassing of meters. There are new technologies to check and monitor meter deployment and usage that the Discos can adopt. When they took over these facilities, they reduced the strength of their technical staff and when there are no technical staff to do monitoring and evaluation of installations, such things will continue to happen.
It was happening before now but there were ways that they were been checked and it is not just the meters that are bypassed but tapping of electricity directly. They need to have credible personnel that can help monitor their installations and we should go beyond the normal practice of providing meters for people.
There are technologies that can be deployed to reduce meter tampering. If we want to delve into that, we won’t be able to do what we are set up to do. But within houses there were good practices that we engaged in the past like ‘small consumers installation returns’ which allows technical sampling checks on installations that were then installed by NEPA to be sure that they were not tampered with.
We are going to try to re-open that up but in collaboration with them. We will like to engage them to see the advantages of having us in the system.
Have you held discussion with the DPR as regards your expected monitoring of electrical installations at oil and gas facilities in the country? We had collaboration with DPR and Fire Service in the past in areas of hazardous services.
It was difficult in the past to issue a license to a petrol service station without certification from the DPR, fire service and the Electrical Inspectorates of the Ministry of Power but suddenly, this fizzled out. We know where to go and we have met with DPR and have had meetings with them, our men have started checking electrical installations at filing stations.
You saw what happened in Ghana recently? You can appreciate what we are trying to say because a filing station going into flames is unimaginable. Just check out the electrical installations at the entrances of some filling stations and you will see that they are not in order.
We know the people we need to collaborate with to impact the system the way we are supposed to for people to see the benefits of existence as the inspectorate for the sector.
What is your staff strength and what are your immediate challenges? To ensure smooth takeoff and implementation of our mandate, the government has approved that we should take over the 15 existing zonal offices of the Electricity Inspectorate of the Ministry of Power across the country.
We found out that Lagos was too big for one zonal office. To expand activities in that axis, we have established another one at Oshodi. We used to have Eko inspectorate office which covered all of Lagos including Eko and Ikeja distribution networks but we have created another one at Oshodi to take care of Ikeja Disco to ensure efficient and effective coverage.
All these field offices are being equipped and we are already forming collaborations with international organisations to help us out with building the capacities of our electrical inspectors.
There is an upsurge in renewable energy because government is keen on encouraging it and there is the Nigerian Energy Support Programme which is been piloted by the Ministry of Power and the German development agency, GIZ.
It has dawned on us that we need to develop our capacity to test and certify renewable energy facilities in this country. As the agency of government with such responsibility, we are already collaborating with GIZ and our first outing is going on right in Uyo, building the capacity of our team. We will grow in our capacity to take our services across board.
We have only one office in Enugu. That is not enough for the entire South East zone. We have plans to open up another office in the South East, same as in North East and North Central which we are going to de-load soon.
For meter testing, we have up to three levels of meter testing. If you are bringing your meter for the first time into this country, we want to check that it is going to work effectively and efficiently in the country. Meters are electronic equipments which are likely to be affected by the weather and environment.
When that is done and they do not meet the requirements, they will be rejected but reasons are given to the manufacturer or supplier on why the meter is rejected. But there are no facilities to test the meter. It is difficult to know the amount of meters that will come in and what has been wasted.
Even when the meter is satisfied ok and you are now bringing in huge consignments into the country, your meters will still pas through what we call routine testing where we sample in batches that the meters that are coming in are what were certified and approved for use because the tendency for foul plays are there.
For these reasons, we have designated three locations where these meters can be tested and should there be an upsurge in the volume of meters testing. We can add more to ensure that the service is closer.
Could you clearly demarcate your job from that of NERC which many know as the power sector regulator? I think we have said this overtime. I don’t really see any area of conflict with NERC.
The Act put it clearly that we are the enforcers of technical standards and regulations, inspecting and testing facilities to ensure that facilities put in place have been properly planned to guarantee safety in the use of electricity that comes whenever it is available.
Just as it is practiced all over the world, we have different agencies of government in the power sector that do specific jobs. In this case, there is no conflict. There is a straight demarcation in our roles. Our functions didn’t just start in 2014 when EMSL was created but it is an activity that had been performed for well over 50 years by a department that has been moved into this place.
All over the world there are the regulator and standards agencies as well as technical regulators depending on the model that any country decides to adopt.
With the structure of the industry, there is no way you can leave the technical enforcement in the ministry when you already have a privatised industry. Government knows that this agency is needed and cannot function efficiently without a law backing it.
We are in NERC’s standing committees and we don’t see them bringing in new codes without our input. We participated very well in the codes that were produced at the early stages of NERC.
But the point is that we are now sister agencies of government under the same umbrella, the same ministry and President and we definitely must work together. That is the bottom-line. There is a marriage between us and the sector. We must work together for the common benefits of the sector.
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