Akin Akande, Abuja
The Federal Government on Wednesday came out to admit that no fewer than 120 million Nigerians are living in darkness as government could only provide electricity to about 40 million people.
Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, who confessed the state of the nation’s power generation, explained what caused the recent decline in power supply across the country, saying it was due to system collapse that he described as “nightmare”.
Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council ( FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of State for Power, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi, however, expressed optimism that there would be significant improvement by July this year when privatization of the sector would have been concluded.
Her words, “What we intend to do this year to move the power sector to another level. Privatization is at its conclusion stage come July. What we need to focus on is the commercialisation of the power sector, considering where we are and the fact that we are only giving power to only 40 million.
“We have 160 million Nigerians now and we are only giving power to 40 million of that population. What it means is that there are about 120 million Nigerians that are without power and wish to buy power,” she said.
Mrs Kuchi said government was determined to explore energy mix, which according to her will enable power to be generated from wind, solar, hydro, renewable energy and coal. She also stressed the need to explore further the National Integrated Power Projects with a view to allowing massive investment by foreign firms.
“Said the minister: We are looking forward into energy mix. What we are looking at are ways that will bring in so many other options and the only way we can power Nigeria is we have agreed, is to look forward to IPPs.
“We keep on saying we shouldn’t allow imperialism, yes we want foreign direct investment but we also want Nigerians to take ownership. If power sells on the street, power can sell better because everybody wants power 24/7. So if we come together by way of synergy and we are able to build consortiums and the Independent Power Projects come in to address the issue of power need it will not only be government looking for funding to do this.
“The energy mix that we want to come up with- there is solar, wind and hydros. And all these things are available in form of access to Nigerians. We need to deliver power to Nigerians and the only way to do this is by serious commercialization,” the Minister of State said.
Hajiya Kuchi also contended that more money can be made in power than petroleum once there is huge investment.
“There is even more money in power than in Petroleum, all you need is a power plant and you will make money by the day. The government has tried, we have all sorts of encouragement, we could go into coal, renewable energy so we need clusters of the windmill,” she said.
Explaining the system collapse further, Professor Nebo said “on the decline in power in the past three weeks, I used the word nightmare to describe that just a couple of days ago and there are reasons for that.
Number one is that for a long time we have not had the kind of system collapses like the one we had recently. System collapses occur because of various reasons. “When the raining season is about to take off robustly, there is a lot of storm.
The state of Bayelsa was knocked off for almost three weeks, because a huge tree fell on the transmission tower, shattered it up to the foundation and if we hadn’t taken charge immediately and looked for alternative power source for Bayelsa, it will still be in darkness till the end of June.
But because of the measures we have taken so far, it took about 10 to 12 days to restore power, using an alternative mechanism which is only short lived. The full correction would have been concluded by the end of the month.
“Another one occurred in Birnin Kebbi. The heavy storm destroyed three transmission towers . These things are natural phenomenons there are not caused by human beings and then this is in addition to the one caused by human beings, vandalism”.
The Minister also said that the ministry did not get adequate funding for 2012 because government had envisaged that the privatization would have been concluded.
“Next is funding, part of the nightmare we are encountered in 2012. It was thought that privatisation would have concluded, nobody believed that Privatisation will be ongoing now. So, there was no mechanism put in place for government to fund maintenance and operations in generation and distribution companies.
“So, these companies have little or no money to do routine maintenance. All kinds of transformers were getting burnt, damaged and just for a few million Naira you could have changed them, but the money was not there,” the Minister lamented.