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Fashola Begs Employers Not To Sack Workers Over Poor Power Supply

By Ayo Balogun

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has advised industrialists, directors and other employers of labour in the country not to panic or downsize their staff in the face of current power supply challenges, indicating that the Federal Government has put a roadmap in place that would ensure progressive power supply from incremental to steady and then uninterrupted power supply nationwide.

Speaking at two major events – the Quarterly Business Luncheon of the Institute of Directors (IOD) and the 13th Distinguished Electrical and Electronics Engineers Annual Lecture, Fashola, who was the Guest Speaker at the event underscored his optimism that the current challenges facing the power sector would be over soon, noting that the present administration was committed to ensuring a sustainable power supply in the country.

The Minister, who was also Guest of Honour at the Distinguished Electrical and Electronic Engineers Annual Lecture of the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE), told the industrialists, entrepreneurs, directors and other employers of Labour in the Organized Private Sector not to panic by downsizing, shutting down or laying off their staff saying that the nation would overcome the challenges of unsteady power supply just as it had overcome other critical national challenges.

Establishing the context within which to analyze the current situation in the power sector, Fashola traced the evolution of the country’s electricity industry to the 1950s when the nation’s electricity was managed by the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) which later gave way to the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) which finally handed over to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) saying that in all those transitions, the generation, transmission and distribution of power was in the hands of the government which also issued meters.

Noting that he inherited a privatized power sector where majority shares of the sector was sold to private companies, Fashola said the majority share was sold in 2013, 3 years after, when government unbundled the PHCN and sold the generation, and distribution processes to private companies adding that government only retained the transmission aspect of power which it manages through the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

Government, the Minister said, also created regulatory agencies like the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) the Nigerian Electricity Management and Safety Agency (NEMSA) and the Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) adding that by unbundling the PHCN into 18 companies, government stopped producing and distributing power as well as issuing meters.

He added, “Therefore the power sector I inherited is one that the role of government is reduced to policy and regulation” adding that the functions of generation and distribution were now carried out by the Generation Companies (GENCOS) and the Distribution Companies (DISCOS) which also have the function of issuing meters.

While noting that the power sector would have been in transition for three years in November this year out of which the present administration has spent one year and he would have spent seven months as Minister, Fashola asked, “The context, therefore, is, between 1950 and 2013 what did we achieve in power?” pointing out that in all that time, only 4,000MW was generated while not all consumers were metered out of the six million known consumers.

“What is reasonable to expect within three years of privatization and one year of a new government in respect of a problem that could not be solved in 63 years?”, he asked, adding, “It is in this context that we can discuss my role as policy maker, regulatory supervisor and enabler for the private sector-led electricity market”.

Noting that the real problem in the sector was lack of sufficient electricity, Fashola, who recalled that the highest generation capacity, achieved only in February this year, was 5074MW for a country of no less than 150 million people as against Chad and Liberia with 84MW and 40MW electricity demands respectively, said the solution to insufficient power was to get more power adding, “This is the basis for leg one of our roadmap- Incremental Power”.

Elucidating further on the plan to produce sufficient power, Fashola listed the various power projects being undertaken across the country, some of which have either been completed and working or are in advanced stages of completion, to include repair of gas turbines, strengthening transmission to evacuate power and the National Independent Power Project (NIPP), Gbarain which, according to him, has now been completed and is being tested.

Other power sources targeted to increase power supply, according to him, also include expanding Qua Iboe, completing Kaduna Power Plant with generation capacity of 215MW, Kasimbilla with 40MW, Dadin Kowa with 39MW, Azura with 300MW, Zungeru 700MW and Gurara 30MW, adding that other sources besides gas powered plants include Zuma Coal, Mambilla Hydro with 1,200MW and Solar which, according to him, is targeted for rural electrification and universities, small hydro-dams as well as some uncompleted constituency projects and embedded generation such as Parias Power.

To achieve Steady Power, Fashola, who recommended a full audit of consumers in the country, which, according to him, could best be done through a comprehensive national census exercise, said it would be impossible to provide steady power supply without a data on the number of people requiring the utility. The Minister added that such an audit would help to bring all consumers into the metering net so as to make them pay for what they consume adding that this would boost the finances of the power generating and distribution companies to deliver more power and for maintenance of power facilities.

The Minister said the prospect of achieving uninterrupted power lay in the maintenance of sustained growth in the sector to match population increase, energy conservation in homes and offices, energy preservation and conservation of water and loss reduction.

He, however, noted that even if all the other variables were met, the hope of steady and uninterrupted power supply could only be assured if the challenges facing the sector were solved some of which he said include, the management of the expectation of the people to have power immediately after privatization because of the impression created that this would happen immediately after, agitations by various aggrieved groups that sometimes lead to attacks on power assets, vandalism of power assets, power theft and problems of payment of bills which include assaults on collectors.

Stressing the importance of conservation in achieving uninterrupted power at the 13th DEEEAL Lecture which he earlier attended, Fashola said at every phase of the roadmap conservation of energy was vital “because whatever is wasted will never be enough” adding that getting incremental power and then steady and uninterrupted power would require that what would be generated would not be wasted.

The Minister, who recalled that the nation achieved 5,074MW of electricity for the first time this year declared, “Energy efficiency is critical at all stages even when we are trying to get incremental power at this stage when we have the capacity to produce about 5,000MW, assuming we have no gas issues”, adding, “That 5,000MW can serve more than the people which it is currently serving if we conserve it”.

He noted that a number of initiatives have been taken at the top levels of government such as the one taken by African Heads of State in 2013 to inaugurate and sign on under the aegis of ECOWAS to an energy efficiency commitment for the sub-region and back home, the launch in Lagos of an Energy Conservation Initiative adding that such initiatives “must be emulated across board in culture and as a way of life”.

Using the road and water to illustrate the need for conservation, Fashola tasked the audience to imagine what would happen if all of them who came for the event left their cars on the road or that after fetching water from a tap, someone left the tap running.

He declared, “Getting off the road is conservation so that others will have access and leaving the tap running after fetching water will mean that water in the tank would waste”, adding that the impact of wasting water would also affect electricity because it would have to be switched on again to pump more water into the tank for others to use.

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