Nigeria loses billions to power outages annually

Oct 24, 2001 02:00 AM

Expectations that Nigeria would begin to enjoy steady power supply by the end of this year suffered a setback as indications emerged that the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) may be unable to provide uninterrupted power supply barely two months to the expiration of the December target announced by Federal Government.
Chairman, Technical Board of NEPA, Senator Liyel Imoke, who explained the impediments to the target set by President Olusegun Obasanjo, said that the goal could not be achieved by December this year as earlier promised. Imoke made the observation just as the World Bank said that Nigeria loses about $ 1 bn annually to power outages. President Olusegun Obasanjo had promised several times to make regular power supply by December this year the highlight of his administration's achievements..
However, at the launch of the Transmission Development Project in Nigeria, a project for which NEPA got $ 100 mm World Bank loan, Imoke said that even if the 4000 MW targeted by the Authority by the end of the year was achievable, it would not translate into regular power supply to the nation. His words: "Meeting 4,000 MW by December does not equate to uninterrupted power supply."

Making clarifications on Imoke's declaration, NEPA's Managing Director, Mr. Joseph Makoju, explained that by the time NEPA achieved its targeted 4000 MW there would be a dramatic improvement in power supply, adding that by December with all the improvement and refurbishment taking place, what Nigerians should expect is minimal interruption. According to Makoju, what the Authority could guarantee was that outages would be seriously minimized, stressing that it can, however, not promise regular and uninterruptible power supply.
Explaining that other factors apart from generation determine regular power supply, Makoju stated that the transmission and distribution network still had to be worked upon if regular and sustained power supply was to be achieved. The NEPA Managing Director said that Abuja residentsin particular, especially those who live in the outskirts of the city, would experience worse time, noting that even if more than 4000 MW was generated, there was no way it could be transported to Abuja as the city is being supplied only by a line from Shiroro which could carry only 100 MW. According to him, Abuja needed 120 MW to 130 MW daily.

Meanwhile, leader of World Bank's NEPA transmission development project in Nigeria, Ms Junhuli Wu, said in a speech to launch the project, that the nation's quest for economic revival would remain "an ordinary dream" except power became stable. She blamed most power outages in Nigeria on transmission faults, saying that the essence of the project was to ease the transmission process of the 4,000 MW NEPA was currently trying to generate.
Wu said that no nation that was serious about a reliable power base could ignore the need for a modern control centre, saying that she was shocked at her findings when she visited the nation's only switching centre in Osogbo, Osun state. The World Bank official commended government's commitment to the resuscitation of the power sector and assured NEPA management of the bank's readiness to support reforms that would ensure the best for the authority.
"We share your dreams for a better Nigeria without poverty and wish to let you know that we shall not relent in efforts to create a good atmosphere for development to flourish," Wu said. She said that the bank had set aside $ 5 mm toward the training of NEPA staff to effectively operate facilities that would be put in place by the project, adding that the aim was to ensure that the initiative stood the test of time.

She stressed the need for Nigeria to imbibe the maintenance culture for utmost productivity, saying that the World Bank would also train NEPA staff on ways to ensure that machines were kept in proper shape. Among items to be provided by the project are a modern control centre, a modern metering system and the purchase of new transmission lines. The N 100 mm World Bank loan is to be used for the refurbishment and construction of new sub-stations. The scope, according to Ms. Wu, includes technical assistance directly related to establishing and operationalising a transmission and systems operation company.
At the launching, the ministry had caused an uproar when it said that it was giving the loan to NEPA at an interest rate of 7 %. The Minister of State for Power and Steel, Alhaji Murtala Aliyu, who was present said however that government was moving towards the realisation of its objectives.

The problem of power supply has been at the front burner of the Obasanjo administration since it assumed office in May 1999. Shortly after the assumption of office, the incumbent Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige was appointed Minister of Power and Steel and he promised to "turn stone into bread" by making steady power supply possible at the end of 1999. This turned out a mission impossible as power supply degenerated rather than improve.
The Obasanjo government last year sacked the former NEPA Managing Director, Engr. Bello Suleiman while it appointed a nine-member technical board for NEPA with Imoke as Chairman, Makoju was appointed afterwards as managing director. Shortly after this, President Obasanjo re-assured the nation that steady power supply was a fait accompli at the turn of the year.
Until the statement by NEPA officials, members of the public who had noticed some improvement in the supply of electricity in recent months had hoped that NEPA would meet the December 2001 target for steady power supply. Until the statement by NEPA officials, members of the public who had noticed some improvement in the supply of electricity in recent months had hoped that NEPA would meet the December 2001 target for steady power supply.

Source: This Day/All Africa Global Media
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