If there is any comment in recent times that reminds Nigerians that they are still victims of broken promises and blasted hope, as well as points how off-track the Federal Government’s poor electricity/power roadmap has taken Nigerians, it is the declaration by Olorogun David Edevbie, a frontline aspirant for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the 2023 Delta State Governorship election, that the nation Nigeria still operate old-schooled and out-fashioned electricity regime/system we inherited from the colonial masters.
Speaking at the Delta NUJ Council Television platform, Meeting Point, Edevbie going by media reports pointed out that without sorting out the problem of power in the state all other things being done would be a waste of time.”We need to go from a system we inherited from the colonial masters into a more modern system, a current system which is based on value added, based on industrialization, the economy is knowledge based.
‘If we don’t sort out our energy problem, everything else we are doing is going to be a waste of time. You need to get your power sorted because that is the driver of everything. I have a plan to do that. It is very simple. I intend to build a 500 Megawatts Power Plant as soon as possible, and it can be done within three years if you know what you are doing. I have done it across the world and I have even done it in Delta. We have an 8.5 Megawatts power plant in Asaba already. I was the chairman of the committee. So, it is not like it can’t be done. It is just that it will be done on a much larger scale. The power generated will meet all our needs and the surplus will be sold to the energy grid of BEDC’ he concluded.
Indeed, David Edevbie may not be someone who spills his guts easily, but in many ways, the values and lessons from his revelations says something very important.
Specifically, his remark that the nation still operates an old-schooled and out-fashioned electricity regime/system we inherited from the colonial masters provides enough evidence that the present tragedy called electricity crisis in the country is happening not by accident but by a programme of planned choices made by the Federal Government. And explains in details how poor electricity policies/master plans from past and present governments placed deck of darkness against the poor and disadvantaged Nigerians.
However, there are many hopeful signs that Edevbie roads map for restoring the health and vitality of the troubled sector are not only doable but achievable.
A typical illustration of how physically possible is Ibom Power Plc, one of the Independent Power Plants in Nigeria, with Akwa Ibom state as the brain behind. Going by the records, It presently executes the construction of its new 500 megawatts (MW) power plant to ramp up the company’s generation capacity. The project being handled by General Electric (GE), is expected, when completed, to add to the firm’s existing 190MW plant.
Despite this feat achieved by the Ibom Power Plc, it is important to state at this point that Edevbie’s claim that his administration will enjoy a seamless working relationship with BEDC simply because the state (delta) own about 15% of the equity in BEDC., may not be completely true as ownership of equity is not a sure sign that the Disco will absorb (buy) the quantum of power the state will generates.
Just very recently, the Ibom Power Plc cried out that the constraints the company has is the inability of its DisCo, Port Harcourt to take the quantum of power it generates. They also emphasized that the inability of the host DisCo and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to invest in infrastructure upgrade was a major setback to the state. A development that has prompted the Akwa Ibom state government to take up the responsibility of TCN by building 132/33KVA and 260MVA at Ikam.
It was also noted that Governor Emmanuel Udom, took the decision not to wait for the Federal Government through TCN to invest in the project because it would go a long way in solving the power supply challenges confronting industries in the state. And to ensure that the schools and hospitals enjoy uninterrupted power supply, saying it remained regrettable that the State Government was doing all this alone without help from anywhere.
The Group argued that they would have done far more to transform the electricity sector in the country, but the 40 percent stake of the Federal Government in the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company has prevented them from making the desired investments in that regard.
This is a useful lesson that Edevbie must not allow to go with the political winds.
That is not the only apprehension. On the electricity market’s indebtedness to the firm, Edevbie needs to draw a lesson from Ibom experience.
According to the organization, since 2016, it had not been able to receive up to 30 per cent of its invoice to Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) Plc. It maintained that, currently, NBET’s indebtedness to Ibom Power runs into billions of naira, adding that if it invoices N1 billion, it does not get up to N300 million payment.
While it decried the persistent energy crisis in Nigeria even after privatization and with huge funds invested in the sector by the federal government, blaming it largely on the failures of the distribution companies (Discos), Ibom management expressed disappointment over the disappearance of maintenance culture in the system, saying most of the transmission and distribution network infrastructure had been left unmaintained for years.
In my opinion, I believe that to truly solve the power problem in Delta state, we have to subject into objective analysis the comment by Jonathan Ukodhiko, the Delta State Commissioner for Energy, who while Speaking to journalists in Asaba, recently deplored the continued rip off of communities through estimated billings by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, (BEDC) noting that most rural communities were groaning under huge electricity bills as a result of estimated billings.
According to him, you can’t continue to give people estimated billing, provide a bulk metering system for the communities so that they can pay for what they consume.“I found out that most of the rural areas are a big mess; even places with grids have no light. Why is there no light? BEDC said “It is because most of the people are not paying.“What do you mean by these people not paying? You cannot continue giving people estimated bills and expect them to pay. “So we are discussing with BEDC to meter these communities.
At this point, the state Commissioner dropped a bombshell.
Let’s listen to him; “For a fact, BEDC does not even have the power to distribute. As we know the whole country is generating about 2500 megawatts, which is been shared to the whole of the country, even at that, BEDC is not even paying or buying from the GENCOs maybe because the people are not paying.“What they do, is that the little that they get, they are giving it to the people that can pay in industrial areas, towns and oil states that they know can pay.” He concluded.
The above revelation must, in my view, act as a guide to anyone that sincerely wants to solve the electricity challenge in the state.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.