Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji
By Chineme Okafor
The Federal Government Tuesday gave an insightful judgement of the status of nation’s power sector about a year ago before the advent of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration which will on May 29, mark its first anniversary.
Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, who gave details of the status of the power sector before Jonathan assumed office on May 29, 2011 said the present administration had inherited a messed-up sector without appropriate plans and strategy structures.
Nnaji said at the “2012 Ministerial Platform” in Abuja that the President Jonathan-led Federal Government had spent a larger part of its first year in office, correcting a whole lot of mistakes and obvious gaps that had existed and hampered the growth of the power sector for years now.
He said: “People are asking questions about what this government is doing to address the power challenges, I can tell you that the government is working hard to see that Nigerians have good power supply, unfortunately, power is not something that you just buy off the shelves; public power takes time and when recently the president went to Siemens in Germany and a question was asked on how long it takes to manufacture a turbine, he was told that it takes 12 months but we haven’t been in this government for 12 months and that is just the turbine, we’ve not talked about the design, construction and inauguration phases.
But government has been working on this. What I want to tell you is when to begin to reap the fruits of these investments and to tell you that we never had appropriate plans before now and we will take a look at what the power sector was before we came into power. What we are doing now is to do the correct things the way it is done globally, appropriate and aligned plans so that if you have power plant, you must have gas to fuel it when it comes up as well as a transmission line to evacuate the power produced, he said.”
The minister explained that prior to President Jonathan’s assumption of office, the Nigerian power sector was really characterised by an average of 2000 megawatts (MW) of generation and distribution capacity, none coherent plans and alignment, existence of radial transmission network, suspension of regulatory and implementation agencies, as well as inadequate planning and project development.
He also added that the sector had a non-commercial orientation as its operational focus while reforms and privatisation programmes in the sector were stalled leaving so much labour issues unresolved and dialogue with stakeholders inconclusive.
Nnaji, who asked for more time for the Federal Government to wrap-up its plans for the power sector, stated that Nigeria’s aspiration to generate and distribute about 40,000MW of electricity to propel her Vision 2020 economic agenda was attainable if ongoing reforms in the sector would be thoughtfully implemented.
He said that government’s immediate plan for the sector was to correct and close up existing gaps in power projects, recover existing installed capacities in its various power plants and as well push through investments that will expand the capacity of the sector through privatisation.
“When Nigeria says it want to be one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020, people laugh, no, truly, Nigeria has the wherewithal to attain that and the plan in Vision 2020 is to be able to support that with about 40,000MW and then we look at where we are and ask how we can achieve that but I am going to tell you.
Fortunately, Nigeria already has important building blocks to develop a strong, successful power sector, we have a very broad range and quantity of fuels available for power generation, we have a strong base of you and reputed technical universities and we now have a strong and well structured roadmap for performance and growth in the power sector,” he stated.
Shedding lights on President Jonathan’s expectation for the emergent power sector, Nnaji said: “Right now, our generation capacity is averaging 5,900MW and maximum delivered capacity is 4,400MW except for recent drop which were occasioned by gas constraints, transmission networks are been expanded and the privatisation process is in progress.
“We now have total value alignment and power is now treated as a business with focus on efficient alignment and collection so all obligations can be settled in full. The objectives of Mr. President are to transfer control of the industry to the private sector, productively engage key stakeholders of the economy in a focused manner and obtain their buy-in for the power reform agenda and effectively tackle critical challenge of the enormous electric power deficit.”
The President wants to transform the electricity sector into the major driver of Nigeria’s economic development process and create an enabling environment to support change that will unleash vast job creation mechanisms through availability of electricity.”
Nnaji added that about 950MW of recovered power from federal government’s operated power plants will be added to the national grid within 2012.
The “Ministerial Platform” offers federal ministers an opportunity to report to Nigerians achievements of their ministries on a yearly basis; it is hosted by the Federal Ministry of Information.