Minister of Power, Bart Nnaji
By Ejiofor Alike
The Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, has promised to address the numerous challenges facing contractors involved in the execution of power projects across the country.
Speaking at the weekend on the heels of visit to a power station under construction at Ihovbor in Edo State as part of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), the minister urged contractors to forward to him, all problems, which could hinder them from meeting deadlines.
The new 450megawatt power station is made up of four units, which will be commissioned later this year.
“I paid an unscheduled visit to the facility to see things for myself, rather than being satisfied with mere assurances from contractors and other stakeholders. From the look of things, the switchyard will be ready in May this year and the transmission infrastructure through which power generated from the NIPP Lot 19 will be evacuated will be ready in June. General Electric, the contracting firm handling the four units, has promised that each unit will be commissioned every month from June if it is provided with electricity to complete the job as soon as possible,” he said.
The minister stated that though the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), which is implementing the NIPP, has made a 500KV generator available, he had also been assured by the NDPHC Executive Director in charge of operations, Mr. Louis Edozien, that another generator of the same capacity would be given this week to the contractor for the early completion of the Ihovbor power plant.
On the community issues affecting the pace of the project implementation, Nnaji caused a laughter when he disclosed that shortly after the NDPHC diverted the transmission line to the Ihovbor Station at a considerable cost because of the presence of a shrine, a new shrine emerged overnight on the new route and the villagers “are demanding a huge amount to relocate it”.
The minister also advised the NDPHC to quickly arrange for gas operating at between 50 and 70degrees centigrade to fire the plant, noting that the General Electric machines on site were not configured to take cold gas.
“Both President Goodluck Jonathan and the people of Nigeria are tired of hearing excuses and explanations for inadequate supply, as all they legitimately want is power availability. Every obstacle on the way to the realisation of the electricity plans must be tackled with the seriousness and decisiveness it deserves,” he added.
Nnaji stated that President Jonathan-led administration regards electricity as a right of every citizen, which must be respected.
Describing power as the fulcrum of modern development, the minister argued that very little socioeconomic progress could be made without the power crisis addressed comprehensively.
On the dip in power supply across the country in the last one month, the minister attributed the development to the low water levels in the dams supplying water to the country’s three hydro power stations at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro, as well as gas problems.
“It is our tough luck that we are experiencing our worst water levels in 10 years because of the poor rainy season last year in neighbouring countries, from which we derive black flood for the hydro plants. The white flood refers to flood derived during the rainy season in Nigeria, which gets to its climax in July of every year, unlike the black flood which gets to its peak in November,” he said.
The minister explained that thermal power plants were built in the past without proper arrangements for either gas pipelines or the molecules.
He also acknowledged that in the past there was little coordination between the Ministry of Power and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the agencies under them for the provision of gas.
He added however that all these had changed, adding that a bi-ministerial committee that meets monthly to review developments in gas supply to the power sector, had been established since February this year.
Nnaji assured that Nigerians “will soon notice a gradual and steady improvement in power availability which is irreversible”.
“A minimum of 1000MW will be added this year to the quantum of 4,400MW which we had achieved in January, and all will be put on the national grid because of the immense work done on the transmission network. The future of Nigeria’s power sector is quite rosy, in spite of the temporary setback we are facing. This is why global companies like General Electric, Siemens and Daewoo are keenly participating in the ongoing power reform programme,” he said.
THISDAY had reported that the communities living along the transmission line routes were making all kinds of tough demands from contractors, with one community in Cross River State allegedly demanding for a 40-year-old virgin before shrines could be removed for the construction of the lines.
“What that translated to is the huge amounts of money that will be paid to them to enable them remove the shrine,” said a source familiar with the project.
It was gathered that even after compensations had been paid to some communities for the removal of shrines, new shrines emerged over-night along the transmission routes and the communities gave tough conditions for the new shrines to be removed.
There were also instances where local government authorities in some areas gave “stop- work” orders to contractors handling some of the transmission projects.