Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Former Minister of Power, Prof Bart Nnaji and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Charles Soludo, thursday in Enugu declared that for Nigeria to achieve rapid economic and industrial transformation, it must first address the problem of power supply.
The duo who spoke at the third edition of the â€˜Big Ideas Podium of the African Heritage Institutionâ€™, Enugu, with the theme: â€˜Electricity: Key Ingredient to Nigeriaâ€™s Economic Development and Unityâ€™, also insisted that power remained critical to the nationâ€™s to quest to become one of the 20 most industrialised nations of the world.
They also noted that uninterrupted power supply would go a long way in ensuring the return of lasting peace, unity and stability in the polity, stressing that with increasing rate of unemployment coupled with the absence of reliable electricity to power the manufacturing sector, the youths easily resort to all forms of crimes and agitations.
Nnaji who was a guest speaker at the occasion, lamented that the problem in the power sector had impacted negatively on the polity, noting that electricity remained a primary ingredient to industrial and economic growth.
â€œIt pervades every aspect of the economy. It leads to stability of the nation, it leads to unity. It is when people are so impoverished that they demand change. Economic growth leads to positive interactions among all ethnic groups and this leads to unity,â€ he said.
The former minister expressed dismay that the nation has a total installed power of 12,000 megawatts as against China and United States with 1.3 million and 1.1 million megawatts respectively, adding that it must have been miraculous for the nation to grow the economy with such low megawatts.
He said even with the privatisation of power sector, nothing much had been achieved as none of the distribution companies had built single sub-station in the last three years, a development he described as unfortunate.
Nnaji however expressed optimism that Geometric Power Station in Aba would become functional before the end of the year, and therefore urged the Discos to embark on cluster investments in electricity.
â€œWe hope that Aba will work within the year based on the discussions we are already having. There should be clusters like geometric across the country. Discos can drive the clustering, and if you are within the economic cluster, youâ€™ll have reliable electricity,â€ he said.
He also advocated for the unbundling of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in order to make the area more functional, adding that most foreign investors have declined from showing interest because of â€œcost reflective tariff, gas constraints, Discos are not credit worthy, power companies are over-leveraged, lack of commercial knowledge of the government functionaries and lack of will to enforce contracts, laws and policies.â€
On his part, Soludo who chaired the event, said the outcome would be circulated to stakeholders in the sector, noting that â€œto transform the country, those who know must have capacity to multi-task.â€
He appealed to the relevant authorities to ensure the take-off of the Aba Geometric Power which had been ready in the past three years, noting that â€œonce Aba takes off, Nnewi, Enugu, Onitsha and other areas would key in.â€
Also speaking, the lead discussant, Prof Val Ekechukwu of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said building clusters of Independent Power Plants would help in maximising power supply.
He said the problem in the power sector was more political than technical, adding that â€œit is important we break the monopoly of the Discos. So many people are waiting for Aba to take off.â€