One legacy that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, would be remembered for is the provision of constant electricity supply in the state, writes Okon Bassey
Since coming on board over two years ago, the Udom Emmanuel administration has embarked on massive rehabilitation of power infrastructure in the state, the result of which has been a silent power revolution of sort. Before now, like what still obtains in some other states of the federation, the issue of epileptic power supply was a part of the peopleâ€™s way of life. But now in Akwa Ibom State, people enjoy 18 to 20 hours of electricity supply daily through the efforts of the governor and his team.
When rural electrification did a study of all the villages in the state, it discovered that Akwa Ibom had about 2240 gazetted villages besides autonomous communities that have come up as villages. Up to 85-90 per cent of the villages have now been connected to the national grid.
Recently, the state government commissioned a 33 by 11KV, 2X15 MVA electricity injection sub-station in Uyo, the state capital, a major boost to the governorâ€™s vision to industrialise the state.
â€œI said our duty will be to industrialise. And, you cannot talk about industrialisation if you donâ€™t give power to the people. You must create an enabling environment,â€ Emmanuel had said at the inauguration of the project.
His focus on steady power supply in the state is not limited to the state capital, Uyo, as some communities in the state that had not seen electricity poles before like Nkari clan in Ini LGA have now been connected to the national grid. The governor has also restored power to Okobo LGA, where there was no light for several years, while efforts have reached top gear to reconnect Ikot Abasi.
With the newly commissioned facility in Uyo, some sections of the capital city such as Ewet Housing, Shelter Afrique, NwangaIba and Osongoma Estates now enjoy 20 hours of electricity daily while plans have reached advance stage for the commissioning of the second sub-station to be located at Ekim in Mkpat Enin Local Government. The new station is expected to service five local government areas along that axis, including Ikot Abasi already earmarked as one of the three industrial hubs by the governor.
â€œWe are working seriously on that, and with the support of the board of Ibom Power Company, we can commission that project as part of our stateâ€™s 30th anniversary so that those five local government areas can enjoy uninterrupted power supply,â€ the governor further said.
He explained that the success recorded in the development of power infrastructure in the state was part of his blueprint to develop the sector, in line with his campaign promises.
â€œWhen I was campaigning, I said these things are not rocket science; it takes dedication and sincerity of purpose to get these things doneâ€.
Beside the Ekim sub-station, another injection sub-stations is being planned for local government areas along the Oron LGA axis of the state.
The Chairman, Board of Ibom Power Company (IPC), Etido Inyang, said the vision of the governor for the people of the state has a foundation in industrialisation.
â€œIf you look at the governorâ€™s five-point agenda, you will definitely agree with me that the bedrock of his administration cannot be actualised without adequate power. My vision in the board therefore is to drive the vision of His Excellency, which is to industrialise the state and that brings us to driving the power sector.â€
Inyang said the huge investments by Governor Emmanuel in the power sector was already paying off and that in the next few weeks, his team would commence test-running 24 hours of steady power supply to some select parts of the state capital.
Presently, the Ibom power plant solely owned by the state government has installed capacity to generate 191MW of power with 153MW currently being generated while the government is also working towards starting another turbine.
â€œBy the first quarter of next year, we will fully run the 191MW,â€ he said, adding that the state government had already received a licence to generate 685MW of power from the Ibom Power Company and that his board was working assiduously to kick-start the second phase of the power plant, which hopefully would be completed within the lifespan of the current board. So far, he said, they had received presentations from an array of investors, who have displayed needed competences to manage the project.
Going by what is happening in the power sector of the state, including the provision of infrastructure such as transformers and building of injection sub-stations, it appears the state government has taken up large portion of work which the PHEDC is supposed to be doing.
â€œIt takes a vision for the governor at this period of recession to build an injector sub-station never done by any state governor of the federation. This is the first of its kindâ€, he noted
Inyang is equally of the opinion that the effect of the steady electricity supply in the state will soon be felt as investors will start relocating from other states to establish their businesses in Akwa Ibom, because of steady power. This, he says, will translate not only to revenue for the government but employment generation for the people at large.
He, however, advised electricity consumers in the state to desist from seeing provision of power as a social responsibility by the government.
â€œIt is very clear to all Nigerians that both the federal and state governments cannot survive giving power as social services for now. People have to pay. If you donâ€™t pay, the Discos cannot have money to pay for the gas and maintenance. All the spare parts in any turbine are imported. I believe in government subsidising not giving power for freeâ€, he said.
He highlighted some of the challenges facing the power sector in the state, saying the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is not coming forth with modality for payment of the electricity, which the state government helps them in evacuation.
Again, the PHEDC was not standing up to its responsibility by fixing fallen cables and poles. More so, was the problem of vandalism of power infrastructure which he said could bring project down from hero to zero. He stressed the need for the federal government to devise a means to curb the level of theft and corruption, which he described as very high in the power sector.
Still speaking on the power situation in the state, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Power and Managing Director of Ibom Power Company, Meyen Etukudo said since he assumed office in 2015, more than 200 (300kva) transformers had been distributed to various communities to boost power supply.
â€œNow, people are calling to commend us for the steady supply of light in the state. According to Etukudo, not only has the power supply situation improved dramatically, the quality of the power has also improved tremendously that if consumers check, they can safely say that they are enjoying full current.
Also acknowledging the efforts of the government in the power sector, the Managing Director of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), Mr. Matthew Edevbie said the state deserved uninterrupted power supply with the current facilities already on the ground.
He posited that constant power supply in the state was possible with the huge investments and support of the state governor to the PHEDC in power generation and distribution in the state, pointing out that the state had the most robust power system in the country.
According to him, the metering factory to be commissioned in Onna LGA of the state has the capacity of producing 600,000 meters per annum while consumers in the state require only 130,000 meters.
â€œAkwa Ibom actually has a 132KV range. A 132 KV line runs from Ikot Abasi to Eket, another from Ikot Abasi to Ekparakwa and from Ekparakwa to Ikot Ekpene, from Ikot Ekpene to Itam and from Itam to Uyo. It is the only state in this country that has a 132KV range.
Edevbie stated that by the time all the investments in power by Emmanuel are completed, there would be power for all in Akwa Ibom. He noted further that if every electricity consumer in the state were to own a meter and the Ibom Power company localised, every home in the state would have 24/7 power supply.
â€œWe are proud to associate with Akwa Ibom, because we are going to use Akwa Ibom to prove that 24/7 power can be a reality and an easy thing to accomplishâ€, Edevbie said.
Steady electricity power supply especially in Uyo, the state capital and environs has attracted the attention of some residents, who described it as a welcome development and dividends of democracy. Even such commendations have been received from some unusual quarters as the Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Edet Eyo Bassey recently on a public radio applauded the governor for the feat. He specifically said the Governor deserved kudos for saving him and thousands of others the burden of buying fuel every day for their generators.
â€œGovernor Udom Emmanuel has done very well in terms of electricity supply in Akwa Ibom State in the last few months. Power supply has really improved at least from the three hours that was the case before, to about 15 to 18 hours per day now. I thank him for doing that, because I no longer have to buy fuel to run the generatorâ€, Bassey said.