Finally, Azura Deploys 450MW in National Grid, Raises Nigeria’s Power Output

  • Documents show how embattled NBET auditor tried to subvert power market

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

A month ahead of the planned official commissioning of its 450 megawatts (MW) capacity power generation plant located in Benin City, Edo State, Azura Power has announced the completion of its whole plant run, indicating that all of its three turbines with a collective output of 450MW have been deployed in Nigeria’s national grid.

The $900 million power plant was originally supposed to be completed around December this year, but it achieved a construction timeline cutback record of about seven months, and was thus planned for commissioning in May. The coming on grid of its three units could, however, improve the total amount of electricity available to the national grid by 450MW.

Currently, Nigeria distributes an average of 4000MW to electricity consumers across its length and breadth.

Nevertheless, the development comes at a time a document indicted a former head of internal audits at the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Mr. Sambo Abdullahi, of attempting to subvert payments to power generation companies (Gencos) in the country by illegally detaining its audit stamps since June 2017. The document was part of a letter sent to the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, by NBET’s Managing Director, Dr. Marilyn Amobi, detailing the roles two of her embattled staff may have played in the on-going leadership tussle in the agency.

Amobi’s letter to Oloyede was also in response to charges of religious and ethnic discrimination against them, levelled against her by the two staff following their redeployment, which they have allege dly opposed since June 2017.

However, on Friday night, Azura disclosed through its official twitter handle, @AzuraPower, that all its three turbines had been synchronised to the grid with their generation outputs approaching 450MW.

It stated: “Azura did its first whole plant run today i.e. all three turbines on grid at the same time. Picture shows control room as we approached 450MW base load. Huge milestone. Kudos to all in FGN that have kept the faith.”

THISDAY then reached out to the Deputy Managing Director of Azura, Mr. Edu Okeke, on phone to confirm the development, and Okeke stated that 450MW of Azura’s power was now going to the grid.

He said: “Yes, that’s correct. With the successful synchronisation of all three turbines to the grid, Azura and FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria) agencies have shown confidence that the early completion and evacuation of the plant will be met.

“Great congratulations to all the workers that made it to happen.”

On December 20, 2017, Azura’s first turbine was synchronised to the national grid and subsequently began producing electricity for distribution across the country. After the synchronisation of the first turbine, the company announced that it would undertake a four-month period of intensive commissioning of the other turbines, starting from the end of January to the beginning of March 2018.

It stated then that the commissioning process will conclude at the end of April 2018, when the plant would reach full commercial operations.

Meanwhile, with regard to THISDAY’s investigation of the on-going internal leadership tussle at NBET, the documents obtained by it within the week in Abuja accused Sambo of illegally detaining the audit stamps assigned to NBET by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF). His actions were said to have caused the OAGF to immediately issue NBET other audit stamps to avoid a likely disruption in its monthly payments to Gencos for power sold to it.

One of the documents in Amobi’s letter to Oloyede detailed her explanation of the situation at NBET following the allegation by Sambo and Mr Waziri Bintube – NBET’s former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – that she was perpetrating injustice and religious victimisation with their redeployment to new positions.

Already, two Muslim groups, Abuja Muslim Forum and Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria, had petitioned Amobi on behalf of Sambo and Bintube in this regard. They also noted that the NSCIA was aware of their petition, hence, Amobi’s letter to Oloyede.

In the letter, Sambo was said to have detained the OAGF’s two audit stamps and locked up NBET’s security safe since June 2017, when he left his new position in protest of his redeployment. He was also said to have rebuffed repeated appeals by the OAGF to return the stamps and keys to the safe, and caused NBET to procure another audit safe worth N362, 250.

Sambo’s actions, it was learnt, could have equally disrupted NBET’s monthly payments to Gencos because the audit stamps validate that such payments had gone through due processes.

It was said that no payments to the Gencos can pass through without the audit stamp, and that by withholding it, Sambo intended to stop all payments of Gencos’ invoices, hence, the OAGF’s swift issuance of other stamps to NBET.

THISDAY made efforts to contact Sambo to get his reaction to the allegations against him, but he refused to take calls to his mobile phone. Several times, the paper placed calls to him but he continued to drop them. He subsequently sent a text message stating that he was in a meeting and could only take messages, to which the paper responded with its request and also asked to know when best to call him back for a response.

Sambo never responded to the message, or called back. He also did not take subsequent calls from THISDAY for days.

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