The Power Sector is Too Expensive to Allow Corruption to Thrive

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JAMILU GWAMNA

Issues and challenges in the power sector came to the front burner once again when Managing Director and CEO of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO), Dr. Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna, speaks with Nseobong Okon-Ekong. In this interview, he proffers solutions to the age-old problems in the sector and highlights the strategies, challenges and achievements of KEDCO. Excerpts:

As a major stakeholder in the power sector and with your wealth of knowledge, what are the challenges in the power sector?

Let me correct one notion. The power sector in Nigeria has no challenges but challenge. If that challenge had been addressed, all others will become history. The only challenge of the power sector in Nigeria is insincerity. The handlers of the sector since 1999 have not been sincere in the award of billions of dollars contracts. It is only of recent that we have a sincere President who wants to do the magic and he is doing it. Imagine spending over $16 billion and yet the President Muhammadu Buhari administration inherited less than 3,000MW when other countries have spent less and have better output. It took the sincerity of Mr. President to give 1,000MW yearly addition to the national grid. I am in the power sector and I know the effort of the present administration and that’s why I will always commend Mr. President. Now that we are generating more, efforts should be made to fix the issues of transmission. If everything being generated is transmitted, Nigerians would cry less about power supply.

What solutions would you recommend for the lingering crisis in the power sector?

The only solution I will put forward is still the issue of sincerity. Everyone in the power sector should emulate Mr. President. Whoever is involved in the business of power in Nigeria should do that with sincerity from generation, transmission to distribution. If corruption is eradicated from the system, everything will work well. If all the contracts from 1999 up to 2015 were executed without corruption, we would have been talking of at least 15,000MW. Because of corruption, Nigeria spent more than any African country, but got less compared to countries like South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. South Africa has over 51, 000 MW, but in Nigeria, we are talking about roughly 6, 000MW. The power sector is too expensive to permit corruption, if we must achieve some level of sufficiency.

Why do you think there is a pressing clamour for efficient supply of electricity in Nigeria?

It is simple. We must take our destiny in our hands to develop the country. People clamour for electricity because when you fix the power sector in Nigeria, then the power sector will fix other sectors. Power holds the key to everything in development whether industrialisation or growth in other sectors. If Nigeria gets it right with power, we have got it right in every sector. In Kano State alone, we know the number of small-scale industries that sprung up just because of improvement in the generation and ultimately distribution of power. That has jerked up employment in the area as youths no longer wait for the government to give them jobs and that has had a significant improvement on the economy of Kano and Nigeria at large. No country can boost development except there is power.

Do you see PPP as a viable option in addressing power sector challenges?

Of course, as a business administrator, we need government to create the enabling environment and government needs our investments, so it’s a partnership that provides gains for both ends. Power is very expensive. If government makes attempts to solve it alone, our complete yearly budget for five years will still not be adequate to get the required output for growth. So, we need to turn to the PPP approach that has helped in so many developed countries of the world. For instance, there are over 267 active PPP projects in Canada, and those that have reached financial close are valued at nearly CAD$123 billion (US $95.4 billion). That is what we should be driving at too. We must turn to PPP arrangement if we must make headway in the power sector.

When it comes to the power sector, government must focus on how best to leverage and increase private sector investment into large revenue-generating projects that will help to fast track growth from all angles.

What is your advice to stakeholders in the power sector?

If power works, a lot of the problems we face in the country will disappear. So, everyone, including I, must be patriotic when it comes to the business of power in Nigeria. Let’s not play politics with the key to our industrialisation and the major tool to economic diversification for the good and sustainability of growth in Nigeria.

KEDCO has evolved as one of the most customer-friendly DISCOs, how was that feat achieved?

Managing any company must involve an acquisition of conscious level of knowledge that will help you to know where the source of the oxygen of that business is and after that seek to protect that source by keeping it happy. In KEDCO, our customers are our partner and they are like the oxygen that keeps our company going. So, it is common wisdom to ensure we work out all modalities to make them happy and when they are, it becomes easy for them to buy into our plans and vision. We have over time prioritised our customers’ needs and continue on this lane. The essence of business is satisfaction from all partners. We have found out the ways of satisfying our customers and we are strengthening such with the necessary demands for the sustainability of any contemporary company-customer relations.

You recently invested millions of naira to procure equipment, what is it all about?

Our customers are our pride and the reason we are in business. We bought that equipment for operational upgrade and better service delivery. As we have always insisted, customers complaints are treated in KEDCO as raw material for improvement. We have received complaints on over loading and some operational issues. So, we quickly moved in that regard by procuring 170 transformers, 60 operational vehicles and other safety kits. All we have bought are for the satisfaction of our customers and to give them a value for their money. When you spend, you should get quality service and it is in that quest that we procured all this equipment to ensure that we cut down on complaints, while improving our capacity for surpassing our fit as one of the modern power distributing companies in the world.

What major challenge is KEDCO facing regarding power distribution?

The major challenge we face and we are working continuously to totally phase out that challenge is the available megawatt for distribution. When we came on board, we inherited about 130MW, but with the cooperation of our customers and our visionary staff, today we now distribute about 350MW. So, our major challenge is how to keep improving on the available megawatt for distribution. That’s why it is key for consumers of electricity to keep paying their bills to help us in that regard. We also pay to relevant bodies for generated and transmitted power made available to KEDCO for distribution. If consumers cultivate the habit of paying their bills on time, it will boost KEDCO’s purchasing power and keep the company in a position to serve our customers better.

Why is it necessary to hold frequent interactive sessions with your customers?

We are in business because we have customers, so by all means, we need to draw them closer because their complaints and contributions go a long way to improving our past achievements. Basically, the reason for the interactive session is to parley with our partners and by default, they are the major stakeholders as far as I am concerned. We also use the session to advise them on how best to conserve energy and keep their property safe from fire. So, let me also use this medium to advise all power consumers in Nigeria to cultivate the habit of switching off all appliances in offices, at homes, hospitals, schools and so on. With this, we will conserve energy by curtailing the amount of energy that is wasted and also reduce the risk of fire through electrical appliances. We must also fix all faulty appliances, cords, switches and outlets especially now that our children will be on holidays.

What should we expect from KEDCO under your watch?

Expect a digitalised KEDCO within the shortest time possible. A top-notch company that will be on its toes in meeting the demands of its customers through technology. Already, we are on course, so in the nearest future, we will consolidate that. We will strengthen our networks and improve on our intelligence to wipe out traces of power theft, vandalism, sabotage and illegal connections that are the major forces against KEDCO moving to the next level.