Reorganising Power Sector

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Goddy Jedy-Agba

Emmanuel Addeh writes on the efforts by the Minister of State, Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba, to revamp agencies under his purview to deliver improved power supply to Nigerians

Three critical agencies under the ministry of power are the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) and the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN).

The Electric Power Sector Reform Act (2005), created several agencies in achieving the elusive stable power in Nigeria, including the REA which was established to facilitate the provision of affordable power supply for residential, commercial, industrial and social activities in the rural and peri-urban areas of the country.

In the same vein, the NEMSA regulates and enforces technical standards in the power sector to ensure the safety of Nigerians.

In essence, it is the job of NEMSA to inspect, test and certify electrical materials, equipment, power systems and electrical installations of the Nigerian power industry, including testing Installations to ensure adherence to technical standards and regulations.

Similarly, at the privatisation and unbundling of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN), which was the training arm of the erstwhile PHCN, evolved as a wholly owned government training institute.

The agency basically exists with a mission to train skilled professionals required in the power industry and other related sectors, including staff of the 11 Distribution Companies (Discos) and the Generation Companies (Gencos).

Experts believe that lack of coordination of the various agencies in the ministry of power, which were working at cross-purposes had always been the bane of the sector.
However, the appointment of Minister of State, Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, to oversee some of the agencies appears to have given a new lease of life to the hitherto docile, but critical parts of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).

In bringing his vision for the agencies to reality and putting them in the front burner, Jedy-Agba, in a conversation with journalists, said it would no longer be business as usual since Nigerians can no longer continue to wait to have stable and safe electricity.

He said the federal government was giving more attention to electrification of rural areas in the country because of the need to empower those who live in villages and ensure that their small-scale businesses survive.

The minister noted that it was rather interesting that rural dwellers were more likely to pay their electricity bills without complaining in contrast to urban residents, reason he said that they must never be ignored.

Also in attendance during the remarks to bring the country updated on the activities of the three agencies were the Managing Director, REA, Mr Ahmad Salihijo, Managing Director, NEMSA, Mr Peter Ewesor and Director General, NAPTIN, Ahmed Nagode.

Jedy-Agba said the federal government would continue to provide power for under-served communities in Nigeria so as to encourage people who live outside the towns and cities to engage in small businesses and preserve farm produce by processing them.

“Traveling by road from here through Nassarawa state, you see fruits and food on the road wasting. If there’s power, industries can be created to process those fruits and sell them. If you go to Korea you see these things. The woman who sells food can grind pepper. If artisans have light, their trade will improve.

“There’s a community in Niger state that we electrified last year. When they saw the light, it was like, permit me to say, Jesus came down to them. The villagers pay for light, but you and I don’t. We consume and complain. The villagers don’t because they know they consume X and they pay” he said.

The minister added that because of his personal passion for the poor, more attention will now be devoted to the areas , including through the provision of off-grid sources of power supply.
Jedy-Agba, the Obudu, Cross River state born bureaucrat and lawyer, explained that effectively coordinating the agencies would ensure that they work towards the single aim of providing electricity for Nigerians.

He noted that the provision of capable manpower for the industry, which is carried out by NAPTIN, setting technical standards which is done by NEMSA and provision of power for rural areas, carried out by the REA will remain his cardinal focus.

The NEMSA MD, Ewesor, in his remarks, restated the ban on the misuse of the 33KV lines in the country, noting that it was one of the major causes of load shedding.
He noted that NEMSA would continue to monitor all categories of electrical installations to ensure safety in the industry, insisting that no electrical installation in Nigeria can be constructed without the certification of the organisation.

“We have carried out inspection of new electrical installations of over 5,652 nationwide. When we test transformers, they should be able to transfer voltage from 330 KVA to 132 KVA or 132kv to 33kv and 33 to 11 which we use in houses. They need to meet requirements.

“A lot of transformers are imported whose specifications are at variance with regulations. Like in the Abuja, Kaduna rail project, they used YYN0 transformers. They are contrary to extant regulations which should be BYN11. These have consequences for the power we use in our houses.

“Somebody will install 500kv transformer, then use 150 mm as the output cable. What that means is that if the transformer is utilised to highest capacity it’s expected to deliver, it will cause disaster.”

He cited the recent case in Calabar and at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) where a cable fell on a student’s head and she died, maintaining that if they had used the correct conductor, it wouldn’t happen.
He added: “This has led us to issue directives in the power sector for the enforcement of technical standards, specifications and regulations. One of them is that you can no longer use 33kv primary feeder line that’s supposed to carry power from transmitting station to 33/11 kv injection substations.

“They are supposed to carry power to substations, which will produce 11/415. We have issued a directive. In line with regulations and national council on power resolution and minimum size of conductors for primary and secondary distribution.

“We are making sure meters are viable for our environment. We have for the period of beginning of March till today, tested 273,000 electricity meters. But we have the challenge of change of tariff by customs when the price of meters have been fixed. So, they are not able to bring them in.

“People in the 11 kv platform don’t have more than two or three hours of supply. No matter the effort, if power don’t get to the people, then all efforts are in vain.
“The regulation does not allow 33kva line for secondary distribution. It’s enforceable. Now, there’s a big gap that 11kv is growing, 33kv is decreasing” he said.

Before now, the federal government had disclosed that affluent Nigerians and companies who arbitrarily arrange with the distribution companies (Discos) to be connected to high-capacity 33 kilovolt (KV) power supply feeder lines would no longer be allowed to do so.

Nagode, in his overview of his agency, said the Mambilla project, for example, was capable of employing over 50, 000 Nigerians, through road construction and welding, electrical and technical works, and others.

According to him, NAPTIN has trained over 16, 000 Nigerians and those from other countries with a view to impacting in them new technologies, new skills and modern ways of implementing projects.

“We fill the gap between academic qualifications and the skills required to perform in the power sector. We build graduates of electrical or mechanical engineering with the skills required for them to operate on the power network.

“Then we train the foot soldiers, artisans, craftsmen, the technicians, who work operate and maintain the network on cable jointing, systems operations. We have trained more than 15,000. Those who are already in the system, about 8,000 and those who seek to build careers in the power sector, 7,500” he said.

He said the agency also trains Nigerians in solar energy, mini-grid , energy management, noting that renewable energy remains the future of electricity provision in the country, explaining that the collaboration with the French government by the Muhammadu Buhari administration led to the granting of some funding for manpower training.

REA’s Managing Director, Ahmad, stressed that with an estimated 80 million Nigerians who do not have electricity, the job of the agency was clearly cut out.

Ahmad said the result of the absence of stable electricity was low productivity and low income generation around communities, stating that the agency was working seriously and had already lifted thousands of Nigerians from darkness, especially in rural areas.

He argued that there cannot be development without the provision of stable power supply, revealing that the World Bank has offered a grant of $350 million to boost rural electrification programme, which is also working in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB), which also provided additional $200 million.

On the objectives of the organisation, Ahmad stressed that the REA provides performance based funds to developers for the deployment of mini-grids and solar home systems and the facilitation of productive use of equipment for residents in un-served and underserved communities.

“Our major projects include the Nigerian electrification project, the energising education programmes and administration of the rural electrification fund and maintaining an energy data base” he said.

He noted that relying on government funding alone cannot solve the problems of the sector, positing that working with the private sector remains a priority for the agency, which has led to commissioning of solar power in Bayelsa, Niger and several other areas.

Ahmad stressed that the energising education programme, which aims to provide independent power plants for 37 federal universities and several Nigerian hospitals, with several already completed, was still on course.

According to him, three mini-grids have also been provided in Akwa Ibom, Kogi and Kebbi, with more coming in Oyo and Ebonyi states.

The energy data base also managed by the agency, he said, is a pool which indicates areas without electricity in the country, while the rural electricity cooperative society is also ongoing.