‘Women Capable of Fixing Nigeria’s Struggling Power Sector’


Chineme Okafor

Nigeria’s struggling electricity sector can leverage the talents and capacities of the country’s women engineers and professionals to fix its challenges and become efficient, the Vice President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisation, Valerie Agberagba has suggested.

Agberagba who also serves in the same capacity in the Federation of African Engineering Organisation (FAEO) stated this in a presentation she made at a meeting organised by the Maitama Abuja Chapter of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).

She condemned an alleged disregard of the capacities of women engineers and professionals in the country’s power sector and called for changes that would allow the sector benefit from the talents of women in it.

Agberagba explained that industry data shows that the number of women at positions of influence in the sector have remained very negligible despite reports that they do better than their male counterparts in power utilities that were studied across the world.

“According to Ernst & Young on its article talent at the table: Women in Power & Utilities, Index. 2015, utilities with more women in leadership ranks performed better than their peers. Its analysis depicts the utilities with women had a better return on equity,” Agberagba said.

She noted that in the past 10 years, a lot of investment, policies regulations and changes have taken place in Nigeria’s power sector without the expected results

“We are still groping with 4000MW of generation for over 180 million Nigerians. Research on women in the sector shows that out of 23 chief executive officers in the generation, there is no female CEO or in the management board. There are only two Chief Financial officers (CFO).

“Out of the 11 distribution companies, only one is a CEO with three CFOs and of course, the transmission has all male general managers and executive directors.

“This is not about women only in the higher-level roles but across the strata of the workforce. There is no better time than now to consider a more gender balanced workforce and leadership in the sector. Women have different ways of analysing and taking risks, addressing issues, ruminating on the issues before taking decisions,” she explained.
According to her, the power sector in Nigeria has in the past few years struggled to change its story and failed to embrace diversity in its workforce.

“Diversity in this regard means both gender and age demographics. A team that will bring in different ideas, perceptions, experiences and problem-solving skills. The Nigerian power sector especially the utilities can be described as a sector that is struggling with its aging infrastructure and aging population of managers and need to solve the problem.

“The sector is yet to acknowledge that there is a pool of talented, well trained and educated very hard-working female workers that they can tap into. Till the privatization in the history of NEPA, there has only been one female executive director,” she added.

Agberagba, noted that gender diversity and inclusion could no longer be, “just a talk, it is a business imperative,” and that, “when women serve as policy makers, executives and employees and entrepreneurs, evidence shows that energy policies are more effective, energy products have higher sales rate and utilities have higher return on equity and investment.”

She also lauded the participation of women in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector with up to 23 per cent; and called on the government to ensure that more are included in its ongoing renewable energy programme aimed to connect 25 million Nigerians.

“Government has created opportunities for funds to be accessed. So, what better time for women engineers to refocus and explore opportunities that are being created to grow businesses and impact lives?

“There are great opportunities in the upstream participation and room for collaboration with existing companies,” she explained.