Nigerian Engineers Brainstorm on Power Sector Challenges, Want Sustainable Solutions

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) yesterday began a series of roundtable sessions to proffer solutions to the country’s electricity supply gap challenges, tapping on the experience of its members who work in the sector.

Opening the session in Abuja, the National President of the group, Margaret Oguntala stated that the brainstorming session was necessary, given the multitude of enquiries from Nigerians who would like to know the position of the NSE.

Oguntala, the first female NSE leader in the 66-year history of the body, stated that power supply remains critical to the survival of any modern society, advising the panellists to come up with a blueprint as to how the power sector can be revamped.

As the umbrella engineering body in the country, Oguntala said it was necessary for those in the field as well as the NSE to collaborate, with a view to passing the recommendations to government for further possible action.

“So, I thought at this point that it’s necessary for us as colleagues to sit down and have a roundtable, particularly with those of you who are experts there. You know what the situation exactly is there.

“You can advise on what NSE can do, what role the NSE should play, and what we can contribute as N advocacy body of engineers and also contribute to national development because one of our core objectives is to act as an influencer with the government.

“But before we can do that effectively, we felt that we would need to hear from you, what you really think and the challenges that you might also have delivering on your duties,” she stressed.

Also speaking at the opening session, representatives of the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (Disco), led by Suleiman Jafar, an engineer, described the sector as a very complex one.

He argued that the recent segmentation of electricity customers into bands was an indication that Nigeria does not have enough of the product, prompting the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), to come up with a system to manage the little that is available.

“The highest generation that we have at present is about 4,000mw, plus or minus, which is not sufficient for the country,” Jafar stated.

While admitting that the operators have not done enough in terms of investment in infrastructure, he argued that the Discos are mostly at the receiving end of public discontent because they are the revenue collectors and interface with consumers.

“The sector being a capital intensive one, governments need to intervene to make the generation, to make the power available. So let the power be available.

“Government and the professionals can sit down and see what available resources we have that we can turn it into electricity generation. The second thing is when we are going to make the tariff adjustment, let it be scientific.

“Another main issue are the transmission lines that take power to the distribution companies,” he argued.

Deputy President of NSE and former Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Ali Rabiu, who lamented the prolonged inability of Nigeria to ramp up power, stressed that many Nigerians are now exiting the national grid because the alternative power sources like solar were becoming more reliable.

He highlighted the problem of estimated billing, leading to excessive tariff and hesitation to pay by customers and the associated threat to disconnect power, resulting in frustration for customers.

“On the side of the operators, the consumers, and even the government, there should be sincerity,” he said.

On his part, another official of Kano Disco, Suleiman Yusuf stated that there currently exists a mismatch in terms of capacity in the power sector.

“We have a generation capacity, of 13,000 megawatts, then, you have the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) with 8,000 megawatts, the Discos’ capacity is about 5,500mw or thereabouts. So, there is a mismatch,” he stated.

He also highlighted the issue of gas supply, leading to national grid collapses as well as inadequate monitoring and evaluation.

Executive Secretary, NSE, Joshua Egube, also speaking, stressed that as a foremost society, the NSE has a responsibility to the society and is showing concern by advocating for the sector and advising government on issues when necessary.

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