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Journey to Egbin: Politics : - Nigeria's Premier Online Forum


Journey to Egbin

By: dayan (M) |Time : June 30, 2016, 07:53:35 PM
Journey to Egbin

On June 30, 201612:14 am In People & Politics

By Ochereoeme Nnanna

WHEN you hear the  saying: “the world is round”, take it seriously. It is not just a scientific fact; it is also a wise saying of the elders. What goes round comes round. Be nice to people because you will meet again as long as life lasts.

About a month ago, Ademola Adedoyin, a journalist and public relations expert specialising in the energy sector, invited me to join a small team of media executives to visit Egbin Power Plant. Demola and I met way back in 1992 in the defunct TSM,The Sunday Magazine. We posted him to cover the Oil and Energy beat. I later left for Vanguard and he left for The Week. I brought him to Vanguard, and within a shot jiffy, he shot to the top as the Business Editor of the paper, and moved on to start his own company, Messages, which he runs successfully till date.

After a series of postponements, the trip finally took place on Saturday, 24th June, 2016. All four of us – Debo Adesina, the Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian; Sam Omatseye, Chairman, Editorial Board of The Nation; Eniola Bello, Managing Director of Thisday and my humble self, beat the 11am deadline to assemble at the Ikoyi offices of Sahara Group (the new owners of Egbin Power Plc) where Demola received us in his usual breezy way. As we were just settling down to the usual banters, the Chairman of the company, Kola Adesina, hopped in, and airily drew our attention that he, too, was smack on time.

I had thought we would go to Egbin by road, but Sahara had other ideas. We were taken to a small jetty off Queens Drive, Ikoyi, where we embarked on a cute little yellow 13-seater boat with the inscription: Egbin, on its nose and rear. After being dressed up in clumsy, bright-red life jackets, we took off on a 40-minute boat ride through the Lagos Lagoon. We docked at the power station’s jetty and came face to face with the sprawling Egbin thermal power complex.

There is nothing small and simple about energy production plants, especially petroleum production/refining and power plants. Those who liken what we experienced in the telecom sector with the challenges inherent in the energy sector are either ignorant or mischievous. Any power or oil-production plant is bound to intimidate any lay onlooker.

We were received by officials of the company led by Mr.Peavey Dallas, an American engineer who is the MD/CEO of the plant. Together with other top managers and specialists, we were conducted round the plant. Most of the high sounding technicalities were like Greek to me, but I was able to ascertain as follows:

The Egbin Power Plant was started in 1982 by the Alhaji Shehu Shagari regime. It is composed of six units, each with the maximum capacity to deliver 220 megawatts of electricity. This means that the plant, when fully capacitated, can give up 1,320 megawatts of power. Egbin, which is gas-powered, is the largest power plant in sub-Saharan Africa. It was never able to hit this max spot while it was under governmental control due to poor maintenance. Before Sahara bought the plant and started renovating it, Egbin was only able to supply 300 megawatts, and the entire complex was in a sorry state, just like similar government-run industries, such as Ajaokuta Steel (and other steel complexes) the refineries and others.

The new owners have completely turned the plant around with a 320 million US Dollar lifeline. Today, the plant can comfortably supply 1,320 megawatts of power, and the management intends to take it to 3300 within the next couple of years.

However, that Egbin can now yield 1,320 megawatts of power does not mean it is doing so right now. In fact, the reading on the panel for that day was a total of 440 megawatts. Only one unit – which is dedicated to the Island district – was producing at full 220 megawatts full capacity. Two others had 110 megawatts on their panels, while three units recorded ZERO! Now, can you see why most parts of Lagos are unable to have reliable power supply (or any at all)?

The question of why you don’t have power (and won’t have it in the foreseeable future unless something radical happens) goes beyond what Egbin can do. There are problems everywhere and the Federal Government (the only institution that can provide the necessary leadership towards giving you and I steady power) appears confused.

You cannot have steady power yet because the gas suppliers are not true to their obligations. They prefer to sell lucratively to foreign buyers, such as South Korea, which depends on our gas for their own leaps-and-bounds growth. Militants are blowing up the pipelines feeding Egbin and other gas-fed plants. Customers (you and I) can’t pay what investors regard as “market prices”; some don’t even pay anything at all.

Without adequate funding, the distribution companies (discos) can’t remit money to the generation companies (gencos). To top it all off, the Federal Government, through its power bulk purchasing company, is owing the gencos a whopping N300 billion, out of which Egbin alone is owed N70 billion. With investors starved of funds and embattled on all sides, it is only a matter of time before a major system-wide implosion occurs.

Only the Federal Government can solve the problems in the power sector, first by stopping the sabotages; second by paying its debts to the power companies and third, by possibly providing some form subsidy (at least for this teething moments) to our nascent private power suppliers. You and I must pay more to bring in more investors. The issue of reversal of privatisation is simply not an option, given where we came from.

The solution to give Nigerians steady power supply is an assignment that requires the Federal Government, the private power companies and the Nigerian people to play their roles. The Federal Government must lead from the front by making power supply its number one priority.

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