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Nigeria’s Power Minister Adelabu Bemoans Under Utilisation Of FG Investments In Power Sector

He said it was a pity that Nigerians are still battling with electricity issues and assured that power challenges will soon be a thing of the past.

Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, on Friday, said despite the huge investments of the federal government in the power sector, it is still being underutilised.

He disclosed this during his tour of the Niger Delta Power Holding, Benin Electricity Power Plant, Ihovbor, in Edo State.

Also on Friday, Adelabu, told Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff  Lt.-Gen. Taoreed  Lagbaja that the debt owed the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), amounting to about N12 billion cannot be written off.

Adelabu said the federal government had invested so much money in the energy sector, noting that it was a pity that Nigerians were still battling with issues of light.

“I have gone round this installation and I am quite impressed with what we have here. Contrary to general belief, Nigeria has invested so much in power generating plants and these plants are the state-of-the-art plants. They are well maintained and are in very good conditions and they are in a position that can give us the kind of power generation that we need in this country, except that there are a lot of capacity distortions.

“I will take them one after the other. I got to the Ihovbo plant which belongs to the federal government under the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, it is a plant with four gas plants, in a very good condition, with a capacity of about 125 megawatt each which totals 500 MWT.

“They are well maintained plants and the running hours of each of these plants are all below 30,000, which means that, effectively, they have not been run more than three years even though they have been installed almost eight to 10 years ago. They are as brand new as new turbines but surprisingly it is only one turbine that is operational today, generating about 100 megawatt of power as against the installed capacity of 500 MWT.

“That is just 20 percent capacity utilisation and which is a gross lack of optimisation of our investment as a country. If we have put so much into establishing these power plants, it should be able to give us the kind of power that we require,” Adelabu said.

The minister however assured that all the problems bedevilling the sector will soon be a thing of the past, adding that as he had mentioned in past interviews, the challenge has been storage of gas supply.

According to him, “Like I have mentioned in a number of my past interviews, that the militating factor is actually the shortage in gas supply which we are actually working on, and the good news I will like to mention here is that, succour is close to us, relief is close to these power plants as the federal government with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning and the Federal Ministry of Power, have met with Mr. President and he has mandated us to go and work out how we are going to defray the outstanding debts being owed the generating companies.”

Meanwhile, Adelabu, has told Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff  Lt.-Gen. Taoreed  Lagbaja that the debt owed the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), amounting to about N12 billion cannot be written off.

However, the minister who spoke when the army chief visited him in his Abuja office to seek his intervention over the matter, after a number of army facilities were thrown into darkness, said payment could be restructured.

A recently released list of debtors by the Disco had shown that the Chief of Defence Staff Barracks and military formations owed as much as N12 billion.

The power distribution firm then urged the army and other government establishments to pay up or have their formations and facilities disconnected.

A statement by the Special Adviser, Strategic Communication and Media Relations to the minister,  Bolaji Tunji, on Friday, quoted Adelabu as however assuring the Nigerian Army of his readiness to have a dialogue with the Discos to restructure the debt.

The minister reiterated the importance of liquidity and funding in the sector, noting that if there was assurance of  regular payment by the Nigerian Army, a framework for repayment could be agreed upon.

Adelabu further revealed that debt owed by distribution and Generating Companies (Gencos) was not the only challenge bedevilling the power sector.

 He added that vandalism of power infrastructure which often leads to national grid collapses as well as theft, inefficiency in billing and collection processes were all part  of the issues being experienced in the power sector.

He listed other challenges as: Wide metering gap, liquidity, shortage in gas supply, as well as transmission stations being blown up with explosives in volatile areas.

” The fundamental issues in the power sector value  chain could be traced back to the last  50 years and a government which is barely eight months cannot use a magic wand to proffer solution.

“There is a saying that you won’t know what is happening in Rome until you get to Rome,” he said.

The minister who acknowledged that power outages were not peculiar to army barracks, but a national issue, said the Discos and Gencos are profit-oriented organisations which also need to survive.

“We can only plead with them to adopt a repayment plan on a monthly basis, instead of embedding the whole debt in their meters,” he stated.

While encouraging the army to continue assisting the ministry in safeguarding power facilities across the nation, the minister pledged to seek collaboration for the army through any of the development partners for installation of Solar PVs and Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) as alternative power supply in army barracks and cantonments.

Earlier, Lagbaja disclosed that the main reason for the visit was to discuss the consequences of the power outages in army formations and the way forward, describing the blackouts in army barracks and cantonments as security threats.

Lagbaja regretted that some barracks and cantonments had been in total blackout since January.

 “Debt owed is loaded on the meter, so no matter the amount of credit we put, the meters pick it automatically. Corpses in the army mortuaries are decomposing and the owners of the corpses are protesting,” he disclosed.

He further stated that it is impossible for the army to raise funds to pay the entire debt and solicited for liquidation as was done in 2005 by the president at the time.

He assured the minister of the army’s unflinching support towards developing intelligence strategies in curbing the menace of electricity infrastructure vandalism.

Emmanuel Addeh and Adibe Emenyonu

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