13 APRIL 2012
The recent sacking of three top executives of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) generated controversy leading to a protest by staff of the company.
The affected executives are the managing director of Transmission Company; Head operator of the electricity market, and the executive director Human Resources. Minister of Power, Professor Bartholomew Nnaji, said the action was part of the government’s efforts at ‘reinventing the company’ towards achieving effective power supply in the country.
There were also allegations that top officials of the holding company were complicit in the dwindling fortune of the company. The protesting staff members however alleged witch-hunting in the government’s move. The affected officials, the workers claimed, were victims of political machinations and scapegoats of the government’s failure to redeem its pledge to improve power supply to Nigerian homes and factories. Professor Nnaji took a similar action in August, 2011 when he terminated the appointments of heads of four distribution companies for alleged “non-performance”. Despite the measures, the expected improvement in service delivery has not been achieved; the power sector is still in crisis.
The sacking of PHCN executives only casts doubts on government’s commitment-even ability-to fully implement its recently introduced Electricity Power Sector Reform Programme (EPSR). Given the monumental expenditure purportedly in the sector from 1999 to date, and with no concomitant returns to show for it, it is no surprise that there is widespread scepticism that the Road map for Power Sector Reform launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in August, 2010, would make any tangible impact.
With a debt burden of N88bn owed major gas suppliers across the country, the PHCN has in the last three months experienced a sharp drop in electricity generation from 5000MW to about 3000MW official figures. There is also the problem of moribund and inadequate transmission facilities, corruption in the system as well as managerial in competence, leading to a loss of monthly revenue earning of about N22bn. Clearly, the problem in the power sector is far from being addressed as public sector divestment is being stalled as a result of policy summersaults and vested interests.
If the target set out in the road map is anything to go by, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) should have been under technically competent private sector management by December 2010, while the issue of gas shortage a thing of the past since April 2011, as projected in the National Gas Master plan that, ” in the period up to April 2011…there will be enough gas supplied to power producers (circa 1,636 mmscfd) to support the targeted increase in actual generation capacity of circa 7,000MW”, the master plan projected.
However, records indicate that aside from the establishment of the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company in September 2011, to guarantee transaction between gas producers, sellers and buyers, nothing practical is in place to show government commitment towards addressing the problem of gas supply to the existing turbine stations. That the multinational oil companies have yet to be motivated by the creation of the bulk trader to increase gas supplies suggests that pricing of gas and guarantee of prompt payment are not the primary reasons the dire situation remains what it is today.
Flowing from all this is the need for the authorities to explain more convincingly in what ways were the sacked officials a hindrance to the government’s unfulfilled promises to improve power supply in the country? Were these officials in any way responsible, directly or indirectly, for the government’s its persistent failure over the years to address identifiable problems in the sector?
The other issue is that the government has also failed in exploring other sources of energy generation other than over reliance on gas, which by the way is yet to be utilised appropriately. The acclaimed investment in the power sector before and since the beginning of the reform process has yielded little dividend; there is need to demand accountability for this. Disciplinary measures against those found wanting in their official conduct are a part of management responsibility, but such action should be based on clearly defined parameters and transparently executed, devoid of sentiments and emotions. Power supply and its sustainability are essential to economic development, without which the vision of joining the league of 20 most developed economy of the world by the year 2020 would remain a mirage.
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