Ten months on, since the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was officially taken over by new investors, with a promise to give uninterrupted power to the teeming population of the country, the situation remains the same.
The question here is, has the crop of investors really demonstrated competence, character and capacity to confront the challenges of epileptic power supply in Nigeria to satisfy the huge market to avoid rip-off and ensure that they work for their money since they took over from PHCN?
Just last month, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo vehemently lamented the dearth of qualitative manpower needed to run the present day power sector. Can Nigerians really say they are possibly enjoying the expected stable power supply nationwide?
A total of approximately $3.3bn was reported to have accrued to the Federal Government coffers as proceeds from the sale of the five Generation (GENCOs) and 10 Distribution (DISCOs) Companies, whose assets have been transferred to the core investors.
It is pertinent to note here that the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was unbundled into 15 successor companies, comprising five generation companies (GENCOs) and 10 distribution companies (DISCOs).
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum to fine-tune the implementation of a presidential initiative, tagged: “National Power Sector Apprenticeship Scheme (NAPSAS),” comprising plant owners, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and other key actors, in Abuja, Nebo stated that there was the dearth of qualitative manpower needed to run the present day power sector, admitting there was urgent need to find well trained replacements for retired and outgoing personnel, estimated at 90 per cent of the sector’s workforce.
Nebo however expressed the hope that the scheme will achieve a great deal in training artisans, lines men, joiners, fitters and machinists that would enable them acquire skills needed in the new power sector. He said: “No doubt, the qualitative skills to run a modern power sector is currently lacking, and we acknowledge the urgent need to find well-trained replacements for retired and outgoing personnel estimated at 90 per cent of the workforce.” He was optimistic that the proposed programme has twin benefits of providing fulfilling career opportunities to the youths, who may later become power entrepreneurs, thereby employing more people into their growing businesses, and by so doing, filling the technical gap that could be created if the nation fails to learn from its mistakes in oil and gas sub-sector, which had experienced serious gap in local content. Nebo challenged the sector operators to embrace this initiative, noting, “it is an apprenticeship scheme, young people are to be trained in all aspects of the electricity value chain, even as it is expected that after the one-year training, they would have acquired handsome experience and skill that will enable them take their rightful positions in the sector. According to him, “these mass of trainees would then constitute the technicians and technologists to be posted to power sector organisations, just as the scheme is going to be like Sure-P and national service.”
The Minister of State for Power, Mohammed Wakil, spoke on the need to incorporate ICT application as it would guarantee professionalism in the electricity sector. He said, “No doubt, the new set of people to be trained is coming to fill technical gaps at a digital age.
There is therefore, the need for stakeholders to get it right in terms of human resources that will drive Mr. President’s Transformation Agenda for the power sector.” Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Dr. God knows Igali, said the initiative will add value to all that the nation is doing in improving the sector, even as all aspects of the sector need development, including human resources. Also In his remark, the Managing Director of TCN, Mack Kast, assured the stakeholders of his support for the scheme, just as he observed that the scheme will address the gaps in terms of skills required to work in the sector, promising that those to be trained by TCN can easily move to other areas in generation and distribution.
There are mixed feelings amongst Nigerians as to the quality of services being presently rendered by the new investors. While some feel power supply has relatively improved, others feel it is still the same old story.
A retired top PHCN management staffer, who also doubles as the Chair, Ogo-Oluwa Community Development Association, Alagbole, Ogun State, Mr. Fola Asabi said the power stability is relative. He however believes strongly that with dedication and commitment to personnel development, and commitment from the appropriate quarters, the new investors will get there.
‘‘The stability of power supply is relative. It depends on the area.’’ In our own case here, we cannot complain where we are because we still get between 12 and 18 hours power supply per day. But there are some areas where they don’t even get up to two-hour power supply per day. It depends on the type of project already commissioned in certain areas, especially this NIPP injection substation all over the places. It helps areas where we have a bit of constant supply. Our own area is benefitting from that, no doubt. We are really benefitting. But there are some areas where they don’t benefit because their power situation has not improved but here you can see the change that there are some improvements. But we still hope within a reasonable time the power disruptions will completely will be eliminated; we feel that these things should go round, not limited to certain areas, to boost the economy of the country. Where there is no electricity that area can never make any economic progress,” Asabi said.
An international management consultant, who is also into oil, Prof. Chris Boyejo, is optimistic that the new investors are capable and will deliver. He said that the present crop of investors has the wherewithal to address the epileptic system. He advised that Nigerians should acknowledge that we are experiencing some marked improvements.
His words: “The dearth of qualitative manpower is certainly not an exaggeration by the Honourable Minister. One, the modern day power sector is a technical sphere and we are aiming now to join the league of modern systems being used for power generation by the industrialised countries. This entails so much technical competence and mostly, the investors have to bring-in these specialists from abroad. Secondly, the almost deterioration of our educational system has made our graduates unable to compete with their counterparts offshore and therefore, those manpower recruited locally have to be retrained. We must face the reality because we cannot make rational judgment when we are captivated by sentiments.
”There is no doubt that this is the era of Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) and the investors are coming into any economy, primarily to make profit and profit-making is a serious business. The present crop of investors, therefore have the entire wherewithal to address the epileptic system. We must acknowledge that we are experiencing some marked improvements. The issue is that it has taken a very long time for our nation to reach this deterioration and we cannot expect it to go away with any magic wand,” he said.