Oluseyi Peter is a lecturer at the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, University of Lagos. In this interview with Temiloluwa Adeoye, he called on the government to come out with a clear policy on the power sector.
There seems a return to the era of an intermittent power supply. Is Mr President’s body language no longer sufficient?
Whatever positive results we saw immediately after the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was inaugurated, was the end product of what the last administration put in place, no one can argue that. However, we are yet to hear the President say anything about the power sector. Buhari should come out clear with his policy direction on the sector. Though, every sector is trying to work in tandem with his anti-corruption policy, beyond that, the President still needs to question some certain things in the power sector. With the exception of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), and to some extent, the generating companies (GENCOs); I don’t think the distribution companies (DISCOs) are being technically run. The dwindling state of power supply in the country now does not really surprise some of us, who are experts, because we know the way Nigeria works. Buhari’s attention centres majorly on the oil sector. Maybe when he is done with it, he would look at other facets of the economy, like electricity. If it works well, Nigerians stand to benefit. However, the government should focus more on power sector the same way it is doing to oil.
Even with privatisation, we still face power problem. Do you foresee any change?
There is a gestation period to build up a generating, transmission or distributing station. It takes a while to carry power projects, and it is capital-intensive. Also, Nigerians should know that some of these electricity distribution companies (DISCOs), as at the time they were sold out, many of their staff were not professionals. Though, DISCOs claim they followed due process before acquiring; it appears they have a link in government, which facilitated things for them. More importantly, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) once said, it is not as if the company cannot generate enough power; but it cannot transport everything to the DISCOs because they do not have the capacity to receive a quantum of this power generated. And this has always been a problem that we can neither say it is here nor there. The DISCOs need to sit up. If you see the way transformers are hung everywhere, you would marvel if there is a policy in place to check it. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) lost a student due to a cable that dropped, the government had to set up a panel to investigate it. The panel discovered that particular line was not serving UNILAG. IKEDC just used the school as a corridor to get to Iwaya community, and it was not the first time the cable would cut at that point. It is either they lack the capacity, or the current technical know-how to even sustain what is run by the GENCOS and TCN. That is why the sustainability of what started by the first three months of this administration could not carry on.
GENCOs are always looking for ways to improve. From our own little research, TCN is way better than what it was five years ago because they are building more transmission stations in the North, where voltage usually drops so low such that can create voltage collapse for the whole country. The North east is where they haven’t really done much, because of terrorism, but TCN is really working, and they are doing it in a technical way. I have posted graduate students, who run projectS with them, but I don’t think distribution companies have any test bed, where you can assess what you want to do. They just do some of these works by the rule of the thumb, and we cannot continue that way.
Check out street corners, there are many dilapidated feeder pillars that should have been scrapped by now. Using copper wire where there should have been a fuse in this day and age is very degrading for the country to be talking about power supply when the people that are supposed to distribute are not ready.
It is as if the DISCOs don’t know what it means to be a service provider because there are no new transformers, none of those things has been provided for. Before now, they will tell us that our community should contribute to fixing our bad transformer.