The most worrisome thing is that those who are taking the lead in this matter do not understand how electric current flows. If you make use of knowledgeable power system engineers of Nigerian descent, who work in the electricity industries in the developed economies, most likely you will achieve better results in less than four years. Of course, these “impatriates” will work with qualified consultants who know their onions but because they already have a foothold, they are more likely to get better value for money for Nigeria. The truth is that not all foreign consultants will want electricity in Nigeria because this means Nigerians will leave their shores and return home, Nigerians will go to universities in Nigeria, world economics will change and the propensity for investment will shift to Nigeria to mention a few benefits that will result in electrifying the nation in darkness.
The way to go about this is to set up a summit to attract these power systems engineers of Nigerian descent and bring them together to brainstorm on these ideas and more in support of this reform. They are everywhere and government machineries could be used to track them down. For example, the Association of Nigerians in Diaspora was formed in the year 2000 by former President Obasanjo towards this end and have no doubt being functioning well since then. This could be one means of achieving this noble objective. The approach by SHELL Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), SHELL Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), the UK chapter of Nigerian in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) and the Department for Trade and Investment in the UK in establishing a knowledge sharing framework and portal to boost Nigerian content development and employment in the oil and gas industry is required in the power sector. It need not have waited this long!
In a sense, the exodus of Nigerians to the western world, especially of professionals, is a blessing in disguise. What this will turn out to become is that they have all proceeded, mostly at great cost to themselves, on training and development that could not be obtained in the dark years past in Nigeria. Well trained in best practice in their different endeavours, uninterrupted electricity and improvement in security of life and property might encourage some, not all of them, to return to make useful contribution in Nigeria.
The framework described above will progressively increase the quantum of composite value added to or created in the Nigerian economy by a systematic development of capacity and capability of Nigerians and the deployment of her natural resources and raw materials in the power industry. Thereafter, Nigerians will be “exported” as technical aids to other African countries as well as the developed economies with a view to recouping at least part of the investment in these engineers as a form of national income. However, if the Investors who have bought the DisCos do not have a clue as to how to run a distribution network, and they have passed the technical evaluation by Nigerian “experts” who themselves know little about electricity Supply, there is a risk that “there is no light” at the end of the tunnel for Nigerians after all. Only time will tell….
This strategy will not only meet the most coveted objective of ensuring adequate skilled capacity in-country, it empowers fellow Nigerians, keep them in the frame work of international practice in the Energy/Power Industry and contribute immensely to Local Content.
To avoid the problem the Oil Industry is facing with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), we must all have a clear focus – “Nigerianization” of the power industry is the path to follow!
Idowu Oyebanjo is a Chartered Power System Engineer from the UK