Mr. Etido Inyang was a former Commissioner for Special Duties in Akwa Ibom State and is currently the Chairman of Ibom Electricity Board. In this interview with Okon Bassey, he highlighted the efforts of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration to boost power supply to achieve the state’s industrialisation drive. Excerpts:
As the Chairman of the Ibom Electricity Board (IEB), what is the power agenda and vision of the state government?
The vision of His Excellency, Udom Emmanuel for the people of the state has foundation for the industrialisation of the state. If you look at the five point agenda of the governor, you will definitely agree with me that the bed rock of this administration cannot succeed without adequate power. That is why he had a vision for the power industry before he even commenced his administration. Remember that he was the Secretary to the State Government (SSG); so he saw things all so when he had those vision, he knew that he must have what I call a catalyst in his agenda that will drive the power.
I will like to start with the power generation because that is where the foot print is. Akwa Ibom State Government owns 100 percent of the Ibom Power Plant (IPP) which has a total capacity of generating 191MW of power, but currently generating 154MW. We are working assiduously to make sure we start up the third turbine. By the first quarters of next year we will fully be running the 191MW. His Excellency has secured a license before now of 685MW of power. Remember we are generating 191MW so we have a gap of 494 MW call it 500 MW. Apart from generating this 154 MW, which we are pushing to generating the 191 MW we are equally tasking the investors to come into what we call the phase 2 of the power plant.
We have an array of investors that are willing. We are looking at investors from Canada and Europe and the financial outlay at the region of $600 million in the new investment. They have come, met the Board of IEB and made their presentation including finances capability. So we are now carefully as a board in the selection process. That is also going to be driven by time. Some people are saying is going to be ready three years, some two years and some 12 months. These are things we are considering.
Can you give us up date on power infrastructure so far in the state?
This government has fixed three turbines. We are also helping TCN to push for evacuation. The state government even paid for that evacuation and we are asking TCN for a refund. The PHEDC, I need to really say this, they are not standing up to their responsibility. Cables, poles that are fallen are being fixed by the state government on behalf of the TCN.
This year alone the state government has fixed over 50 transformers. We are talking about Ekim injection sub-station of 2/60MVA on completion. The Governor has approved dedicated power to Ikot Abasi because they are the provider of this power. Before Christmas that one will definitely be completed. Work has commenced. But generally the drive of Ibom power with His Excellency vision is to improve general power supply in Akwa Ibom State. It is not only in Uyo metropolis but what Uyo metropolis is enjoying is 20 hours power supply. If you go to Ikot Ekpene people are enjoying because of improved electricity supply. So everybody tends to have a sense of relief of the fact that the power situation in Akwa Ibom has generally improve.
Can the State Government utilise all the power to be generated or government will sell them?
Yes, we are selling. We want to become a power hub. So we are not only developing, I will come down to what the state needs and what we are doing to retain power in the state. We are working on the 500 MW, and we are equally working with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) on evacuation into the national grid. We have a deal because that transmission line has been achieved and they are in the process of reactivating the contract with various issues.
Coming to retaining electricity generated in Akwa Ibom State, there is a ring we are building in collaboration with PHEDC. This is actually to give us the ability to retain or hold what so ever we generated; Akwa Ibom as at now demands 70-80 MW of power. The state government is doing what the Federal Government supposed to do with regard to the PHEDC when they have this deal it is their responsibility to provide transformers, like the injection sub-substation, government did it but it is supposed to be done by the PHEDC or federal government.
So its takes a vision for a governor at this recession to decide to do injection sub-station it is not done by any of the state governor in Nigeria. This is the first of its kind. Looking at the transformers, from the beginning of this year till now, the state government has deployed over 50 transformers. This is to get power to the people. You can retain power in the state but the people cannot use it if they don’t have good transformers.
You planned to commence work on the second phase of the 500 MW, have you a concrete date of completion?
We believe by the first quarter of next year, we should be able to start it. If I say by the end of 2018, we will be in the process of pumping in 500 MW of power into the system I will not be mincing words at all. The beauty is that we have a land already annex to the phase one, we have a gas right there to power the phase two. We are just looking at the situation where the front line engineering will be done by the investors just to bring in the plant and fix, the land is there, the license is there , we will get the power purchase agreement (PPA) for them. That is why we believe that a period of one year when we key into the investors by the next year we should be able to have the 2nd phase in place.
Is the state government investment in the power sector just to meet the yearning of the people that electricity is a social service?
It is very clear to all Nigerians that both federal and state governments cannot survive giving power as a social service in term of consumption now. People have to pay for the power. I vote for that completely because if you don’t pay the Generators, the Discos cannot have enough money to pay for the gas and maintenance; all the spare parts in any turbine are imported. I believe in government subsidising power but not totally free. In Africa and in Nigeria, government will think seriously subsidising it but can never be free.
Presently, we are not subsidising. What the PHEDC is witnessing is that the people are not paying so that is why the state government is encouraging them to come and deliver the metering factory. That is where the metering factory comes in. we have extracted commitment from the PHDC to manufacture the meters, they promised us by October there will be meters on ground for sale. The metering factory is just in collaboration with the state government. So Akwa Ibom will be the first to start enjoying 80percent of meter availability for consumers.
On billing system and tariff, I will not encourage the increase in the tariff but rather encourage consumers paying for what it is today. The issue of estimated bill or people are refusing to pay will not be there. So meter is the solution and there should not be any excuse in the country. Anybody that need electricity should pay for it.
What is the state government benefiting or plans to get back its huge investment in the power sector?
When you have steady power in the state, a lot of people will want to relocate to the state, business will spring up and industries will develop from their taxes are paid. The benefits will come when industries start coming. The youth will be employed, so many things will start happening in Akwa Ibom for me is not going to be long.
At the Ekim axis of the state, you can see industries coming up because we are fixing the sub-station there. The next one we are working with the TCN and federal government is to assist give us a sub-station again at Oron. At Oron we should be able to take care of that franchise. That is to tell you that there is a complete plan to power the whole state
With all these investments and infrastructure development in the power sector, could we have 24 hours power supply across the state if powers were not being sold?
That will definitely help us to be on 24 hours power supply; remember there are a lot of infrastructures that are decayed. We call on PHEDC to live up to its expectation. They are trying but they should do more. They are a lot of electricity lines but the cables are weak. These cables have taken many years, up to 60 years so their live spans have expired. PHEDC knows because it was part of the agreement that they will change a lot of these infrastructures to enhance power distribution. The PHEDC has the responsibility to change most of the infrastructure some of the transformers that are down should be replaced to take power to a particular area.
Do you have any challenges in this power revolution in the state?
The challenge in the system is compound. The issue of vandalisation can take you from 100 per cent to zero level and you are off the power. The issue of payment by consumers, gas supply, servicing of the turbines are major issues in term of power supply. The federal government should do something about it; the consumers should not consume power and still decide not to pay. They should pay so that the circle continues, this is important.
Again, the vandalisation of power infrastructures is a lost and there should be a bill in this direction. It is in the exclusive list of the federal government hence the need for government to do something because the theft or corruption level is high. Fighting corruption should be extended to the power sector.
The issue of vandalisation in the power sector is done systematically. Most of the dealers of electrical equipment are guilty of it because they aid and abet in the vandalisation. In Akwa Ibom State, we are facing that threat seriously. There are compromise by some people, there are a lot of intrusion from the negibouring states coming into the state to purchase this vandalised infrastructure. So we should be able to put in place policing policy within the state. We are looking at drafting a bill to send to the State or National Assembly.