What have been some achievements of NEMSA in the last four years?
A lot was achieved in the first management tenure headed by me.
In this second tenure, there are three major preoccupations that will drive this agency under my direction. The first is our unalloyed commitment to the implementation of NEMSA’s mandate in the power sector in terms of safe use of electricity and safety of lives and properties. This is because if you use electricity safely, we will not be recording unwarranted deaths.
How has the agency battled quackery in the power sector?
As I have always said, the major challenge of this sector is quackery. In recent times, we found that some unscrupulous people went to Kaduna State to forge NEMSA certificate with which they commissioned a badly executed network. When they noticed that NEMSA will not certify the bad network due to the use of substandard materials and some other sharp practices, they forged and falsified our certificate and presented it to Kaduna Electric to get the network connected.
What are the sanctions for these contractors?
Our intervention in the case is a landmark for us since we began operation. Immediately we noticed that the network was energised even without certification, we directed the Distribution Company (DisCo) – Kaduna Electric – to disconnect it for safety of lives and properties. The police was duly informed and the matter was treated with dispatch. As we speak, four persons who are involved have been convicted in a court of law. Although the contractor himself was not convicted, NEMSA will ensure that his license certificate which was issued to him to legalise his practice is revoked. He is a licensed electrical contractor. We will first suspend his license and if he cannot give reasonable proof of his involvement, we will then revoke the certificate which means he can no longer practice.
So many of these sanctions await others who indulge in such act to serve as deterrent to others. Government lost revenue in that process as the N350,000 certification fees was not paid and if it was not detected, you could imagine the kind of electrical accident it would have caused in those communities.
With your growing activities, does NEMSA have enough capacity to tackle such acts?
That is our next focus. We are determined to empower our staff to effectively discharge their responsibilities by ensuring improved work environment; and scale-up vital work equipment. Our agency is driven by power technology to carry out inspection and testing of electrical installations. Our men need first class equipment to test power installations; for instance, if a community is given a 500 kilovolts (kv) transformer but the contractor bought and installed a 300kv transformer and then changed the nameplate on the installation to 500kv. With just the eyes, it is difficult to detect the transformer capacity. We sue such equipment to detect this. And this is what we are scaling up to intensify safety in the industry.
As the activities grow more, we will consult those in authority to ensure that we have more technical hands joining us to do more inspection, testing and certification of electrical installations.
What are the plans for expanding the agency?
We have worked to move our services closer to the people to ensure they can reach us and make complaints of poor installations to us quicker while we deliver better services. What we have done in the first four years of NEMSA is to establish three inspectorate offices to add to the one inherited from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Oshodi in Lagos. We have two DisCos and it was cumbersome for one inspectorate office to handle the activities of the two, so we established one in Oshodi that takes care of Ikeja DisCo and another for Eko DisCo. We also commissioned one in Owerri, Imo State last August, and another in Bauchi State. We are planning to have another in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State shortly.
We believe that the more of these offices we have, the closer we get to the people so we can serve them better and get more information to ensure the safe use of electricity as this agency is very crucial to the power sector development.
How are you reducing cases of electrocution and injuries for electricity?
NEMSA is doing a lot in that regard especially by forcing the power firms to begin to promptly report accidents. This year alone, NEMSA has recorded 85 accidents in the electricity network in Nigeria. There were 65 injuries and 95 deaths. This also shows the rising compliance level of the power firms to reporting electrical accidents which they hardly did in the past. Because we rank them now, it is compulsory for them to report accidents to NEMSA.
You will recall a fire accident in Abuja this week. Investigation has begun to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the fire accident at the residence of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Ibe Kachikwu, last Sunday. We received the report of the incident last Monday, a day after it occurred, and we promptly asked our people to launch investigation into the cause. The report should be ready soon and we would advance measures to forestall reoccurrence.
There are rising cases of faulty meters. What have you done to address this?
Our slogan is ‘Service for human safety’ and that is why we are responsible for testing and certifying any meter that will be used for the industry. We have upgraded our Oshodi Meter Test Station which is the first of its kind in Nigeria. We are upgrading the Kaduna Meter Test Station which is being completed while planning to scale up the Port Harcourt station.
We also plan to have two new ones located in Enugu and Kano states. To ensure that accurate meters are installed for electricity customers, the agency has tested 64,222 meters from which 63,942 were passed, and 280 failed the test. Those that failed the test, especially the type test are prevented from being brought into the country and that has saved Nigeria from a huge loss and waste in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
How would you redefine the agency to meet your mandate?
We are committed to our rededication to the culture of integrity, transparency and accountability in the management of the agency. We are passionately committed to the anti-corruption crusade of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and we have ensured due process in all our activities. With these, we recently earned a 12th position out of the 166 public agencies that were assessed by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) 2017 Freedom of Information (FOI) ranking recently released.
Going forward, we will ensure continuous maximum compliance with extant regulations and rules in the industry while following due process. Let me assure Nigerians that our agency will be more visible as we work to enforce technical standards and regulations, safety standards and requirements in the power industry.