Blackout: Jonathan Fires 3 PHCN Chiefs

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President Goodluck Jonathan Monday ordered the immediate retirement of three key functionaries in the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and its successor companies over the deteriorating state of power supply in the country.

Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, who broke the news at an emergency meeting with chief executive officers (CEOs) of successor companies at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja, said new appointments were being made to enable the sector reform regain momentum.

The officers being retired are the CEO of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr. Akinwumi Bada; former Market Operator, Mr. Uzoma Achinanya; and the Executive Director of Human Resources at the PHCN, Mr. Olusoga Muyiwa.

The minister said to move the sector forward, Jonathan had also appointed the Executive Director, Transmission Services Provider at the TCN, Mr. Olusola Akinniranye, to replace Bada as CEO, while Mr. Evaristus Mogbo is promoted as Market Operator to replace Achinanya. No replacement has been made for the retired HR Director.

Nnaji, who was said to be visibly worried about the worsening electricity crisis across the country in the last three weeks, promised that the Power Ministry would do everything possible to deliver on the president’s mandate of adequate electricity supply to Nigerians. He warned that the reorganisation would continue until the mandate is achieved.

“There will be continuous reorganisation of the industry until we achieve efficiency and effectiveness,” he said at the meeting.

He charged the two appointees to live up to expectation as government was no longer in the mood to tolerate delays in the implementation of the power sector reform.

In attendance at the meeting with the CEOs were the Minister of State (Power), Mr. Darius Ishaku; Chairman of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi; and the new Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Dr. (Mrs) Dere Awosika and other directors of the ministry.

Nnaji, who came back at the weekend from an investment tour of Europe and Asia, expressed disappointment with the CEOs of the successor companies who failed to communicate the issues and prepare the general public for the sharp drop in power supply that hit the nation for some weeks now.

He told the chief executives to henceforth expect a decisive response from government if any of them failed to live up to the service agreements they signed on power delivery.

“We have said it before that you are in charge; you must live up to the responsibility that is given to you or expect to see a reaction for not doing so,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday maintained that its current gas supply to the power plants was adequate and blamed the current crisis on the current state of the national grid.

THISDAY, however, gathered that the inability of the PHCN to pay the huge debts owed the multinational oil companies for gas supplied to its power plants is also a major factor.

The power company is said to be owing Agip N60 billion for gas supplies to its power plant at Okpai in Delta State, which produces 470 megawatts, Shell $78 million and the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of the NNPC, N10 billion for 700 million standard cubic of natural gas supplied.

Nnaji noted that the issue of poor availability of gas to thermal power plants revolves around constraints in gas supply to some of them but that it was not the only and major problem in the sector.

According to him, “I will start with gas; a number of power plants have gas constraints in transportation and some are not getting at all but I wouldn’t want to blame gas as the only reason why we have power problem, it is there and there are some power plants that are not getting gas supply but there are some other reasons.

“The second one has to do with transmission and the management of the transmission networks which actually needs to be looked at and we are not going to allow something that we as the managers of the sector can control to become impediments in delivering electricity to the people of this country.

“This other issue is what one could characterise as sabotage in the system and we really don’t want to think that there are people who wouldn’t want progress of the country but we have to manage those set of issues. As a result of this, we are making some adjustments in the management of PHCN successor companies and system. I want to tell you that we have no choice than to do this because the country must improve in electricity supply and the key to having it will be you and it is how such a quality of management that you bring to bear that will determine that.”

He said henceforth, the country would not tolerate frequent swings in the power supply systems, adding that there must be some level of predictability in the amount of power available for distribution to Nigerians.

Nnaji said: “On the business of ensuring that we have reliable power supply, we cannot afford to have swings in the system; today you get certain amount of power, tomorrow there is another amount, there needs to be predictability; Nigerians need to know what they are getting and we must insist that we do it this way, it’s not going to be anymore however you decide to manage.

“For now, what we want to communicate here is that we are going to vigorously pursue any hindrance to power supply and ensure that we clean out the system. We have to make sure that we deliver more reliable electricity to the country. It is just a few people that internally tried to tinker with the system but we are in a good shape and we are moving forward from there.”

The minister equally pointed out that shortage in water at the dams was affecting power supply in the country, describing the situation as a natural phenomenon.

He added that operations in Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro Dams were affected by limited rainfalls experienced in 2011.“The other one is water problem… the hydros, we have the white floods and the black flood… the white flood will be flood due to rain from within our environment that could raise the water levels for the dams. The black flood will be water that is due to rains that come later in the year at the upper part of the African continent like Mali and Guinea where River Niger reaches. But because of limited rain last year, the black flood did not really arrive. As a result, we have severe limitation with water and that is a natural thing and not that is something anybody can help.

“Because of that, we have had to really be careful as to how water is managed within the hydro plants: Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro. In fact, for Shiroro, power is shut down for most of the day except from 7pm to 10pm when power will be available and this will continue to be so until somewhere around July when we will begin to get the white flood again and this is something that we are going to ask Nigerians to bear with the system; it’s a nature situation, it is not something that we have caused,” he said.

It also emerged yesterday that the current shortage in gas for Nigeria’s power plants and the industrial manufacturing firms was because of diversion to meet demand requirements of Ghana under the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project (WAGPP) scheme. 

THISDAY reported recently that Nigeria planned to boost gas supply to Ghana in line with agreements reached by both countries under WAGPP.

Nigeria had entered into agreement for the supply of between 80 and 123 million standard cubic feet of gas per day to Ghana from January to May this year.However, Nigeria was only able to supply about 40 million to Ghana, a development, which had forced the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to resort to load management in various parts of the country early this year.

Chief Executive Officer of Ghana’s Volta River Authority (VRA) had hinted that the company was unable to meet its generation capacity to satisfy the increasing demand for electricity owing to the erratic gas supply from Nigeria since the beginning of the year.

The agreement to supply gas to Ghana was entered into by the NNPC over 12 years ago as part of its commitment to WAGPP.

The project was however subject to satisfactory supply to the domestic market including the power plants as directed under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. 

Announcing the gas reduction last month, VRA said authorities of Ghana had commenced discussions with its Nigeria counterpart on the need to increase supply from the current 40 million standard cubic feet per day (mscf/d) to the contractual volumes of 100 mscf/d, to enable the company operate all its thermal facilities.

In 2008, about 150 million standard cubic feet of gas (mmscf/d) were mapped out for delivery to Ghana and this was planned to double by the next year to over 300mmscf/d.

Industry stakeholders said it was wrong for Nigeria to be exporting its gas to Ghana to shore up her power generation capability and also boost the country’s industrial sector at the detriment of Federal Govern-ment’s goal for Nigerian economy through power generation.

 

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