As part of the measures to address the problems facing contractors as a result of the frivolous demands of communities hosting transmission routes, state governors have taken over the acquisition of lands for the Right of Way (ROW) of ongoing transmission projects, under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), THISDAY has learnt.
Similarly, President, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr. Mustapha Balarabe Shehu, at the weekend, advocated a paradigm shift from the annual budgetary funding mechanism to about five to 10 years funding structure in the procurement of power generation infrastructure by government at all levels.
Under the NIPP, which is being funded jointly by the federal, states and local governments, 10 power stations are being built to generate a total of 4,802.5megawatts of electricity.
About 1,737.7kilometres of 330KV lines and 940 kilometres of 132KV lines are also being added to the grid as new transmission infrastructure, under the NIPP.
On power distribution, the projects under the scheme, include the addition of new 3,540MVA injection capacity; 2,666 kilometres of 11KV lines and 1,701 km of 33KV lines, as well as the supply of 22,598No 25KV and 50KV distribution transformers, including Completely Self-Protected (CSP) transformers.
It was gathered that after compensations have been paid by the contractors to communities, new shrines emerge over-night and the communities will give fresh conditions for the shrines to be removed.
The development, it was learnt, prompted a recent stakeholders' meeting where it was resolved that the state governors as the chief security officers of their states should be involved in the acquisition of land for the contractors.
Chairman of the NIPP contractors, under the aegis of Electric Power Foundation of Nigeria (EPFN), Mr. Otis Anyaeji, told THISDAY, at the weekend, that by the new arrangement, contractors would no longer acquire lands directly from the communities.
"As the chief security officers of the states, the governors will also help to minimise rampant cases of double dealings, where more than one group show up to claim ownership of land. Double dealings could only happen if contractors go directly to the people to negotiate for land. But when the governors are involved, only the rightful owners of the land will show up. The governors will also help to reduce the frivolous demands of the communities," he said.
He said the decision to get the governors involved was reached at a recent meeting at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
THISDAY gathered that some of the governors present at the meeting, which also had the Governor of Rivers State and Chairman of Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF), Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, in attendance, alleged that they were sidelined by the contractors, who negotiated for lands directly with the communities.
But a source privy to the meeting told THISDAY that the governors that made the allegation were not yet governors in 2005 and 2006 when negotiations with the communities started, adding that the governors as at that time were all involved.
Meanwhile, Shehu while speaking in Abuja, during a courtesy visit to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr. Olusola Akinniranye, said a new cycle of funding structure would lead to sustain investment in the sector which would in turn ensure proper completion of power projects in the country.
According to him, the annual budgetary structure did not allow for effective and adequate funding of power projects in the country.
Shehu said: "The nature of power projects are such that designs and construction stages normally exceed two to three years and the whole project cycle can be up for five years, conservatively from feasibility to detailed design and construction."
The President explained that the annual budget were coming with great deal of uncertainty, particularly in dwindling budgetary allocation from government due to competing needs.
"That does not mean that there are no slippages in project schedule but we are moving on steadily. We are also encountering problem of poor performance by some contractors but we are addressing such problems by getting that particular projects re-assigned to some other more competent contractors," he said.
Anyaeji, however, stated that the NIPP contractors were making progress in generation, transmission and distribution projects.
Anyaeji said before the end of the year, Nigerians would begin to enjoy the benefits of the completed projects.
The contractors had raised the alarm over auctioning of imported NIPP equipment by the ports authorities and undue delay in the clearance of the equipment.
The contractors also alleged that security agents delayed the movement of the equipment on the roads, citing an instance where a truck load of transformers heading to Bayelsa State for NIPP project was once offloaded on the orders of the operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
Anyaeji, however, noted that the problems of the contractors were being addressed by the government.
He added that inadequate funding often result in delayed payment to contractors and consultants; frequent project argumentation; delayed project completion, and late payment penalties from the contractors' financiers.
To mitigate the problems, Shehu suggested that the Federal Ministry of Power or the TCN in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance should consider a shift from the yearly financial budgeting mechanism for projects with construction duration that transcends annual budget process.
Apart from the funding structure, the NSE President said other areas of interest to the Nigerian Engineers are the guidelines given in the advertisement of Power Projects as the requirements often preclude the Nigerian professional ab-nitio.
She said: "For the country to have sustainable growth in infrastructure, there must be a deliberate policy of preferential patronage to Nigerian Contractors and consultants in the power sector projects."
He expressed optimism that the TCN would deliver on its mandate adding that availability of power would generate multiple wealth creation effects in the country, reduce unemployment through increase in small scale businesses and reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria, adding that the objective of NSE was to promote the advancement of engineering education, research and practice in all its ramifications, with a view to maintaining and enhancing the professional capabilities of its members.
In his remarks, Akinniranye said he was elated that Shehu understood the problems facing the power sector and assured Nigerians that the company would continue to encourage local contractors, where they have the capacity.
He expressed concern over the failure and non-performance of some indigenous contractors in the past.
On the system of procurement, which he attributed as hampering the investment drive in the power sector, Akinniranye said something drastic should be done to allow mobilisation of about 70 per cent of funds on award of contracts in the sector.
He called on the NSE to lead the campaign to seek a change in the funding profile of power projects in the country.
According to him, the way forward for local contractors is to partner foreign counterparts especially where technical expertise and funds are needed.