1 November 2012

Nigeria: Why Ministers of State for Power, Niger Delta Were Swapped

President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday rejigged his cabinet by swapping the portfolios of two ministers of state.

In the minor cabinet reshuffle announced during the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja, Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, was moved to the Ministry of Power in the same capacity.

Mr. Darius Dickson Ishaku, the Minister of State for Power until the shake-up, will replace Kuchi in the Niger Delta Affairs. The cabinet swap takes effect immediately.

Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said in a statement that the president's decision was taken to strengthen the power sector.

The president also ordered that the council should not receive fresh memos for contracts from November 30.

However, THISDAY checks revealed that the cabinet shake-up was carried out because of Jonathan's dissatisfaction with the performance of Ishaku in the power ministry.

Sources said the president ran out of patience with Ishaku's inability to fully grasp the complexity of the power ministry in the wake of the resignation of Prof. Bart Nnaji last August, which threw him up as the substantive minister in the ministry, albeit in an interim capacity.

Nnaji's sudden exit had created two vacancies in the cabinet, following the sack of the Minister of Defence, Dr. Haliru Bello, along with the then National Security Adviser (NSA), General Patrick Owoye Azazi (rtd), last June, which the president is yet to fill.

The minister has also been accused of an attempt to manipulate the management contract with the Canadian firm, Manitoba Hydro International (MHI), for the running of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

It was gathered that Jonathan finally made up his mind on Tuesday to reassign Ishaku, following increasing complaints of inefficiency in the ministry, continued drop in electricity supply and the poor monitoring of chief executive officers (CEOs) of power generation and distribution companies to ensure that they comply with the schedule on power supply to major cities.

THISDAY had exclusively reported in September that two weeks after Nnaji's exit, homes and factories across the country had started witnessing prolonged blackouts.

It was also gathered that the drop in electricity supply was occasioned by the loss of about 1,100 megawatts (mw) of electricity from the national grid.

This development, it was learnt, had fuelled speculation that the workers of the successor companies of PHCN, who have been celebrating Nnaji's exit, had resorted to their business-as-usual work ethic.

Presidency sources said that the president might have made up his mind to redeploy Ishaku during Tuesday's meeting of the Presidential Action Committee on Power (PACP) when most of the contributions of the minister on the sector he is overseeing were shot down by Jonathan.

The president might also have been dissatisfied with the minister's inability to effectively enforce the implementation of Manitoba's management contract for the running of TCN.

Another source told THISDAY that Ishaku had expressed reservation about certain terms of the management contract and in this regard attempted to change the terms of the recently executed contract.

Ishaku's attempt to tinker with the contract, it was gathered, has been responsible for his reluctance to allow Manitoba to assume the management of TCN.

He, however, stated last week that Manitoba had resumed work at the TCN, a clear contradiction of what actually exists at TCN.

In line with its power sector reform agenda, the Federal Government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had contracted Manitoba after a competitive bidding process, to manage the operations of TCN for three years at a contract sum of $23.72 million (about N3.72 billion).

Upon execution of the management contract, the minister was also supposed to appoint a supervisory board for TCN.

But the sources told THISDAY that Ishaku was dissatisfied with Manitoba taking over strategic positions in TCN, especially that of Market Operator (MO) which he allegedly sought to reserve for a Nigerian and has thus frustrated the Canadian firm.

The MO is technically responsible for the collection of revenue and disbursement across the value chain in Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).

In his response to THISDAY's enquiries on when Manitoba will take over at TCN and over the delay in appointing a supervisory board, Ishaku said: "They have resumed and have started work and so I don't see any problem there. Government will do it in due season."

In a related development, barely five days after the country witnessed two total system collapses, electricity generation has dropped to 3,422.8mw, down from the 4,321.3mw recorded on August 31, 2012, representing a drop of 898.5mw.

Before it dropped to its present level, power generation had previously dropped to 3,649.8mw on Monday, with 1,775.3mw as the lowest amount of electricity for the day.

THISDAY gathered that the electricity supply situation has worsened in recent days with a collapse of the whole electricity system on October 26 and 28, while a partial system collapse was experienced on September 7.

It was learnt that inadequate gas supply, high vibration, high exhaust temperature, brake failure and other technical problems were largely responsible for the failure of some of the units at the power plants.

The daily broadcast obtained on Tuesday from the National Control Centre, Osogbo, revealed that Kainji Hydro Station was performing epileptically, generating 39mw, against its installed capacity of 260mw, while Afam VI in Rivers State was generating 408mw, against 650mw.

Egbin Power Station in Lagos with an installed capacity of 1,320mw and available capacity of 660mw was generating 582mw, while Shiroro was generating 575mw, against 600mw.

The 414mw Geregu plant in Kogi State was generating 276mw, while the Alaoji power plant in Abia State, which recently came onstream, was not generating power at all, as it was still undergoing a pre-commissioning run.

Other stations not generating electricity included the Omoku plant in Rivers State and the Olorunsogo plant in Ogun State.

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