12 December 2012

Nigeria: North's Biggest Power Headache


Reading Daily Trust's story on the constraints against the 300 megawatts power plant in Kaduna yesterday leaves one at a loss on whether to laugh or cry. How else does one react when you hear that several years after a project that is supposed to power the much needed industries in Northern Nigeria, all you get are wattage of excuses and missteps?

Instead of the light that could bring back the comatose industries to life, we are now told that the turbines that will be used in the Kaduna power plant are marooned at the Onne Port in Port Harcourt for nearly 2 years now.

The turbines manufactured by the big American electric company, General Electric are held up in Port Harcourt and attracting demurrage because the existing road network cannot support the transportation of the heavy turbines. It is surprising that those who ordered for these heavy pieces of equipment did not bother to ask themselves how they could be transported inland to Kaduna. And now 2 years after their arrival in Nigeria, government officials are still at a loss on how to move them to site. The problem does not end there as there is also the "small" matter of fuelling them. It appears that the whole idea of building the power project in Kaduna is because of access to the so called black oil produced by the refinery there. Specialists from General Electric have just found out that the Kaduna refinery does not refine so well. Thus the black oil it produces is not so fine because of the state of the refinery in spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on it in the name of Turnaround Maintenance (TAM).

The good news for the public relations unit of the Kaduna refinery, who may be asked to deny this claim, is that they are not alone in failing the test of quality of their product as the GE engineers are saying that no products from the local refineries are good enough. Now even when the question of transporting the giant turbines to Kaduna is answered, the federal ministry of power and Kaduna state will also have to find a way of transporting about 30 trailer loads of imported black oil to Kaduna on a daily basis, if this power project is to produce the necessary megawatts of electricity for which it was conceived. Do not be surprised if when all that is done, we are told that the necessary transmission lines to evacuate the power and distribute it to where it is needed have not been thought of until then. After all is it not when all the much hyped Niger Delta Power Projects have been completed that it was discovered that no pipelines have been built to take the gas they need to power them?

Niger/Yobe tango

Like most observers of the political scene, Candid Joe was not surprised when a verbal war broke out between the Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu and his Yobe counterpart, Ibrahim Geidam. There is no doubt that the Niger state governor fits the definition of a politician as someone who approaches every issue with an open mouth. It appears that the temptation to live by that definition got the better part of the servant governor when he commented on a newspaper report which claimed that many Yobe government officials "have given up" and are operating out of Kano and Jigawa states because of the Boko Haram insurgency in their state. It is clear that the Yobe state governor did not find the Chief Servant's intervention amusing. His press office has since bought pages in several newspapers to condemn the governor for his 'indiscretion'.

It is surprising that somehow, for once, the Niger governor has lost his voice or at least he is behaving uncharacteristically. In the paid advertisement, the Niger governor is said to have said "I wasn't happy when I read in the newspapers that in Yobe state, the legislators and the commissioners were moving to Jigawa. Is it true Gwamnan Jigawa? It is true! That means we are already giving up, because if the governmental institutions moved, it means those who are after us have defeated us and have taken over. What is the best way out? How do we arrest the situation because if governmental institutions in Yobe moved, then it means gradually we will begin to move..?"

It is good that as Chairman of the Northern Governors' Forum, the Niger governor has not escalated the verbal war but one can say that as in all wars, the truth may not be on just one side. While it may hurt for one governor to go public on a touchy issue, there is no denying the serious challenges in Yobe. It does not inspire confidence to see governors squaring up publicly when they are expected to be putting heads together to find a solution at a regional level or lobbying the federal authorities to take the issue seriously.

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