24 January 2013

Nigeria: How Communities, Vandals Frustrate Uninterrupted Power Supply

The effort of the federal government to provide uninterrupted power supply may be suffering from the acts of sabotage by miscreants who vandalise power project installations. CHIKA OTUCHIKERE x- rays the problem.

Apart from the perceived lack of political will and corruption which made it impossible to provide uninterrupted power by successive governments, miscreants and petty thieves are presently posing their own obstacle to actualise the vision and action plan of the present government on power supply for all.

Contractors handling some of the power project contracts are already lamenting that unless government and the security agencies provide adequate security at the sites of such projects, vandals and miscreants would continue to put clogs in the wheel of the progress of the projects.

According to them, whenever it seems as if they have completed a particular phase of the job and planning to move into the next phase vandals would come in to vandalise and steal some of the already installed electrical equipment. This, they lament, force them to go back to the vandalised phase to begin all over. In the process, they lament, the time expected for the completion of the project is delayed.

They lament that the vandalisation of the electrical equipment also affect the cost of completing the project as they have to go back to repurchase the stolen electrical gadgets and repeat the process of installing the equipment. They affirm that the cost of purchasing usually rises in line with the rising cost of living.

The managing director of CREDCO, a power transmission and distribution firm, Engr. Barny Ojiah, who spoke with LEADERSHIP on the problem of vandals said unless the government and security agencies wade into the problem the vision of achieving uninterrupted power supply may remain a mirage. "We are involved in some projects across the country on power transmission essentially.

We're assisting the federal government to realise the power supply need of Nigerians. We have been doing it for virtually over a decade and quite a lot of completed projects to our credit. We have been doing it and as a frontline indigenous company, we want to show every dint of perfection to prove to the federal government that there is the need to patronise indigenous companies.

"At the moment we are doing a power evacuation project from Seleja to Gwagwalada but we are still facing the challenge of trust. Government does not believe that an indigenous company can do it. It is only when they try people like us that they are encouraged.

"The other issue we are facing and of course, it is really embarrassing us and the federal government. The issue of vandalisation. Power projects are capital intensive. When you put these together and midway somebody comes in and puts it down, its a major setback. For instance, we have been on this project on the Suleja-Gwagwalada point of connection. The 1,3,2 is in Suleja and the federal government has awarded the contract through PHCN to evacuate this power and end it up in Gwagwalada.

"Right now Gwagwalada is in a serious power challenge and of course, that's the seat of a lot of federal government agencies and power is an issue. So in their wisdom this project has been awarded and we have not been able to deliver because every segment of the project our equipment are vandalised. You can see what we are going through on the site.

"At a point, the community people were asking for compensation to allow the light pass and we thought that was the issue. Through the magnanimity of the CEO of PHCN, Mr Abdul-Ganiu Umar he caused some compensation to be paid to them.

We thought that would give us some respite to really get the work done but as I talk to you now over 56 number of poles have been brought down for whatever reason, I don't know they cart away the iron rods and all of that and theses issues are there.

"I'm happy police has been able to arrest a suspect, and investigation is being carried out. As soon as these people give way and become good citizen we are going to record an improvement in the power situation in Gwagwalada and its environ, he said.

Ojiah who affirmed that there is already improvement in power supply in the country however called on Nigerians to be patient and protect these installations averring that it is a major set back for both the contractor handling the job and the federal government which gave the contract.

"Its a major setback, like what I have just told you. Now we are working and some hooligans just go and vandalise. These are things that are not taken in perspective in Europe and other parts of the globe. Communities should protect these projects because it's meant for them. They should not see it as government project, it is their own, they should allow it to be completed.

We are just short-changing ourselves, we must understand this, the government is our government essentially." He said.

According to the engineer, the reason why the vandals continue to thrive is because when they steal the electrical equipment they have ready buyers who patronise the stolen items.

"These vandals in most cases see it as a lucrative trade vandalising public properties and taking them away to steal. I think we have to appeal to the police to help government in curbing this vandalism.

Where there are no buyers who buy stolen equipment they would not want to go and vandalise these properties.

"We need to cooperate with government. What I am complaining now is what other power project contractors are complaining too. The major problem is vandals. We need to assist the government. Let's do community policing if you see somebody doing something that is odd with the power lines you need to ask questions, involve the police because we need to protect these lines if we must realise the power needs of Nigerians", he said.

Taking a similar stance, project engineer of the Suleja- Gwagwalada power evacuation project, Engr. Francis Obami, gave a breakdown of the cost of the vandalised poles. "This project came up last year, presently we are progressing, we are at Tunga Maja, a stone throw from Gwagwalada. But all along the line we've been having a lot of vandalisation and we've lost a huge sum.

"Initially, it was the electrical conductors that were stolen and we have lost over 10,000 metres of it but the most astonishing part of it now is that they now hack down the poles, our dressed poles are brought down, broken and the reinforced rods are taken away. The cost of dressing a pole is so enormous.

The poles alone cost over N50,000 it has a fibre cross arm and that's the modern instrument used to hold the port insulators. There are other nuts and implements used to connect to the poles and all these cost money and we have lost over 50 numbers of these poles and each time this happened, we are taken back to where we had finished before," he lamented.

He advised government to put machinery in place to address the problem of vandalism. "So if we want to realise the government's vision of uninterrupted power then all hand must be on deck the community themselves must be involved to see that this project is completed.

Obami disclosed efforts they make to carry the community along in the execution of the contract. "In any community we go to we pay courtesy call on the traditional ruler and even take another measure to reach out to the police because they are in charge of security in those area.

Everybody is taken along in this project. Even in some cases we involve the community youths because where ever we are, we make use of the youths there so that they will be part of it and yet, we still suffer from the vandals," he said.

The Police Force Spokesman, Mr Frank Mba who reacted to the problem faced by the power project contractors said the police is making every effort to ensure that the environment is safe for hard working Nigerians.

"I can tell you that we are aware of the menace of these vandals and our commands and divisions are always on their track. At regular interval arrested vandals are paraded and charged to court. I agree with you that the communities need to complement the efforts of the law enforcement agencies so that the country can be free of such miscreants," he said.

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