3 March 2013

Nigeria: Why Power Outage May Persist in FCT


As both day and night time temperatures begin to rise, residents of the Federal Capital Territory are wary of the resultant heat wave bolstered by the frequent power outages also being experienced all around the territory especially in satellite towns. CHIKA OKEKE writes that residents may wait longer for respite as issues relating to power supply seems complicated.

For Mrs Patricia Udeh, a frozen foods dealer at Karu, a satellite town in FCT, the hope of this present administration to restore full power supply in Nigeria may not be achieved because she believes that to some extent, dark forces must be contributing to the power failure that is witnessed in not just FCT alone but in different states across the country.

The mother of four says she no longer depends on public (PHCN) power supply to sustain her frozen food business but on generator which she sees as the only alternative to power generation in Nigeria.

Narrating her ordeal to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY she said, "I have been in this business for more than 5 years but I have never recorded losses as huge as I did this dry season because I relied on public power supply for just three days when my generator broke down.

"I bought over twenty cartons of frozen chicken, turkey and fish. I cleaned my deep freezer thoroughly before freezing the food. That night, the light went off and when my houseboy tried to on the generator, it couldn't start, so he took it to a repairer the next morning.

"Several attempts made by the repairer to start the generator failed, so he told us that we needed to buy another one. But since I was not with enough money because some of my customers bought the last frozen foods I had in stock on credit and were yet to pay; I decided to wait patiently to know if they will bring the light again.

Udeh continued, "On the second day, I bought some ice blocks hoping that it will sustain the meat but I was wrong. That very night, PHCN flashed the light and within five minutes, it went off. By this time, the cartons did not only thaw, the meat changed colour and started smelling.

Asked by this Correspondent if PHCN restored the light the next day? She retorted: "For where, it lasted till after three days before it was restored, so that was how I lost over N150,000 and with that experience, I lost all hope in PHCN.Right now, I have bought a spare generator to supplement the one that I'm currently using. "I am appealing to the authorities entrusted with the management of power supply to work tirelessly and ensure that Nigeria bounces back by providing the citizens with uninterrupted power supply."

Udeh's plight is not different from those of other Nigerians that uses electricity daily for their personal, business and public needs. It would be recalled that out of the five distribution zones of Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Kano created by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to monitor the distribution of electricity in Nigeria; Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (Abuja DISCO) was scheduled to handle states like FCT, Niger, Kogi and Nasarawa States.

Apart from current power outages in FCT, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY discovered that there have been cases of frequent power failure during the dry season which is not just limited to FCT alone but nationwide. The pertinent question on the minds of Nigerians is how long would they continue to pay for darkness and whether there are no immediate solutions to the power challenges?

Dawaki Residents Decry low patronage

A welder at Dawaki extension, Mr Danladi Eggon said that he had been experiencing low patronage due to power failure and called on the government to intervene by restoring the confidence reposed in them by the masses.

"The situation has gone from bad to worse because initially, I make between N4,000 to N5,000 daily but since the beginning of this heat period, I make less than N2,000 and at times, I do not make any money at all. Not because I don't get welding work from my customers but there is no light to do the work. I have not saved enough money to buy big generator, so that is why I am getting frustrated," Eggon lamented.

He, however, appealed to the government to restore the hope entrusted in them by the masses by providing steady power,adding, "I am making a passionate appeal that government should help us with light especially the artisans because a popular adage says that, 'whoever did not work, will not eat."

"Power supply is a national problem and I wonder if this administration will ever meet up with the demands of Nigerians regarding the distribution of steady power supply in every nook and cranny," Ibrahim Mustapha who runs a mini provision shop added.

Mustapha said that he has lost confidence on the restoration of full electricity especially in FCT saying that the power sector is corrupt.

"If residents of FCT are complaining of shortage of power supply, what should residents in other states do because this is the capital of Nigeria? The power sector is very corrupt and that is why every attempt made by successor governments to improve on the power supply failed. My prayer is that one day, Allah will expose anybody that does not want Nigeria to grow," he prayed.

Corruption, Bane Of Power Supply Say Kado Residents

Mallam Yunusa Mohammed is a public servant but works with one of the private organisations at the Central Area. To him, the issue of whether power generation and distribution will increase or not depends largely on the corrupt civil servants that were selected from different states to work in either the power Ministry or parastatals.

Mohammed who recalled how the former Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji was frustrated in the ministry because of his determination to restore the confidence Nigerians reposed in the government stated that there are several mind boggling questions regarding the issue of power supply that have remained unanswered till date.

When he was asked to mention the questions, he said, "They know better and until they are ready to tell Nigerians the truth, I doubt if there will be any reasonable change concerning the distribution of power as well as steady power supply in not just FCT but to other states.

According to Mrs Faith Oghadalor, a stylist; without steady power supply, small businesses cannot grow and that is why industrious Nigerians have relocated their businesses to other African countries where they will get more regular power supply and pay less for darkness.

Oghadalor, a mother of three, lamented that there was no need for the government to invest more on power when the cabals in the sectors are left unchecked. "If any member of the cabal in the power sector had been arrested and tried in the Law court in the past, others will be forced to withdraw from their devilish activities."

Lugbe Residents Seek FCT Intervention

A dry cleaner at Federal Housing Estate Lugbe, Mr Femi Ogunyemi solicited the assistance of the FCT administration towards the restoration of full power supply in the territory, adding that Nigeria should have outgrown power problems and concentrated on developmental projects that would impact on the lives of the residents.

"Though the power problem remains unsolved now but I am hopeful that one day, we will surely recover our lost glory as the giant of Africa and make certain changes that will stand for generations yet unborn. All the same, I am appealing to the FCTA to wipe out this shame in FCT by ensuring that the residents have access to a 24-hour uninterrupted power supply."

For me, "Nigeria is still far from development because apart from the problems in the power sector, Nigeria is yet to get to a level where the unemployed graduates will get employment easily without being mandated to pay bribe," Mrs Nelly Ifeanyi- Thomas who deals on clothing's at Wuse market but resides in FHA added.

She expressed concern that despite huge amount of money sunk into the sector, residents were yet to enjoy uninterrupted power supply as promised by the government.

"Government has really invested in the power sector but the situation gets worse every day by day. The most painful aspect is that PHCN wouldn't even care whether there was light or not but whenever the months ended, they would go round to distribute bills without reading the metres. They have promised us heaven on earth and yet we are still contending with power inadequacy".

We Are At The Mercy Of Generators- Jikwoyi Residents

Rita-Maria Umeh, a civil servant at Jikwoyi, another satellite town in FCT, recalled the fact that the federal government announced an increment in electricity tariff to be effective by June 1, saying that history has repeated itself again.

"When the announcement was made, we were told that the urban poor and rural dwellers will pay less for electricity because the federal government subsidised power with N50 billion, I doubted the genuineness of their claims that there will be steady power supply. What is happening today, the same old story, 'no light or we are working to address the problems'.

"You can also see how the distribution of pre-paid meters ended and with that experience, do you think that there will ever be steady power supply in FCT? The answer is no."

To Mrs Wendy John, a housewife, "it's quite shameful because I don't know if we will ever get things right in Nigeria. Jikwoyi have suffered power problem for so long and I don't even think that the government is willing to address it.

"Power supply problems cannot be surmounted easily because all the sectors in this country are very corrupt including the power sector. They (PHCN) bring the light and within 10 minutes, it goes off and its even worst in this area because we hardly boil a kettle of water using electricity," she explained

Load Shedding Responsible For Power Failure - Abuja DISCO

The Principal Manager, Public Affairs Department of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (Abuja DISCO), Mr Debo Adegoke said that the reason behind shortage of power supply in FCT was as a result of load shedding from the national grid adding that it was a national problem and not peculiar to FCT alone.

"There is no peculiar problem than what is being mentioned but it cuts across all areas in FCT. What is really happening is that we are experiencing load shedding which is a National problem. But this load shedding is grid load shedding because whenever we do not have the dual mega watts that we need, we have to resort to sharing whatever is given to us from the National grid. So these areas (Lugbe, Dawaki, Karu, Kado estate) are mostly affected by the load shedding.

FCT Needs Over 200 Megawatts Daily

The Abuja DISCO image maker, however, noted that over 200 megawatts was needed for the residents of FCT to enjoy uninterrupted power supply and further stressed that the current work at the transmitting station was another factor that contributed to power failure.

"To boost power supply in FCT on a daily basis, it requires between 200 to 300 megawatts to be on full load but as it is now, we don't get up to that. There are times when things may get bad and we may not even get at all and that results to load shedding.

"There is also a project going on at the transmitting station, so that's why some areas do not have light during the working hours.

They have to take off light in order for the contractor to work. Currently, there is an ongoing installation on of some of the power equipment and maintenance work being carried on other equipment. So, I can confirm that there is a progressive work going on in our transmitting station at Katampe District.

Residents Should Be Patient And Calm

He appealed to the residents to be patient adding that when completed, the project would boost power supply in FCT particularly at the city centre.

"We are appealing to the residents to be calm and bear with us while these projects are ongoing. Like I said that there is a progressive work going on in our transmitting station because they are projects that are expected to boost power supply for the residents of FCT but in Abuja township particularly; once these projects are completed, people will begin to see improved power supply.

On the expected date for the completion of the projects, he said, "I don't know because I am not the contractor and that is another area. We are just the distribution company but we have three sections namely; generation, transmission and distribution.

We are at the distribution end but the activities of the others affect us because we are the ones giving out the light, so I wouldn't know exactly when it will end but all I know is that when it's completed, there will be improvement in power supply, so we are appealing that they should bear with us. There is no gain without pain.

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