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    Next Administration Must Declare Emergency in Nigeria’s Power Sector, Says Century CEO


    September 30, 2022 - This Day

     

      *Argues many Discos not bankable

      *Insists govt must hands off sector, play regulatory role

      Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

      Chief Executive Officer of Century Power Generation Limited, Dr Chukwueloka Umeh, yesterday said that the next administration in Nigeria must from its first day in office declare a national emergency on Nigeria's crisis-ridden power sector.

      In an interview, Umeh who also serves as an Executive Director of Nestoil Ltd as well as the CEO of Nesto Aviation Services Ltd., warned that the current problems in the sector would continue if the next government fails to deploy professionals to head the ministry of power and its agencies. Nigeria's power sector is beset with weak infrastructure, illiquidity as well as the issue of square pegs in round holes, leaving the country with over 200 million persons with just a meagre 4,000mw.

      The former General Electric Company official stated that Egypt for example, with a about half of Nigeria's population is producing 57,000mw, while Nigeria continues to struggle to produce 4,000 megawatts, describing it as embarrassing and criminal. "We should all hide our heads in shame as a country. Some years ago, Nigeria produced 5000mw and everybody was celebrating. I was like have these people lost their minds?" he said.

      Umeh stated that whoever is the next Nigerian president must understand the critical importance of the sector, cut bureaucracy and free the sector from undue government interference, except in a regulatory role. "It is my hope that whoever is the next president will understand that they need to do something drastically different. They need to be brave. They need to show political bravery and do the right thing.

      "They need to remove government handouts from the industry and just have government as a regulator. The administration needs to make sure that the person in charge of the power industry is somebody that understands the industry. "We don't want just an administrator. We need somebody that clearly understands the industry, somebody like Barth Nnaji who was the minister of power under Goodluck Jonathan , who is a player in the industry.

      "He understood the industry well, and he had the motivation to make it work. So we need somebody like that running the industry. Whoever is the president next year, needs to treat this industry as an emergency. Which means they need to remove all the red tapes stopping things being done quickly," he added. According to the Aerospace Engineer, Nigeria should go beyond mere consultations, committees and conferences to the execution of the blueprint to revamp the sector.

      "We need to quickly remove the government's fingers from every part of the sector: Generation, transmission and distribution, and have those people who are not doing well either removed or they are set clear timelines for to fix the problem.

      "The next administration needs to reduce the regulations that are barring new entrants from coming into the industry," he added. According to Umeh, the Century Power Generation Limited has for years been pursuing a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company Limited (NBET) without success despite the ready international funding for its project in the country.

      "I can tell you today. We have spent about a year or more trying to get approval to move gas on the existing pipeline. It is one meeting after the other. This thing should take about two weeks to do. It is taking over a year and we go to meetings, you speak English, you generate minutes of meetings and reschedule for another one, just talking and wasting resources.

      " So these things need to be made very quick. Remove all the red tape and allow us to do proper business. I tell people it is not rocket science, but even if it is rocket science, we have rocket scientists," he maintained. Today, he said that there are a lot of people in the industry that have no business being in the power industry because they don't understand the sector. "There are a lot of supposed experts that when you speak to them for five minutes, it becomes clear that they don't really know much about the industry," he stressed.

      In the short term, he disclosed that the Century company will keep pushing to have a power purchase agreement signed and executed by the government, while working on utility scale plants that may not be as large as the 1,500mw Okija power plant owned by the company.

      "They are not quite as large as Okija plant. Just about 20 to 100 megawatts to supply directly industrial clusters and Discos, this is what we've been working on doing and to make it in such a way that it will be economically viable to us and to the off-takers," he explained.

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