Power is the key to the development of our country. Ditto for every country. Electricity is the universal key for unlocking the doors of industrial growth and development. No nation with low power generation and weak distribution machinery can make rapid economic and technological progress.
Until now, we as a nation have toyed with our power sector. No government before the current democratic dispensation found it necessary to treat the development of the sector as a priority and thus address the rot bedeviling it for decades. President Goodluck Jonathan seems to have done an accurate diagnosis of the malady that had crippled the power sector and found for it the right medication. That medication, packaged as the Power Road Map, is proving an effective remedy for an obviously embarrassing national morass.
There is now considerable improvement in power generation and distribution; and consumers’ hope for better days ahead has been rekindled. A lot has happened and a lot more is expected to happen in the power sector given the huge amount of financial investment being currently committed to it. Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku, Minister of State for Power, who is currently driving the federal government’s power rejuvenation programme, has used every opportunity he has had to inform Nigerians that the dawn of the era of stable power has finally come.
Monday September 24 at the launch of the Graduate Skills Development Programme of the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN) in Abuja, was one of such occasions. Speaking on the nation’s power dream and the expected explosion in the sector, he told Nigerians that the time of exhilaration was already here. The envisaged power explosion would be far more monumental and beneficial to the country and its people than what has happened in the telecommunications sector following its deregulation. Ishaku wants Nigerians to prepare themselves for this explosion and to take advantage of it to develop their businesses and create employment opportunities.
The Graduate Skills Development Programme, designed by NAPTIN for engineering graduates, is one of the ways the Ministry of Power is preparing for the power explosion. It is an intensive one year programme to equip participants with the practical knowledge needed for them to meet the needs of the new power dispensation in the country. Two hundred and forty young engineers, including five women, are taking part in the programme. All states in the federation are represented in the scheme, which Ishaku said was a pointer to NAPTIN’s readiness to take engineering training to higher grounds as the nation prepares for an era of stable power supply.
Many other stakeholders in the power sector spoke glowingly of NAPTIN’s training scheme. They included Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, Head of Service of the Federation, who said the NAPTIN’s training programme was a product of foresight and urged participants not to allow the investment in their training to end up a waste of effort and resources.
Reuben Okeke, Director General of NAPTIN, said the process of selecting participants for the training was rigorous and transparent and those who finally made it were among the best engineering graduates in the country. James Abiodun Olotu, chief executive officer of Niger Delta Power Holding Company, (NDPHC), said access to electricity had become a basic human requirement worldwide and argued that any step that could lead to stability in electricity supply should be encouraged. The NAPTIN’s graduate scheme, he said, was one of such efforts that could help in enhancing and consolidating stability of electricity supply in Nigeria by providing the human resources needed to operate, maintain and manage infrastructural back-up for the new power dream.
On September 25, another fundamental step towards actualising the nation’s power dream, the opening of bids earlier submitted by companies wishing to be part of the new power dispensation in the country, was taken. The privatisation of the power sector is a critical focus of the Power Road Map. Under the programme, power generation, transmission and distribution are to be placed in the hands of private companies. This led to the involvement of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), which earlier called for expression of interest from companies wishing to be part of the process.
That process yielded its first fruits on that day with the emergence of Transcorp, CME/EURAFRIC Energy, Amperion Power Distribution Limited, Mainstream Energy Solutions and North South Power as preferred bidders for the nation’s six power generating companies located in Sapele, Ugheli, Geregu, Kainji and Shiroro. All the companies are together bringing into the sector over $1 billion of investment.
In a few weeks from now, companies that would acquire and run the other arms of the electricity chain would be known through a similar process. This would complete a process that would put the power sector operations in the hands of private companies and the nation can then sit back and watch the transformation of the sector happen.
And, as Ishaku has always said, the process would have prepared Nigeria to take its proper place in the comity of nations that has attained the enviable status of self-sufficiency in electricity. But Ishaku is not oblivious of the fact that even with the efficiency that private participation would bring to bear on the power sector, self-sufficiency in electricity will not happen in one day soon.
Alechenu, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja