The N.C.C Oshogbo Conundrum

CAVEAT: It’s quite possible that I have gotten some facts wrong in the post below. Please feel free to correct me where you spot an error….it’s never easy getting facts out of Nigeria for stuff like this.

Nigeria currently generates electricity through thermal [Egbin, Ughelli, Sapele, Calabar, Ijora…etc] and hydro [Kainji, Shiroro, Oji..etc]facilities.

Like most other aspects of our national infrastructure, neglect and lack of maintenance has been all too obvious and as such the problem, as always, now appears intractable.

It is impossible for any country to serious aspire to development without stable power generation….the core plank of industrial development.
How do you even produce your own food in the 21st century if you do not have electricity?

Epileptic power supply has become the norm rather than the exception in Nigeria today.
In my 30 years as a Nigerian, I have NEVER known uninterrupted power supply in my country.
Even the presidential villa in Aso Rock is known to suffer power outages.

So what do we do to ensure the lights dont go out again and the kids on the street can shout ‘Up NEPA’ for the last time?
Do we generate more electricity?
Do we build more power plants?
Do we import more generators?

First, a basic walkthrough of what’s currently going on.
We operate a power distribution structure that is shambolic at best and primitive at worst.
All electricty generated in Nigeria is routed to the National Control Centre in Oshogbo, Osun State…part of the old Oyo Kingdom.
The electricty is then distributed to all the different parts of Nigeria based on a quota system calculated using stats like land mass, population etc.

Clearly, you can see the problem with an arrangement like the one above.
But that’s not even the half of it.
This formula does mean that Lagos state which produces around 50% of PHCN’s revenues doesnt get anywhere near that amount of electricty from the amount available for distribution.

Welcome to High Voltage Politics.

One of Nigeria’s finest politicians, James Ajibola Ige [SAN]  …The Cicero from Esa-Oke was once charged with the task of sorting out this mess as Minister of Power and Steel.
Some people say it was his attempt at breaking this obvious nonsense that eventually cost him his life.

In any serious country, electricity is used where it is generated. 
This makes all the sense in the world when you consider that it’s quite possible to lose up to 70% of electricty generated during transmission…especially in a country like Nigeria where the national grid is crying out for repairs.

So electricity can be generated at Egbin Thermal Station on  the outskirts of Lagos, fed into the national grid, sent to NCC Oshogbo and then allocated to Bauchi state perhaps.
Because of the high stakes politics being played with the whole power issue in Nigeria, those in charge of maintaining the status quo will rather lose the electricity during distribution than decentralise the NCC.

This also means that building independent power stations might not neccesarily be the solution to the problem as they would simply be doing the nation a favour by feeding the electricity into the national grid to be distributed to God-knows-where.
Except of course a state government is bold enough to somehow go independent of the national grid and use the power it generates.

This was the main reason for the ineffectiveness of the Enron Power Project ….simply because the electricity generated had to be fed into the national grid.
Effectively then Gov Bola Tinubu of Lagos was doing the nation a favour…..what a nice guy.

The Kwara State government has recently had the same issues when it tried to generate power from the Ganmo sub-station.
In one of the more bizarre stories in a nation suffering power supply issues, The NCC, Oshogbo issued a directive to the sub-station not to generate more than 50% of the electricity it was capable of producing.
Power production now has nothing to do with competence and production capacity and all to do with politics and an antiquated quota system.

Incompetence and corruption are so deep rooted in the system that it’s rather difficult to know even where to start from.
You cant simply generate more elctricity and hope for the best….you’ll still have the NCC to contend with.

And so billions  of dollars have been poured into the black hole that PHCN has now become and the lights still go out.
The problem now seems even bigger than the office of the president.
In recently assesing his 8 year tenure as President, Obasanjo recently claimed that provision of stable electricity was not one of the things he was elected to do.
This is a clever way of saying ‘I tried to address the issue but I failed woefully’.

President Yar’Adua is currently, pardon the pun, fumbling in the dark.
After initially talking the talk, he now finds it a rather fearful thing to walk the walk.

Fidel Ramos faced a similar problem in the Phillipine in 1992. The congress of that country went as far as granting the president special constitutional powers to solve the problems.
They clearly saw that this was a huge issue for the country.
By 1994 the power crisis in Phillipines was resolved and Ramos was nicknamed ‘the president who turned on the lights’.
Interestingly, the barges that were used to provide electricty in the interim in the Phillipines while the country fixed it’s power sector were the very same ones that were brought to Lagos to be used in the Enron project…the results were of course different.

We are still doing things the same way and expecting different results….. a foolish consistency is the hobglobin of small minds.

It beats the imagination as to why we are still doing things this way expecially because our infrastructural problems make it a much better idea to transmit whatever electricty we have over much shorter distances for the best effect.

Only a fool will underestimate the craziness of the bureaucratic system in Nigeria at present.
Many many good men have been swallowed by the system, chewed up and spat back out…upon which they are totally unrecognisable from the men they were.

Untangling Nigeria’s power mess is not the job of a minister [as Bola Ige’s experience proved] or even a senate or house committee alone.
Some of the vested interests in the system have been there for so long that progress is virtually impossible with them in the system.
An example [without mentioning his name] is the case of a man who as the minister of power and steel during the transition government of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar.w
After the democratic elections of 1999, this same man accepted what was effectively a demotion as the managing director of NEPA.

Apparently Bola Ige was so irritated by a man who wanted to remain in the system at all costs and a power play ensued.

In 2008 this same man was appointed to head the rebranded PHCN despite widely being criticised as part of the team that ran NEPA into the ground.
He was sacked or he resigned for the umpteenth time again this year.
Dont hold your breath because if the recent past is anything to go by, he will be back again in some capacity as an enemy of progress in Nigeria’s power sector.

It’s worth repeating …. a foolish consistency is the hobglobin of small minds.

And we havent even talked about the diesel and generator business……
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