By Innocent Obasi
Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA), a regulating agency for the safety of the power sector in Nigeria, began a nationwide audit of the facilities operated by electricity distribution companies (DisCos) on Tuesday.
The agency, which is in charge of enforcing technical standards and laws in the nation, stated that the development was a result of efforts to pinpoint weak spots at the points where the DisCos and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) are connected in order to ramp up supply across the country.
The activity, which took the agency to the Abuja Energy Distribution Company (AEDC), also signalled the take-off of a task force to monitor and evaluate the existing electricity network in order to reduce the usage of substandard electrical supplies and equipment in Nigeria.
Speaking at the AEDC headquarters in Abuja, Aliyu Tahir, chief electrical inspector of the federation and managing director of NEMSA, explained that the action would help to identify the issues at the points where the transmission and distribution networks converge that are impeding the smooth delivery of electricity in the nation.
He also mentioned that the terms of reference of the task force, which would collaborate with the internal team set up by the AEDC, would involve helping to assess the 33kV “feeder by feeder” capacity to see whether it was adequate to handle the downstream loads of the various distribution networks.
He said that one of the goals would also be to assess the 33/11kV injection substation condition with regard to operational safety, the provision of safe and dependable power to the 11kV feeders, and technical manpower sufficiency and capability.
The audit, he added, will reliably pinpoint vegetation and constructions that are encroaching on the main distribution feeder lines’ right of way in DisCos’ franchise areas.
According to Tahir, recommendations for the removal and follow-up will be fulfilled while pointing out any poor electrical materials or equipment in the network.
“Some other objectives of the audit will be to check for any other encumbrances that are hindering smooth power flow from transmission substations to distribution networks,” he said.
He said that NEMSA is aware of a number of facilities that were put into service without its inspection, testing, or certification, which it intends to correct through the nationwide audit.
He urged AEDC to make sure that it carefully examined each NEMSA competency certificate or, if it was practicable, to write to NEMSA to have the competency certificates authenticated before giving a permit to construct approval.
“AEDC should strengthen the planning and construction department/unit and making sure they carry out inspection of all sites and ensure there is adequate corridor for such electricity project before issuing permit to construct,” Tahir said.
“There should be a well-planned, designed and executed electrical installation works that would stand the test of time to reduce electrical accidents, electrocution and electrical fires in AEDC electricity networks,” he said.
At the Kukwaba substation, where the activity started, Tahir said that some of the problems the task force aimed to fix might have resulted in system disturbances in recent months.
He described it as a unique assignment and noted that part of the reference was to assess the injection substations’ operational safety, ability to deliver dependable power to the feeders, and technical manpower readiness.
“The task force will also check if there are other encumbrances which are hindering reliable power from transmission substations as well as check electrical installations that are energised without the statutory inspection, testing and certification,” he said.
He noted that no DisCo was required by law to install equipment without first having it inspected, tested, and certified by NEMSA, the only organization with the authority to do so.
The regulatory authority will collaborate closely with state governments and the federal capital administration to guarantee that illegal structures and right-of-way issues are handled, Tahir stated, adding that installations must be performed by certified workers.
To emphasize that the area they were occupying was illegal, he urged AEDC to cut power to any constructions obstructing the right of way.
Adeoye Fadeyibi, AEDC’s managing director, promised the DisCo’s cooperation and noted that AEDC had made significant progress in addressing the issues raised by NEMSA.
“We will ensure only licensed contractors are allowed to work. In terms of planning and construction. We are also looking strongly at the predictive inspection,” Fadeyibi said.
He said that AEDC also conducted an audit of its installations and emphasized the fact that improper installations have an adverse effect on DisCos.
“We will also carry out the disconnection of banned structures, which would be led by the task force,” he said.
Usman Momoh, assistant general manager of NEMSA’s technical inspectorate services, is in charge of the task force, which will visit all 11 DisCos.