Barth Nnaji, Nigeria’s former power minister Thursday called for the segmentation and subsequent privatisation of the nation’s power transmission lines to competent hands to improve electricity supply and check national grid breakdown.
The former minister, while delivering a presentation at a public discourse; `The Big Ideas Podium’, said that with competent companies handling transmission and with a reasonable mandate and time-line, they would improve the capacity, which would then aid the evacuation of more power as well as allow the power generating stations to work at full capacity.
“When segmented, the lines should be privatised to renowned electricity transmission companies that have the competence to manage it and expand on it as agreed,’’ Nnaji said.
Nnaji explained that the transmission company of Nigeria (TCN) was not privatised initially due to open access issues as government wanted the power generating companies to easily upload power to the national grid.
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He noted that for a country of about 190 million people to be generating and using an average of 4,500 megawatts of electricity was “very bad’’.
According to him, the abysmal electricity production and transmission have continued to breed low productive capacity.
“We need reliable electricity for economic growth. Electricity is all pervading in an economy. Reliable electricity leads to stability of the nation. Economic growth and stability lead to unity,’’ he said.
Nnaji enumerated some of the contemporary challenges facing electricity investors, which include non-permanent cost reflective tariff, issue of gas availability to turbines and transmission constraints.
Other challenges, he said, include the value-chain of power misalignment, lack of commercial knowledge of government functionaries to electricity issues and lack of will to enforce contracts, laws and policies in the sector.
On power generation, Nnaji, a professor of robotic engineering, said that the country needed clusters of independent power projects (IPPs) as well as other clusters of investment in all aspects of the electricity sector.
He pointed out that low electricity supply has retarded growth of the informal and small business sectors and made cost of energy to rise up to 40 percent of total production alone, which weakened the international competitiveness of Made-in-Nigeria products.
The public discourse, which was themed: “Electricity: Key Ingredient for Nigeria’s Economic Development and Unity’’, was orgainsed by African Heritage Institution (Afri-Heritage).
Also speaking, Chukwuma Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said that the public discourse was organised to open people’s consciousness to come out with big ideas that could move Nigeria forward.
Soludo commended Nnaji for his investment in the sector, especially in Geometric Power, Aba; where Nnaji displayed his ingenuity and mastery of robotic engineering to create a difference.
“To develop Nigeria as well as transform the South-east, those who knows what to do must step out of their shelves,” he said, adding that if Nigeria’s electricity challenge were to be fixed, Nnaji must be instrumental especially as he got a verifiable example with his Geometric Power Project.
Soludo, who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afri-Heritage, said that there was a nexus between electricity and the structure of any country; adding that the manufacturing sector had remained under-productive, accounting for only seven percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
On the theme of the public discourse, he noted that the current urban drift would cause huge population in urban centres where it would not be long before they start looking for jobs.
“It is only the manufacturing sector that could easily provide jobs for such a teeming population at the urban centres. These manufacturing companies need reliable electricity for production and to keep the workers,” he noted.
He stressed that if there is no electricity for the companies and no job, it would not be long for all sorts of social problems like kidnapping, restiveness and social vices to manifest.
African Heritage Institution (Afri-Heritage), formerly known as African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE), undertakes economic discourses, conducts economic and political policy research, facilitates policy advocacy, training, networking and consulting services.