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Power minister yet to give policy directive after 2 months in office

Two months after assuming office, Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, has not released his policy direction to guide and provide solutions to the troubling…

Two months after assuming office, Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, has not released his policy direction to guide and provide solutions to the troubling power sector.

Daily Trust reports that since the administration of Bola Tinubu was inaugurated, he has embarked on an investment drive to attract foreign investors into the Nigerian economy.

But energy experts have questioned if the overtures to foreign investors would materialise without the country having a stable power supply to cater to electricity consumers.

With previous ministers failing to cure the sector of incessant grid collapses, liquidity issues and the exploitation of customers by the electricity distribution companies through huge bills on estimated billing, it was expected that the minister would have summoned a stakeholders’ meeting to understand the situation on the ground.

They said this should have been the minister’s first step since he does not have much knowledge in the sector having worked in the financial sector.

But his first public outing after his appointment was a visit to his hometown in Oyo State to a rousing welcome by his supporters, having contested in the gubernatorial election in the 2023 elections.

While there, he made several promises that energy experts believed were political avowals that could only be achieved on paper.

For instance, the minister promised to fix the electricity situation in the country within six months and bring the country’s power generation to 20,000 megawatts (MW) from the current 4,500MW.

He also claimed the country has the generation capacity of 17,000 MW even though it is estimated to be between 11,000MW and 13,000MW.

Similarly, he promised to present his holistic plan to address the sector in three weeks but two months after, he has yet to do so.

Daily Trust reports that while the minister has attended two overseas events to canvas for power projects in the country, he had only visited one project belonging to the government, the National Control Centre in Osogbo.

While there, he promised to commission some projects under the FG-Siemens contract on October 26, which is yet to be conducted.

20,000MW generation is political megawatt – Expert

Commenting on the promise by the minister to generate 20,000MW in the next three years and 60,000MW by 2060, the President of Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo, described it as ‘political megawatt’.

Olubiyo said the problem of the sector is not getting the money to finance it, with over $10bn sunk as foreign loans from 2013 to 2023.

He said most of the money was squandered through corruption and other frivolous expenses that led to minimal growth in the sector.

“Instead of investing in low-hanging fruits and quick wins for 15 years, the Nigerian government has not been able to embark on mechanised vegetation control of vegetation encroachment of the national power grid transmission network and with enough resources made available by successive administration, the grid couldn’t procure SCADA, spinning reserves, black equipment, system protective devices, no maintenance and national grid has remained radial instead of ring forms loop,” he said.

He described the minister’s ambition as nothing but a big joke but advised him to sit down and set up his communication and technical team to roll out his work plan and agenda for the power sector as there are lots of jobs to be done.

On his part, the Executive Director of PowerUp Nigeria, an energy consumer advocacy group, Adetayo Adegbemle, said the minister’s little background in the power sector would have required him to first engage stakeholders and speak with them to tell their story and challenges and what is holding them from delivering on their own end.

“The first thing the minister did was to travel to South Korea to attend an energy transmission conference. I am wondering why because we are not energy-sufficient, so, why should we be worrying about transmission.

“In the first one month, what I expected of him was to go round all the installations we have in Nigeria – from the generation, transmission, distribution and the consumers;  he should have sat with everybody to understand the challenges,” he added.

He said the minister should not allow himself to be hijacked by the hawks in the sector.

“Also, the recent grid collapse needs attention and leadership and direction from the minister, but we have not seen him giving orders,” he said.

The CEO at Sage Consulting & Communications, Bode Fadipe, said the minister has to look more closely at what is happening in the sector and quickly make his pilot statement that would give direction as the sector is central to the success of the present administration.

“The president is going all over looking for investors to kick start the economy but where is the power to drive all the investment? I am aware that we never have 4,000MW in the grid at any point in time and for industry to thrive, they need a very cheap source of energy and public power supply remains the cheapest. Even if we are selling at 200 per unit, it is still cheap,” he said.

He added that his attention should not be 100 per cent on those owned by the government.

“By now, I am expecting he should have summoned all the MDs of the DisCos; that is part of the action for him to know their problems,” he said.

Document ready but consultation ongoing with stakeholders – Official

When contacted, on why the minister is yet to release his policy document to provide a view of his plans for the ministry, his Special Adviser on Strategic Communications and Media Relations, Bolaji Tunji, could not be reached when a call was put to his phone.

However, a close source working with the minister, who does not want his name in print as he was not authorized to speak with the media, said the document is ready but the minister is speaking with stakeholders in the sector to get their views on it.

“The minister is a deliberate person, who will not just start making noise without knowing what he will talk about or to impress. He is someone that prefers to understand the terrain and proffer solutions to problems and challenges in the terrain,” the source said.

“There is actually a document but he wants the buy-in of every stakeholder involved so that when it is being implemented, there won’t be any dissenting voice and everybody will be on the same page,” he also stated.

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