Ahmed Bolaji Nagode is the Acting Director General, National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN). In this interview, Nagode says the institute is gradually becoming a hub for training of African electricity personnel.
There are some Liberia Electricity Corporation staff currently undergoing training in your institute. In what capacity is this taking place?
We have some staff of Liberia Electricity Corporation undergoing training in NAPTIN. As you know, NAPTIN is a capacity building institute of the power sector in Nigeria but our activity goes beyond Nigeria. With the mandate to build human capacity in the power sector based on our pedigree, we have been doing this for years in Nigeria and because of the level of achievements, we have extended this beyond the shores of Nigeria.
We have partnership with the West African Power Pool to train the staff of Liberia Electricity Corporation, who are presently here in Nigeria, on different skills such as system operation, distribution, customer service and others. So far so good, we are having 80 of them in training; we are taking them in batches. We are already on the third batch. We have two batches left before the commencement of election. We have decided to have them in batches so as not to in any way disturb their operations in their own country. We cannot bring all the staff out at once and it has been a very smooth operation. We are having it in Lagos and also in our Regional Training Center (RTC) in Kanji.
We are doing this because we want people to see what West African Power Pool is doing in building human capacity in the power sector in the West African sub-region. West African Power Pool is the creation of West African nations to build a common electricity market and to magnify the electricity market across the countries and they have been doing that. One of the components of the assignment is to also build human capacity in the power sector to ensure quality of electricity to be generated, transmitted and distributed, because manpower is very key; it drives all the networks. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is sponsoring this particular programme.
Apart from staff of Liberia Electricity Corporation which other West African country are you looking at?
We have equally had the opportunity to train staff of VRE and GRECO in Ghana and this partnership has really exposed us to the electricity system of Ghana, and how we can proffer solution to them but we are looking forward to going beyond that. We are looking forward to train the staff of Gambia Electricity Corporation, we are looking forward to training the staff of Sierra Leone and probably after we must have developed our language lab, we will look at the French speaking countries in West Africa.
We have partnership with Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA). Under APUA, we have trained staff of electricity companies in Nigeria i.e. Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and the distribution utilities. Last year we trained altogether about 600 staff of the utilities in Nigeria. So, we are looking forward to extending our activities to Gambia and as a big brother, Nigeria has a role to play in giving support to all these countries to ensure that they have stability and quality electricity supply and to ensure that we play our own part in achieving a common market for electricity, whereby you can be in Gambia and buy power in Nigeria.
That is the ultimate goal – to have a common market – and this will help us to utilise our potentials in the West African sub-region.
How do you follow up on these trainings?
What we do is after training, we have an opportunity to visit Liberia to really find out what is going on in terms of the impact of the training on the staff and then the impact on the productivity when it comes to electricity in Liberia because definitely the training is aimed at building a very vibrant, efficient and effective work force that will be able to deliver the power needs of the countries.
Again, we are going to visit Liberia, we have done it before, we were in Liberia in April last year to do presentation of certificates and also to seize the opportunity to visit their power infrastructure and then have an interface with those staff that have come to Nigeria for training.
Who fund the training?
The project is under the West African Power Pool but supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB). There was another one we organised in collaboration with a French agency for development which is an international body that looks at the relationship between France and other countries.
Under the Muhammadu Buhari government, we are opportune to really have funding from AfDB, and from France due to bilateral relationship between the Nigerian government and the French government to transform educational training in the power sector. It is a very massive infrastructural fund that has been made available to us. We have completed all the due processes and we have already started the draw down and this will definitely transform the face of vocational training in Nigeria. It will not only improve the power delivery but will equally provide jobs for the teeming Nigerians and especially, we are very gender sensitive for women.
So, by the time the programme comes on board, there will be opportunity for young Nigerians to build career in the Nigerian power sector, because jobs will be available and we are extending it to boost renewable energy which we know very well is the future of energy, that is delivery in terms of power that is envisioned to make renewable energy 30% in a 30,000MW proposed delivery.
One thing that is important in renewable energy is that it creates a lot of jobs and that will be a good opportunity for Nigerians to have jobs. Funding for that is coming from the French government. For that, I must really commend the efforts of President Buhari for making that available under the leadership of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola. This is really going to build the power sector in Nigeria.
When are we expecting the programme to kick off?
We have already started. We have signed an agreement with the project and the implementation group that are going to run it because we did a kind of international procurement process to meet international standard through competitive bidding process. The project will come in different forms. There will be more courses to be run by NAPTIN that will create room for majorly all skills in the power sector and beyond. For instance, IT skills acquisition will be part of it. We have various courses in the areas of operational maintenance in the power sector. There will be a phase for curricular development, there will be a phase of the project that will be looking at infrastructural development whereby we will have more demonstration plans and more training facilities.
There will also be a phase that will focus on developing our faculties to ensure that we have suitable faculties that will warehouse the project in terms of marketing department, technical areas department at the faculty and non-technical departments.
How do you intend to source for students and how many students are you expecting?
We did a feasibility study because for a developed nation to fund such a project, it must be viable. So, they carried out the feasibility study and they discovered that the project is viable, looking at the critical mass of Nigerian population that will definitely attract the market. We have centres in all the six geo-political zones and we intend to draw trainees from all the geo-political zones.
We will have a very well laid out marketing strategy to ensure that we bring in hands that will carry the power sector from all the zones where we have our centres. A lot of projects are coming up both in renewable energy and also in the conventional supply in terms of gas and steel regeneration plants. So, definitely many projects will come up and all Nigerians will have the opportunity, especially those who seek to build a career in the power sector, to come on board and get trained.
We equally want an arrangement which will build more interaction with existing utilities especially the DISCOs whereby the issue of certification and standardization will come up and then we will have a lot of centralization of functions. Before you can move from one level to another, you must acquire some skills and then you must be certified. And for those who are already working in the power sector, there will be a well standardised career development process, whereby it will be built in a competency framework guideline to really ensure that there will be continuity in training.
The company that did the feasibility study discovered that with good management of this programme, we should be training simultaneously at any given time 1,000 trainees in all our centres in terms of number of classrooms that we created, in terms of the facilities and in terms of faculties that will come up. So that is the projection, we have all the plans and all we need to do now is to get to work.
What are we expecting in the year 2019?
We started another programme on E-learning which is a platform to critically address the mass training need within the power sector. The E-learning platform will provide a visual learning opportunity and other forms of E-learning opportunities to Nigerians and beyond the shores of Nigeria. The opportunity is so high and we have already signed an agreement with System Check and they are coming up with a win-win agreement in which case, we have a partnership where NAPTIN is not bringing in any fund; they are bringing in their own fund and they will develop the facilities for the common use of Nigerians and beyond. This is a project that will equally transform the power sector.
How will your training attract capital?
When we do training like this, the money comes in foreign currency and this is a contract of training 80 engineers within the region of about $120,000 that is quite a lot of money. It is a two-week programme and what it meant is that, average student is paying about N300,000, conservatively, for training. It is a good market for us in Nigeria and one thing I want to say is that it is in line with the principle and the policy of the present government which we must really commend; that we should be looking inward to see that we export knowledge.
So, in terms of knowledge economy, this is a golden opportunity for us. The training we did with APUA was in transaction volumes of about €600,000 with a profit net in terms of naira value of N200 million which we have in the records of TSA, at the CBN. At our own small level, we are making money for Nigeria and we are also carrying out the directives of the President – that we should not just limit ourselves to being a consuming nation – that we should see how we can look beyond to generate revenue for Nigeria. If other companies are equally doing this, it will definitely go a long way in addressing revenue challenges in the economy. It is also an opportunity to create jobs.
So definitely, I think we are in the right direction and so far so good, I must commend the Minister because under our medium term sector strategy, policy articulation which was under his leadership, we have it there that NAPTIN is built on an international collaboration and we see a prospect to tap into the opportunity and be able to do well within the West African sub-region. We are leaving our dreams and also doing our best though we know that we can get better.