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JONATHAN MAY DECLARE 9-MONTH POWER EMERGENCY TODAY

By NBF NEWS
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Section of a Power Holding Company of Nigeria's substation

The nine-month action plan that may guide the declaration of partial emergency in the power sector will be presented today (Tuesday) to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Power, led by Prof. Barth Nnaji.

The Acting President, who recently constituted the Presidential Advisory Committee, retained the nominal headship, with the Minister of State for Power, Mr. Nuhu Wya, serving as the Vice- Chairman, may announce the policy decisions suggested by the committee in its report.

Invitation for the event was extended to the ministers of Power, Petroleum, National Planning and Niger Delta; Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Service of the Federation.

Some other people, who were invited to the meeting include the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Inspector-General of Police, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Managing Director of Power Holding Company of Nigeria and Managing Director, National Integrated Power Project.

Speaking to our correspondent on the telephone on Sunday, Nnaji confirmed that a detailed nine-month action plan had been prepared and would be presented to the Acting President.

He, however, declined to divulge the details of the report, insisting that it would be up to the Acting President to make the recommendations public if he accepted them.

According to him, 'We are presenting a private advice to the Acting President. He is free to decide to accept or not.'

Our correspondent, however, gathered that the committee had recommended a restart of the implementation of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, which was suspended in 2007 following the recommendation of Dr. Rilwan Lukman's committee.

The reform will ensure that the Power Holding Company of Nigeria gets completely unbundled, with the generation, transmission and distribution entities operating independently.

Under that regime, each entity will be challenged to operate professionally and commercially.

Another key submission of the committee was the need to increase the price of gas supplied to thermal power stations by the oil companies operating in Nigeria to about $1 per standard cubic feet.

The increase will bring the price close to what the companies get when they supply gas for Liquefied Natural Gas as against the price of gas supplied to the power sector, which currently stands at 60 cents per standard cubic feet.

The oil companies have over time shown little commitment to supplying gas for power, claiming that the price set by the government could even not defray the cost of getting the gas from the ground.

Instead, the companies were more interested in supplying gas to the LNG export.

The increase in the price of gas will certainly lead to an increase in the cost of electricity outside the Multi-Year Tariff Order Plan prepared by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The committee is said to be of the opinion that an increase in the price of gas will encourage the companies to supply more gas, which will improve the generation and supply of electricity and convince Nigerians to pay more for power.

Our correspondent also learnt that the committee suggested that there should be a reconstitution of the NERC, which had been run by an administrator since its chairman and the commissioners were suspended in 2009 over corruption allegations.

Investigations also revealed that the Action Plan did not include the National Integrated Power Projects, owned by the three tiers of government, even though any major policy decision to be announced by Jonathan would affect the projects coming up around the country.

On claims that he ought not to serve in the Presidential Advisory Committee since he was the Chairman of Geometric Power, which is building an independent power plant in Aba, Abia State, Nnaji argued that he was appointed by the Acting President because he was knowledgeable about the sector.