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THE PROPOSED NATIONAL SUPER GRID

By NBF News

President Goodluck Jonathan's recent approval of the immediate construction of a new National Super Grid to boost Nigeria's electricity generation to about 7000 megawatts (MW) by April 2011 is good news.

But the amount that has been endorsed for release by the president for the project – N525 billion – is a lot of money that should be effectively deployed to ensure that the objective is realised.

The 700 KV Super Grid is expected to be completed in four years at a cost of $3.5 billion. It is a component of the government's new roadmap for the power sector, which will be unveiled in Lagos on August 26.

The new Grid is expected to increase the nation's capacity to transmit power across vast distances, which the existing 330/132 KV Grid cannot do. It will be funded as a Federal asset with additional financing from private investors and international development agencies.

It has been estimated that it will increase power generation to 6939 MW by April 2011 and 14019 by December 2013. While we support this latest bid to resolve Nigeria's acute power shortage problem with a Super Grid, Nigerians cannot but be sceptical because this is not the first time that we are hearing grandiose plans for power generation in the country. Huge sums have been committed to power projects over the years without any commensurate improvement in power supply.

The case of the $16 billion reportedly committed to power projects by the erstwhile president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, without any positive impact on power supply in the country during his administration is still very fresh. The probe of the expenditure by the House of Representatives did not yield any significant results.

Nigerians are tired of failed promises and gargantuan expenditure in the power sector. We want to see electricity in our houses and factories and not on the pages of newspapers. Whatever amount is spent to increase electricity supply in the country is money well spent, provided the stated objectives are realised. Increased power supply will give the nation a boost, and the economy will be better for it.

It is time for action in the power sector. The people cannot continue to live on promises. To make progress in our quest for stable electricity supply, we need to determine how sums that were voted for the sector in the past were expended. It is important to account for the huge sums released in the recent past, before another N525 billion is put in, otherwise, the new investment may end up the same way as the former ones.

There should be closure on the matter of $16 billion investment in electricity generation by the Obasanjo administration to reassure the people that it did not just go down the cesspit of corruption. Also, that the proposed investment is not just a ploy by the Jonathan administration to feather its own nest in preparation for the coming general election.

Efforts should be made to ensure that all outstanding projects in the sector are delivered, to lay a good example for those who have been charged with the construction of the new National Super Grid. Nigerians no longer want to hear stories and excuses for non-perfromance. We need to see a change. We, however, hope that the latest contract has been carefully thought through. It has provided new hope that the nation will soon get out of the power cul de sac, which should not be dashed.

April is just eight months away. By that time, the people will assess the impact of the new Super Grid and the government will receive either praises or condemnation for the project. The government, last year, failed to deliver on the 6000 MW promise. Everything should be done to ensure that there is no room for failure on this fresh promise of 7000 MW by April 2011.