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POOR MAINTENANCE CULTURE CRIPPLES POWER SECTOR

By NBF News
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Just eight years short of hitting year 2020, Nigeria's power generation and supply situation continues to remain a source of concern to citizens - individuals and industrialists. Yet, by 2020, the nation targets getting listed as one of the top 20 economies in the world, the government calls that vision 20-20-20. But honestly, that is a vision can never become a reality under a regime of poor power supply and distribution that stifles the industrial and agricultural sector as it exists presently.

Current daily generation output stands at less than 3,800megawatts(MW) and what the country needs is in excess of 40,000 megawatts daily.

But while it is very easy to lament the poor generation from the thermal and hydro stations owned by PHCN, one point that should not be missed totally is the fact that at the root of the crisis in the power sector is the absence or lack of a proper maintenance culture to keep afloat existing facilities. And this shortcoming cuts across almost all spheres of our publicly-held facilities.

For example, PHCN's statistics for daily power delivery and status revealed that all the existing power stations under the state-owned firm has an installed capacity of about 6,000 Megawatts(MW) of electricity but available electricity in the country today hovers around 3,200 to 3,800 MW. Why? A cumulative average of about 3,000megawatts is lost annually either through grid loss, no proper maintenance or overhaul, and lack of requisite spare parts procured to fix outworn parts. The sector has not been very lucky in benefiting from an efficient maintenance and overhaul mechanism. Put differently, Nigeria's power crisis is fueled more by a poor maintenance culture which has contributed immensely towards the low capacity utilization/output of most power stations in the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan knows very well that the stagnation of the economy can best be boosted by stable power supply. And his response to the problem, through the Power Sector Reform programme is very apt and timely.

The power sector reform agenda seeks to deregulate the sector and allow private sector investors bring in funds into the generation and distribution end of the businesses, while the government focuses more on the transmission business. But the involvement of the private sector (foreign and local) does not eliminate inter-nation co-operation, and the Jonathan's administration is not ignorant of this.

Realizing the need for such partnerships, the Federal Government recently sealed a bilateral pact with Japan to boost infrastructure development in the power sector.

The Sapele National Integrated Power project (NIPP) is being constructed by the international conglomerate-Marubeni Corporation of Japan, through her subsidiary Marubeni Engineering West Africa Limited (MEWAL).

Marubeni has a long history with Nigeria's power sector. This firm started commercial operations in Nigeria about 42 years ago and has within the period constructed many power stations in the country. The lesson to learn from this firm is a culture of commitment and proper maintenance of its facilities. It is also important to note that the problem of the sector cannot be achieved under a regime where huge investments are made without a commensurate effort to maintaining them.

Investments and maintenance should remain inseparable for Nigeria to achieve her targets in the power sector.

Usanga writes from Lagos.