The siting of power plants across the six geo political zones in the country from independence clearly shows that the South East has been severely marginalized just as in many sectors of the national life. Is it a mere coincidence or a deliberate attempt on the part of federal forces to ensure that this race known for industry and hard work are forever consigned to the background?
Chukwuma OKORO in Lagos Odinaka ANUDU in Awka and Chinedu OPARA in Owerri.
The Prussian military strategist Karl Von Cluasewitz in his timeless treatise ‘On War’ averred that ‘war is simply a continuation of politics by other means’. That most nations still engage in warfare today is a pure indication of the timeless relevance and significance of his classical work done years ago. The only modification of his great work is that in present day ‘politics has simply become a continuation of war by other means’. This has consistently become typical in the Nigerian state since after the civil war where the Igbo’s of south eastern Nigeria have been subjugated to glaring marginasation in the hands of federal forces so to speak.
South-East Nigeria is home to the Igbo nation, one of the three major tripods on which the entity called Nigeria stands. It consists of the five states of Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi, being the region with the least number of states. The region boasts of industry moguls, astute businessmen, erudite scholars, of international repute. But over time, the region has been marginalized, subjugated, crumpled, trampled upon and reduced to mere geographical expression by federal forces since after the civil war. What has transpired in the power sector since after the war will perhaps underscore the claim that the South East Nigeria is on the verge of being cut off from the national grid, a clear indication that the war that ended about 42 years ago has simply continued by other means.
A critical look at the politics and intrigues in the power stations distribution in Nigeria will show a picture of total neglect of people known for their industry and resilience. From 1968 to 2007 five power stations namely Kainji, Jebba, Shiroro, Egbin and Oloronsugo power stations were built and none of them was cited in the South east. There are about three non-renewable power stations in Nigeria. These are power stations that make use of energy resources like oil, natural gas and coal which cannot be replaced or can only be replaced very slowly by natural processes. Olorunsogo Power Station, Afam Power Station and Egbin Thermal Power Station are all non-renewable power stations located in various parts of Nigeria. Olorunsogo Power Station is in Ogun State, South-West Nigeria; Afam Power Station is located in Rivers State, South-South Nigeria; while Egbin Thermal Power Station is sited in Lagos, South-West Nigeria. Olorunsogo, a gas turbine-type plant built in 2007 is estimated to generate about 160MW of electricity, whereas Afam Power Station, a gas turbine propelled plant gives out about 420MW. Similarly Egbin Thermal Station, a gas-fired steam turbine plant completed in 1985 is estimated to give about 1320MW capacity.
Nigerian OrientNews investigations also show that Nigeria also has about three functional hydroelectric power stations and in addition to three that are currently under construction and are billed to be delivered between now and 2016. Hydro electric power stations are power stations that generate electricity using flowing water. The three functional hydro electric stations are Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro power stations, while Zamfara, Kano and Kiri in Adamawa are billed to be functional between now and 2016. Kainji Power Station which was started in 1964 and completed in 1968 and Shiroro power station are both located in present Niger State, while Jebba is located in Kwara State, both in North-Central Nigeria. Kano and Zamfara proposed stations are in the North-West Nigeria while Kiri Power Station is sited in Adamawa State in the present North-East Nigeria.
It is clear from the foregoing that there has been a deliberate and systematic effort on the part of successive governments to put the South East on the backstage. The only semblance of power generation from the South East is from the comatose Oji River Thermal Station which was built by the colonial masters before independence and is located in present day Enugu state. The station then was the supplier of electricity to the defunct Eastern Region, which was made up of all the five states of the South-East and some states of the present South South namely Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa. This thermal station was built in such a way that there were mechanical devices that enhanced intake of water from the fast flowing Oji River into the plant house that was powered by natural coal to provide electrical energy. As at that time, coal deposits in Onyeama mines and other parts of Enugu were enough to power the thermal plant, a situation that ensured uninterrupted supply of electricity to the then Eastern region. According to a staff of the Oji River power station, Oji River Thermal Plant was one of the greatest reasons why the then Eastern region became a haven for industrialists and businessmen and ensured that the needed electricity for the emerging industrial revolution in the region pioneered by the Premier Dr. Michael Okpara had a sure footing.
But all these became fairy tale immediately after the Civil War as there has not been any attempt to either upgrade the Oji River or build a new power plant in the South East until recently. Knowing that power a ‘sine qua non’ for industrial development analyst are of the opinion that successive federal governments have consciously implemented ‘’a no-power plant for the South East policy’’ to make sure that the bourgeoning pre civil war industrial revolution does not see the light of the day. This has given rise to speculations that the’’ No Victor No Vanquished’’ slogan at the end of the civil war aimed are reintegrating all the elements of the warring faction is merely a verbal expression.
When Nigerian OrientNews visited Oji River Thermal Plant, it was discovered that the plant and turbines are obsolete and totally dysfunctional. The entire surroundings of the Oji river thermal plant has been overgrown by weeds, an indication of serial neglect by concerned federal authorities. The hot wells have all dried up. Turbines 1, 2 and 4 are obsolete while turbine 3 needs total rehabilitation. One of the officials of the plant who spoke on the conditions of anonymity told Nigerian Orient News that the plant generated electricity for the last time in 2004.Since then there have not been any serious attempt to revive the power station except some occasional visits by some foreign engineers who came with the intention to overhaul the plant but were not given the required cooperation from government our source averred.
Recently, the Minister of Power bluntly told Nigerians and the people of the South-East that the Federal Government is no more interested in the Oji River Thermal Plant. In his words, ‘’the plant is obsolete and we would not commit funds in such obsolete plant. We would not invest any more money in reviving Oji River plant because the plant generates just about 35 MW considering that its water level has drastically gone down such that it cannot power its turbines to generate electricity.’’ But the official in Oji River plant disagreed. In his words, ‘’The Federal Government can upgrade this place by getting compact machines that can generate up to 500 MW or sell this place.’’ They can also shift the power station to where there is coal and once there is nice water discharge provision. For instance, they can explore surface coal at Inyi in Enugu state where there is also a river ‘‘ adding that the rejuvenated plant will give jobs to teeming unemployed who have resorted to other means of survival.
Under the regime of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the Federal Government created more power stations in other regions, beginning with the N19.2 billion Zamfara Power Station contract in 2008, in spite of all the years of abandonment of Oji River Thermal Station which has been the only power station in the South-East. Our investigations revealed that after the death of President Yar’ Adua the Federal Government under the superintendence of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, subsequently realised the imbalance in the citing of power plants and having given up on Oji River Plant, felt it could compensate the South-East region with the Alaoji Power Plant. Regrettably, the Alaoji power plant is yet to come on stream and has been trailed with lots of controversies usually associated with federal government projects in the South East.
On May 17 2011, it was widely publicised that Nestoil had concluded the construction of a pipeline that would supply gas to Alaoji Power Station. From reports, the pipelines included the 18-inch-3.2 km class 600 gas pipeline at Alaoji, and the 18-inch-0.9km class 600 gas pipeline at Owaza, all in Abia State. Also completed and commissioned were the new 50mmscfd capacity Pressure Regulating facilities at Aba and the modularised pressure regulating and metering facilities at Alaoji. Yet in November of the same year, the special adviser to Vice-President Namadi Sambo on Media and Publicity, Mr. Umar Sani said that the Federal Government had commenced the building of the $420 million (about N67.2 billion) gas pipeline to Alaoji power plant in Abia State to ensure that it achieves the target of steady power supply in the country, According to him, the vice president Namadi Sambo wanted to restate the resolve of the present administration to put the resources of the country in areas where it would yield the best results that would enhance the standard of living of the people through job and wealth creation.
In spite of these huge amount purportedly spent on Alaoji power plant it is yet to come on stream. According to reliable sources from the plant, engineers are still test running the plant and this would certainly take a long to actualize. However, there were startling revelations sometime in the past that the gas pipeline laid to the Alaoji Power plant was unsuitable for the facility. Nigerian Orient News learned that the size and nature of the pipeline made conveyance of the product to the power plant unfeasible due to low pressure level. Engineers at the Nigeria Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of the (NNPC), who spoke to Nigerian Orient News confirmed this and expressed worry over the suitability of the pipeline designated to supply gas to the plant. Yet reports still fly like birds that the project has been completed, even when it was clear to experts that trouble was in the offing.
For a number of years now, the South-East region has been getting its source of electricity from Afam Power Station. Afam I to IV supply electricity to the region as well as to other states in the South-South region. Nigerian Orient News learnt that Afam power station has the capacity to generate up to 700 MW of electricity but is actually generating just 110 MW in spite of government’s huge investment to the plant. Moreover, our investigations revealed that out of twenty turbines at Afam, only two are working. This now tells any articulate thinker what could happen to all the states that dumbly rely on the plant.
Recently, bids were called for by the Ministry of Power for interested investors who wish to take over the moribund power plants. At the end, twenty-five investors, including Transcorp Plc, Nestoil and Danglobe Consortium, were said to have met the Federal Government’s deadline for the purchase of the nation’s power generating stations. Giving a breakdown of the bids for the generating companies, BPE spokesman, Mr. Chukwuma Nwokoh, said that nine investors bided for Ughelli Power plant while Sapele Power Plant attracted six bidders. However, there was only one potential investor for Shiroro Power Plc while Geregu Power plant had four bidders. On the other hand, Afam Power Plc had three potential investors and Kainji Power Plc had two bidders. Again, there were no invitations for bids for Oji River Thermal Plant.
Ironically the South East has a preponderance of gas stations that supply gas to the power plants in Nigeria and the pipelines crisscross the length and breadth of the entire south east posing dangers to the lives and properties of the easterners. Dr Sam Amadi, the Chairman of National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) recently advised governors of the South East to make use of the numerous gas plants in the region to help in generating electricity. While the Federal Government has neglected the South-East in this area, the state governments of the south east region have equally not lived up to expectations. There is no working Independent Power Plant (IPP) in the region despite its commercial and industrial strength and potentials.
At the moment, there is Geometric Power owned by the present Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji in Aba, Abia State. Last year, Geometric Power announced that an additional investment of over $50 million would be made to the distribution system of the Aba plant by the end of the first three years. Nigerian OrientNews gathered that Geometric Power chose Aba because the city already has a gas pipeline and a large cluster of sustainable industries that need reliable electric power. According to the principal investor, several industries are poised to expand production capacity, and those which have shutdown because of power supply problems are expected to come back on stream after the completion of this power plant. But the fact remains that it is not yet functional.
In September 2011 when there was hue and cry from the South-East over the state of power in the region, Prof Nnaji in a press conference said the Federal Government would concentrate its efforts on the construction and commissioning of a new 1000 MW coal-fired power plant in Enugu State as a replacement to the plant at Oji River. The Minister also re-echoed it during an official visit to Governor Sullivan Chime this year. But up till now, nothing has been done about this project despite the fact that this same government issued licenses to twenty firms in December 2011. Nigerian Orient News gathered reliably that the biggest beneficiary of the license issued is Zuma Energy Nigeria Limited, which is expected to generate 1,200MW from coal deposits in Itobe, Kogi State. Other companies like Akute Power, Zuma Power, Cet Power and Ilupeju Power got licenses to generate electricity in other areas outside the South-East.
In March this year, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State led a delegation to Bahrain to inspect the construction of the power badges and for further discussions to finalise issues on the power projects in the state. The delegation included the Senior Management of Arab Shipbuilding and Repairs Yard Company (ASRY). Other delegates included those from Centrax Limited, UK, the oldest gas turbines company in the world, and Eaglefin Structures Finance Mauritius Limited. But after that visit, it seems that the issue of an Independent Power Project has been abandoned since nothing has been done so far in the area.
When Gov. Rochas Okorocha, returned from an Economic trip to Kosovo in March this year one of the sectors he announced would soon received a big boost is the power sector. The governor and his media aides informed Imo people that an agreement was signed between the state and officials of that country for the building of a power plant that would generate 500MW of electricity. That is the last that has been heard o that adventure. In Abia state there are indications that the 132/133 KVA plant commissioned recently will boost economic activities around and Aba and its environs. In Ebonyi state it does not seem that the government of the day has any plan whatsoever in generating power from the state for its use. When governments are not doing enough, one would expect the motley of rich South-Easterners to launch into the business of power generation, distribution and transmission in anticipation of a complete deregulation of the sector by the government in the distant future. At the moment, no investor has expressed interest in exploiting coal, gas and other natural resources that abounds in the South-East and could provide jobs for numberless unemployed youths in the region.
Speaking to Nigerian OrientNews in his office Chief Titus Anigbogu , current Transition Chairman of Aguata Local government Area lamented that ‘’Cottage industries cannot afford the cost of running power generators every day. If you take a look at the industrial sector in the South East, you will discover that there has been a downturn and this is not good at all. The Federal Government should do something about the Oji Power Plant and save the lives of our industries and protect our people from being thrown out of jobs due to epileptic power supply. Continuing, he said, “Commercial and industrial towns of Onitsha, Aba, Nnewi and others need adequate power supply to remain in business and with the Oji power supply, or any other power plant for that matter, our problems would be a thing of the past and I also urge the respective state governments of the South East to brainstorm with the Federal Government on a way to revive the Oji Power Plant’’.’’ They have great task on their hands “he said.
In a related development, a socio-cultural organization under the auspices of The Hilltop Club 1972, said “The implementation of the Gas Master Plan dramatises the deliberate attempt of both the planners and the implementers of gas infrastructure development in Nigeria to de-industrialise and impoverish the future of the Eastern zone of the country. This is because under the circumstances, no power plants have been cited in the South-East in spite of the abundance of gas deposit in the South-East. According to the statement, what is the reason for the lack power plants in the South-East is because investors and entrepreneurs naturally cling to the basic economic principles of citing industries as near as possible to the source of raw materials or fuel? This and other numerous unanswered questions agitate the minds of the good people of Eastern Nigeria. What, for instance becomes of the numerous industries scattered within the five states of the South East should the quest for regionalism being canvassed by so many sections of the country get a constitutional ratification?
Going further, how would the South East fare in power generation in the event of a breakup of the entity called Nigeria? In the event of that, Easterners will have to pay dearly to get electricity from ‘‘neighboring countries”. When talks about breakup of the country called Nigeria is mentioned, some people in some quarters tend to dismiss it. Events surrounding us now in the polity are very similar to those that led to the civil war in Nigeria and several other countries that have disintegrated over time. It is left for the good people of the South East to either see war as a continuation of politics by other means or see politics as a continuation of war by other means and do what is needful.