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Power Sector Now Worse than ILleft It in 2020, says former TCN CEO

In a major outburst yesterday, an erstwhile Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Dr Usman Mohammed, yesterday maintained that since he was sacked by the current administration, the power supply challenges in the country have grown worse.

Speaking on Channels Television, Mohammed who was fired by the then Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, who was himself removed by President Muhammadu Buhari, asserted that the much-awaited Siemens intervention will not make any marked difference in electricity supply in the country. He also described it as a mirage.

Mohammed, who was invited from the African Development Bank (AfDB) at the time to take over the TCN, also insisted that the next president must understand the power sector from day and must be the ‘champion’ of the industry to avoid being taken advantage of by vested interests.

The former TCN CEO noted that while during his involvement in the sector, generation was not a major problem, today, power generation has declined markedly, explaining that Egbin in Lagos, for instance, which is the largest generation plant in Nigeria, currently does an output of roughly 500 megawatts instead of its usual 1,300 megawatts.

Mohammed stated that Manitoba mismanaged the TCN before he was called upon to take over, stressing that the TCN wasn’t audited for the number of years the company was in charge of the transmission arm, even after over $32 million was paid to them.

“If you look at the picture that is painted of the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), you will think that it will solve the problem. But I want to ask you, what is the scope, especially for transmission. How many substations, how many lines are they going to build,” he queried.

“ How will upgrading in Apo, Katampe, Mafara, take you to 7,000 megawatts? It’s not possible,” he added.

He stated that most of the work he started has now been abandoned, explaining that the country is now focusing on the PPI which will not make any much difference in power supply in the country.

“The sector is worse now than when I left. At that time, the main problem that we were facing were transmission and distribution. We had enough generation at that time,” he argued.

According to him, no investment has come into even the distribution segment of the supply value chain in the country since privatisation, insisting that distribution remains the biggest problem in the country.

Going forward, Mohammed stressed that many of the political parties and presidential candidates angling to take over the country in 2023, do not really understand the power sector, affirming that after a thorough appraisal of the manifestos of the major political parties, there was no deep analysis of the sector. “The conclusion is that most of the political parties don’t even understand the power sector,” he posited.

Mohammed reiterated that the vested interests will not allow the next president ‘think properly’ , especially if he doesn’t understand how the sector works and will cloud him from solving the problems besetting the industry.

He stated that the declaration to move the sector from a 4,000 megawatts to 25,000 megawatts, remains a pipe dream, saying that it wasn’t doable in four years.

“If you talk about these declarations – moving from 4,000mw to 25,000mw, where in history do we see a country move from 4,000mw to 25,000mw in four years?, he asked.

He advised presidential candidates to understand the sector to be able to solve the decades-long challenges in the sector.

In collaboration with the German government, the Siemens deal was planned to expand Nigeria’s electricity capacity to 25,000mw by 2025 under the PPI. However, years down the line, not much has been achieved with roughly five months for the Muhammadu Buhari administration to exit government.

Furthermore, Mohammed argued that the power sector should not have been privatised at the same time but in phases in order to learn and move forward, stressing that it was a mistake made by the government at the time.

According to him, the government did not carry out an adequate technical losses analysis before selling out the distribution arm of the value chain, as it were in 2013.

He maintained that the next president must not be seen as chasing money in the power sector, because, according to him, that way ,progress will not be made.

“So it means that the president will have to believe that he is not looking for money from the power sector because if you’re chasing money in the power sector, you cannot make progress,” he added, stressing that the next president must take a decision on what to do to rectify the problem created during the privatisation programme.

“For example, I heard that they said they gave orders to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to to sell some assets quickly. But what are they selling? A company that doesn’t have equity. What is the experience of North-south that bought Abuja Disco? Where is the money they put in?

“We cannot do the same approach we did at that time to solve the problem that we created. The problem we have is lack of investment into the sector and lack of managerial capacity. We need companies that have managerial capacity,” he contended.

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