Why electricity in Nigeria is in sorry condition (2) ESSAY by Kasim B. Mohammed

1 Comment » December 9th, 2007 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project



Why electricity in Nigeria is in sorry condition (2)

Written by Kasim B. Mohammed   


Sunday, 09 December 2007


Electricity generation and supply in Nigeria is in an unhappy condition, not so much because of doubts about the resources the PHCN commands, but because it is disorganized.

The result is the agency a waste of resources, a failure of coordination, complacency, indiscipline, corruption, and lack of effective leadership and the inevitable neglect of national interest, because of diverse interests. Without this coalescing of culture and respect for professional views, the history of the PHCN since the advent of democracy would have been a much shriveled story. To understand how it came to be all this, we must look first at the organization and resource capabilities of the PHCN, the type of management in place in the organization, and the various attempts made by the last government in tackling the electricity problem and why they couldn’t bear positive results.

In terms of resources and funding, the organization has been well endowed with both human and mechanical facilities. Even before the advent of democracy in May 1999, the organization has enjoyed government subvention of about N20 billion per annum. In addition to this, it has generated annually its own internal revenue of about N25 billion. And also occasionally received grants/loans put at a total sum of N27 billion from sources within and outside the country. And has a staff strength of about 38, 000 employees. So, the popular belief that the organization was neglected by the successive governments in the country is not quite correct. However, it is truism to say that the organization has been unable to translate the benefits of its huge investment or resources to establish and maintain a reliable supply of electricity, nationwide.

Moreover, its national infrastructure consists of nine generation power stations (3 hydro and 6 thermal) with a total installed generating capacity of 5906MW. The nine generating power plants in the country, which are located in different parts of the country, have between them 79 generating units of various ratings. Most of the generating units are fairly new and ought to have been in their peak performance having spent less than half of their life span. Bearing in mind that a typical power plant equipment or machinery has a life span of about 30years for accounting purposes or even more is by no means uncommon.

While its transmission systems comprised 33KV lines and 132KV lines, a mixture of radial and ringed types, which transport electric energy from generating power stations to major grid substations from where 33KV and 11KV distribution network are supplied. There are over 114 major grid substations in the country; 23 of which are linked by 5000km of 330KV lines and 91 are linked by 6000km of 132KV lines, while on the distribution network there are hundreds of kilometers of 33KV and 11KV lines connected to various distribution substations all over the country. There are also over 1790 distribution transformers and 680 injection substations. These, I suppose, have since been improved upon in the past eight years, via the last government’s Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme.

Ideally, with such resources profile and a right type of management team in place, the organization should not have any difficulties in providing good quality and reliable electricity supply to its consumers nationwide, namely domestic, commercial and industrial of a mere total population of about 2.5million customers by tariff number. In other words, the organization serves only 36% of Nigeria’s total population.

But, of course, there are problems; first, although the installed generating capacity of the existing nine generating power stations is 5906 MW, the national maximum load demand for electricity supply in the country ever recorded by the National Control Centre (NCC) at Oshogbo was 2,470MW, that is, less than half of the total installed generating capacity. In other words, the organization has at least a spare capacity of about 3,436MW. While the plants availability is usually in the range of 3007MW to 3542MW. However, for sometimes the peak generating capacity has dropped to 1,500 MW. This situation arose because of lack of proper maintenance, lack of essentials or critical materials and spare parts to carry out repairs and other services needed in keeping the plants; equipment and machinery in tip top condition. Furthermore due to the erratic gas supply to some of the thermal power stations and the problem of “hydraulicity phenomena” that is, seasonal water fluctuations in the hydro power stations have, usually, also affected output. But this rainy season, all the three hydro power plants in the country have more than sufficient rain water to operate at full capacity, hence the improvement in the supply of electricity being noticed in the country this year. And as soon as the dry season comes, say from October, the situation will change. And above all, there are shortages of skilled manpower to maintain the power plants. For instance, by May 1999, of the 79 generating units, only 37 units were functional, while the remaining 42 units have completely broken down (or out of service). The reason for this appealing situation, is that, there was lack of proper maintenance in line with proper engineering practice: due to shortage of skilled manpower and total absence of effective and efficient maintenance policy in place to guide operations and maintenance (O & M) and materials management.

Second, the lack of proper maintenance and re-enforcements of the transmission lines and the distribution network on regular basis, and the associated heavy power losses from the systems due to the long distance transportation of electric energy from the generating sources to the load centers have largely hampered the effective and efficient functioning of the national grid and the distribution network nationwide. As a consequence of this, often poor quality electricity is delivered to the consumers. Clearly, this is because of lack of proper maintenance policy in place.

On the whole, the organization’s top management whose job it is to provide leadership must be blamed for failing to take the maintenance of its plants and equipment seriously enough to formulate effective maintenance policy for the PHCN and to train maintenance crew accordingly.

In fact the organization has chequered history. So, a few words about its style of management are in order if we are to understand the politics of electricity generation and supply in Nigeria and how this has adversely affected the performance of the PHCN.

The organization has never been given the serious attention it requires, in terms of management, that is, the kind of dynamic approach, needed in running such an industry.

There was, however, an attempt between 1989 and 1992, to put in the organization a good management team to run the organization effectively; following the TCPC recommendations of restructuring the organization on partially commercialized status: with new organization structure, management and a new salary scale outside the civil service salary structure. New competent hands were recruited at the beginning and blended with the old staff. This gave the organization a new lease of life and boosted its performance. During that period, the organization was generating between 15 and 18 hours of electricity supply nationwide with every hope of pushing its performance well beyond that level. But that was reversed in April 1992, after the exit of some of its top executives and the appointment of relatively junior people: young graduates virtually direct from school, without any experience so to speak of, who were appointed to the top executive posts, through primordial sentiments, to supervise senior management of higher attributes. The damage done to staff morale and discipline was incalculable and with that the performance of the organization plummeted. I always remember the disgust of one of my colleagues in NEPA, a highly qualified and competent engineer, eminently qualified to be in the top executive post at the time, now a prominent consulting engineer, from whose state one of the young lads came. And at what he considered the appointment of the young chap as his boss, very unfair. He said “this type of thing has nothing to do with quota system; rather it is the abuse of the principle of Federal character, since in every state in Nigeria today, there are qualified people to choose from”. I couldn’t agree more!

Hence the caliber of people appointed to the top management posts lack the essential management know-how for the top executive jobs; especially in strategy and policy formulation to handle problems of the organization effectively. This is clearly captured by the Shakari Panel Report (1994), which said, “…Promotion of mediocrity has become the order of the day. It has resulted in the appointment of some young school leavers with relatively little or no experience straight into senior management positions at the expense of those who have nurtured and sustained the industry. In some cases, those whose academic qualifications have no relevance to the jobs are appointed to the positions either through primordial attachments or to satisfy unrelated considerations. This has resulted in ill-qualified and or inexperienced staff supervising those with superior attributes.”

And the Shakari Panel concluded, “The above situation is unhealthy for the technical development of the industry. The industry, being an invaluable instrumentality for the realization of economic survival, growth and development, should not be allowed to rest on a fragile technical infrastructure handled by mediocre. To stem the current turn-over drift and low morale of the staffs; “Only staff that possesses University degrees or equivalent professional qualifications (and experience) should inspire to the position of Assistant-General Manager and above… Those currently in service and who have been promoted to their level of incompetence should be pleased out…”

This is evident in the failure of the top management to improve the performance of the organization, in spite of the huge resources provided by successive governments over the years. Clearly, because of their limited knowledge of how to manage the organization, they couldn’t take advantage of the huge resources at their disposal to reshape the organization a new: with new vision, clear policies and new management systems on maintenance, materials management, staff development and so on, to give the organization direction and make it purposeful to provide good quality and reliable electricity in the country.


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One Response to “Why electricity in Nigeria is in sorry condition (2) ESSAY by Kasim B. Mohammed”

  1. Okoye kingsley N says:

    Effect of youth restiveness in power outages in Nigerian power system. Recommendations and neccessary controls

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