The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has said that Nigerians are experiencing irregular power supply due to instability in the national grid owing to low generation.
He said Nigeria is currently generating less that 3000 megawatts (MW) and that once that is the case, the system shuts itself on and off.
“It is like in your house when you have surges and your circuit breakers trip to protect the system.
“So once it falls below a certain threshold you then have those trip offs. They are in a sense almost necessary to protect the entire system, so what then happens is start-ups; we do black starts from various power plants,” he said.
Mr. Fashola, who stated this while addressing journalists shortly after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council, on Wednesday in Abuja said the sabotage of critical oil and gas platforms from the western axis of the Niger Delta, meant that “the Escravos Lagos pipeline is not operational, the Forcados export terminal too has been out of operation, so if you can’t produce oil you can’t take the gas.
“The gas is the fuel that the power plants need. You have seen what we have been doing in increasing the capacity in firing transmission but if we don’t have fuel to fire the plants, that is the reason,” he said.
The minister also said apart from the lack of gas to the power plants, other power generating plants also witnessed fire accidents.
“While we were trying to start last week, we had a fire in Afam and that affected the control room and these are normal engineering accidents that can happen, the mechanical parts can break down, we also had another fire in Kainji. We have tried to repair them over the last weekend while negotiations with the gas companies are ongoing,” he said.
Mr. Fashola said the FEC had on Wednesday approved additional payment for the completion of the Odogiyan transmission substation in Ikorodu, Lagos and to provide additional transformer capacity at the substation to 260 MVA transformers and transmission lines of 132KVA.
“This will complete the works in that area generally known within the power industry as Ayobo West,” he said.
He said the contract had been awarded before but was not completed because it wasn’t paid for.
He said It was awarded in 2009 and should have been completed in 18 months which would have been sometimes in May 2011.
“That is the approval we got today and of course the cost has been revised as a result of the economic realities so that this can be completed and put to use and this would add to the expansion capacity to the grid,” he said.
The minister said the initial contract was N3.225 billion with additional N274.3million approved on Wednesday.
“So it goes from about N3.2 to N3.5million,” he said.
Mr. Fashola said in order to overcome the challenges of power generation, he has been meeting with the gas suppliers, trying to see how the government can pay off some of their debts while other problems are fixed.
“As I continue to say, it is not technical but financial; vandalism of pipelines is not technical, people are destroying, they are hungry.
“Until we resolve these behavioural issues: people collect money, are they remitting everything in a manner that is fair, even if it is not enough;, some people hold up their own share and they ask themselves ‘why should we continue to supply if we can’t get paid because there are bankers and financiers?’
“So we are talking with everybody trying to resolve it.
“As at yesterday we were back to 2900 (megawatts), so we are building up back again and very soon you will see some stability. These are set backs on the road to incremental power but we will overcome them,” Mr. Fashola said.