Power transmission challenges and Reps’ case for waivers

Power supply in Nigeria has over the years, remained a big challenge, which not even the unbundling of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), through the privatisation policy of the Federal Government, had offered the expected solution to. JOSHUA EGBODO writes on the recent recommendation by the House of Representatives’ Committee that tax waivers be offered to contractors handling some critical transmission projects.

Multiple grid collapse 

Undisputed reports have confirmed that in this year alone, there have been, not less than three collapse of the national power grid, leaving the country in total darkness, sometimes for more than a day or two. The latest of such developments occurred on the afternoon of Monday December 11, 2023, plunging the country into darkness yet again.

Statements credited to Ndidi Mbah, the general manager in charge of public affairs at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), was later to explain that the grid has been fixed. “The collapse happened by 13.49 this afternoon. It is now fully restored by 18.51,” Mbah said in the message. 

In September 2023, the national grid system collapsed twice, specifically on September 14, 2023, and September 19, 2023, before restoration.

Vandalism also a case

One challenge the TCN said it was facing too was that of vandalism of its lines. Mbah in explaining that last collapse also said the company’s Gwagwalada-Kukwaba-Apo 132 kilovolts (KV) transmission line 1 was vandalised, noting that the line between “tower 23 and tower 25” was vandalised.

According to her, the act was suspected to have taken place at about 1.00 am on December 10, 2023, as the company then made frantic efforts to fix the line.

Maintenance shutdown

But away from the multiple collapses, the TCN has in just few days to Christmas, announced a maintenance shutdown of one of the largest power generating plants in the country, the Egbin plant in Lagos, leading to outages in some parts of Nigeria. 

The company in a statement on Monday, said the shutdown was necessary to address a gas pipeline leak, a move it explained will create about 676 megawatts decrease in the supply through the national grid. The maintenance is expected to last for about 72 hours.

“This is to notify the public that as of 11:13 hours on 18 December 2023, the Egbin Power generating station was shut down to allow the Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) to maintain a linking gas pipeline supplying gas.

“The station will be shut down three days from today (Monday).

“This means a reduction of 676MW of bulk power generated into the nation’s grid for three days and consequently the quantum of bulk power available to be delivered to distribution companies’ load centres,” the TCN said.

Reps worried, seek waivers

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts (PAC), in one of its sittings, held on Tuesday understandably expressed serious concerns over the power supply situation in the country, calling on the Federal Government to issue Value Added Tax (VAT) and Import Duty Exemption Certificate (IDEC) waivers to contractors handling critical power projects across the country.

The Committee, chaired by Hon. Bamidele Salam during the resumed investigative hearing into the ‘Accelerated Transmission-Distribution Interface Transmission Lines/Sub-stations’ contracts worth $231,004,002.8 and N18,264,411,235.66 awarded since 2015, made the passed the resolution.

In their submissions before the Committee, representatives of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and the Contractors explained that all the contracts have a great total of offshore components since the giant transformers are to be sourced from outside Nigeria.

Expressing worries over the challenges bedeviling the implementation of the power projects, a member of the committee, Hon. Adelegbe Oluwatimehin who moved a motion, observed that the issue has become so troubling that an urgent step needs to be taken to rescue the power sector from the bad situation it is grappling with.

Also speaking, Hon. Mohammed Kabir Abdullahi solicited for the House’s intervention in a manner that will ensure the completion of the projects, which he said, have already suffered so much delay. “We will be so much happy and delighted to see the quick resolution of this. TCN, it appears, we got stuck because we have done the necessary-two letters to the Ministry of Power and we copied Finance at that time too, with the expectation that it will get to the Presidency. But up till now, we have not gotten any response unfortunately.

“Not only this project. There are other TCN projects also that are affected by this. There are some being funded by World Bank and all that”, he said.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Salam expressed surprise on why the TCN did not approach other regulatory agencies and stakeholders to support them in getting waivers for the equipment that are trapped in transit especially at the seaports. “There is no doubt that there have been administrative lapses. No doubt, I went through the letter and actually pointed that out to him earlier.

“If you read the letter you will see that these are part of the things that affects our institutions. There are things that need to be done timeously. There are ways of doing things especially in the National Assembly as an Institution.

“I wish agencies know that the powers of the institutions and are able to leverage on such powers and influence to get so many things done.

“You have Committee on Power which oversights the TCN, I suppose and all other agencies. If you had approached them all these years, I am sure they would have taken steps to ensure that you get the waivers extended to cover both the IEDC and the VAT components of your projects. But apparently, all those things were not done.

“We are now in a situation where we have to clear that mess. We are clearing that mess because, the Federal Government under His Excellency Ahmed Bola Tinubu has made the issue of power a very central point of his priority programs.

“Ours is to make sure that we also support the delivery of that vision. And there is no way it can be delivered if this one is not sorted out. Because we are talking about major transformers and other hardwares that will be installed in various places to ensure that we have a better transmission and distribution of power,” he said.

A way out?

Nigerians has waited for long, and desperate to see a resolution of the power crisis, which many believed, if addressed would give the government at the centre a great reprieve. To such pundits, a lot of unemployment issues would be fixed with steady power supply. It is therefore of great expectation to see the committee follow through with its suggestion, as the waiting continues.