In June 2017, a joyful Governor Godwin Obaseki announced to the world that in six month’s time, his administration would provide uninterrupted power supply to Bénin City and environs. According to his plans, government establishments on Sapele Road axis, including Government House, Secretariat, Court Complex, Central hospital, House of Assembly and also the Oba of Bénin Palace, will enjoy the 24 hours power supply.
The gleefulness with which Obaseki spoke was because he was quite assured that he would deliver on his promise in record time.
He gave the assurance after he entered a power purchase agreement with Ossiomo Power and Infrastructure to bulk purchase the five megawatts the firm planned to generate from its 50 megawatts plant at Ologbo in Orhionmwon local government area. The megawatts was expected to be transmitted on a new 35-kilometre double circuit 33Kva line to deliver 24/7 uninterrupted power.
Speaking during the signing of the MOU, Obaseki said: “We are confident from the facts available to us, that the design and engineering has been completed and that this facility hopefully should be ready within the next five months. This transaction is the first phase of a 50-megawatt plant. This is the first 5 megawatt, which the state is committed to purchasing from the conversation and negotiations that have taken place over the last three months.”
In April while inspecting some projects last week, Obaseki told Edo people that clearance had been secured from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) over the power purchase agreement with Ossiomo Power.
He said: “We have secured most of the clearance from Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). With this, we are optimistic that before the end of the year, when work on the buildings would have been completed, the PPA agreement with Ossiomo Power for 5MW of electricity will be activated to provide power to the Secretariat Complex.”
What Obaseki did not know, according to a BEDC official, was the laws governing power distribution before signing the agreement. The BEDC had used the instrumentality of the law to stall execution of the project one year after the agreement was signed.
It was gathered that the BEDC frustrated the project by creating several bottlenecks and logjam by insisting that the law permitted it to be the sole distributor of power in the region. A source said the BEDC told the Ossiomio Power to put its power lines in place if it wanted to distribute power to the Edo State government.
Last week, Obaseki and his officials used the occasion of the 4th National Council on Power meeting in Benin City to vent their anger on the BEDC for frustrating the power purchase agreement and providing darkness to the people. They disclosed that the special technical committee constituted by Edo government to undertake a comprehensive audit of the power infrastructure in the state revealed the poor state of the BEDC infrastructure.
Commissioner for Energy and Water Resources Yekini Idaiye, who declared the occasion open, lamented that the daily average supply of electricity put at eight hours, was less than 20 percent of the estimated consumer population of 1.2 million who have post and pre-paid meters.
The commissioner said majority of the consumers are groaning under the estimated billing system with its attendant high corporate fraud on the part of BEDC, noting.
According to him, “BEDC since inception has not added any value to the Infrastructure it inherited which explains the poor and deteriorated state of the power infrastructure in this part of the country.
“The BEDC personnel on the field are unprofessional in their conduct and openly engage the services of military personnel to intimidate and brutalise customers. Nigerians want to have improved access to power supply and industries want to have electricity to scale up production.”
Obaseki accused the BEDC of writing petitions against the deal sealed for the purchase of five megawatts of electricity to light up government offices in Benin City.
The governor, who said the petitions have hindered the success of the purchase agreement, decried the poor supply of electricity to the state, the company’s resolve not to supply pre-paid meters to electricity consumers and its culture of over-billing its clients.
According to the governor, “195 communities have never seen electricity as BEDC is not ready to extend electricity to these communities. 128 communities have issues of collapse of infrastructure which BEDC is not prepared to fix. 219 transformers purchased by the state government and the former Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as replacements for faulty transformers are yet to be installed by BEDC.
“The people are over-billed with the estimated billing system of BEDC. We lost a student due to the negligence of BEDC, for refusing to fix a pole that was knocked down after receiving money to fix it. I have instructed the Attorney General of Edo State to file charges of criminal negligence against the senior management of BEDC,” Obaseki said.
But the BEDC, in a statement s by its spokesman, Mr. Tayo Adekunle, said the Ossiomo case was before a competent court of law, adding that various third parties have been approaching the firm to supply independent power through its network under the embedded generation, eligible customers, micro grid regulations of NERC.
Tayo added that MOUs have been signed with some of the parties willing to supply independent power through its network.
He said power supply has increased from two hours in 2013 to six-10hours for locations with severe infrastructure limitations, eight hours to 12- 15 hours for locations with more improved infrastructure and increase from 18 -24hours for commercial and government customers on the nine newly constructed double circuit 11kv feeders with over 27 km route lengths of dedicated lines.
The BEDC spokesman said 12 communities hitherto without power in 2013 have been connected to the grid.
According to the statement, “To the extent permitted by applicable legal and regulatory framework, BEDC has been and continues to be willing to work with all such 3rd parties (including Ossiomo Power and Infrastructure Company) to increase power supply within the ambit of the law, without compromising the quality of power supply, affordability and more importantly safety and security of our customers.
“Nigeria has had inadequate metering for over 50 years, hence it is not possible for all customers to be metered within a short time period.
“The introduction of Meter Asset Providers (MAP) by NERC is expected to fully address the metering issue not only for BEDC but for all distribution companies (Discos) in the country.
A top government officials who pleaded anonymity said Governor Obaseki planned to use the ‘Willing buyer-Willing seller agreement’ to overcome the hurdles placed by the BEDC.
The source noted that if the BEDC is unable to supply power to run the state, the state government has to buy from a willing seller.
According to him, “What they are doing is tantamount to monopoly which will stunt the development of any state. It is a known fact that distribution companies have been unable to meet the demand for power. So if a willing seller wants to sell and a buyer is ready then we go for it.”
The last has certainly not been heard of this matter.
SOURCE: THE NATION