National President of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC), Comrade Bede Opara, has stated that the recent improvement in the power generation capacity that peaked at 4545 megwatts was as a result of improved supply of gas to the thermal stations. In this interview Business Editor, Sylvester Enoghase, he insists that there was a glaring lack of coordination between the expatriates from Manitoba Hydro International Limited (MHI) and Nigerians in the TCN. He says that there is no team spirit between the management contractors their Nigerian counterparts.Excerpts:
Comrade Bede Opara
Comrade Bede Opara
What is your union’s position on the recent Federal Government renewal of the management contract of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) with Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) Limited of Canada?
Well, we read in the national newspapers about the extension of the contract awarded to Manitoba Hydro International Limited (MHI) to manage the operations of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). This extension is according to the report, was for a period of one year, which will expire on 31st July 2016. This was after the expiration of an initial three-year contract under which the company managed the transmission arm of the power sector in Nigeria.
We are not comfortable with the renewal of the agreement because there is more to it. We are of the opinion that before the extension, government should have carefully and clearly evaluated the assignment and job carried out by MHI in improving transmission and the wheeling capacity of the transmission lines with measurable milestones as contained in the contract.
We wonder why so much emphasis was placed on the contract renewal rather than an assessment of the impact that the MHI has had on improving and strengthening the operational capacities of TCN.
It is not enough to lay claims to improving the power generation capacity that peaked at 4545MW recently, which was as a result of better and improved supply of gas to the thermal stations. It is necessary to ask how to raise the wheeling power of TCN to accommodate and sustain increased/improved generation.
It is also necessary that we know the structure the MHI has put in place to accommodate this increased generation in the nearest future because we are aware that a lot of generated mega watts are lost due to the inability of TCN in some locations to evacuate them into the grid.
We note that during the last contract period of three years, there was a glaring lack of coordination between the expatriate and Nigerian teams in TCN. There was no team spirit among the management contractors, and also, between the management contractors and their Nigerian counterparts.
We expect a better-coordinated work regime, which regrettably is absent.
We also expect amongst other matters, serious and committed training programmes of Nigerians – an assignment that constitute part of the MHI contract.
There is an urgent need to look inwards in order to identify any challenges that might negatively affect the schedules and plans by Nigerian operators or the management contractors.
We expect the TCN as a technical arm of the power sector to be independent and insulated from partisanship political interests and influences to meet the nation’s overall target for the power sector of installed power generation capacity from 6,000MW in 2009 to 20,000MW by 2015 and 35,000MW by 2020.
We, therefore, call for an all-inclusive stakeholders’ meeting to re-evaluate and design a practicable work plan that will ensure that the TCN plays its assigned role and achieves desired objectives.
What is the realistic power generation Nigeria needs to drive the economy?
We are around 4545MW now, but if, for instance, we generate 20,000 MW today, by tomorrow morning, we will consume all. We shall leak up the 20,000 mega watts. Why do I say so? It is because we have a lot of suppressed loads.
Let me explain what I mean by suppressed loads; the loads exist. But we cannot feed them now because there is no power to feed them. That is why we do a lot of load shedding or rationing. In other words, we ration the little we have. Whenever we are generating, for instance, 4,500 mega watts, we normally give Lagos about 1,000 mega watts. When that happens, it is not unusual to hear many people saying the light is improving, not that they have enough. Even at that, it will not serve Lagos beyond ten hours on the average.
The moment people see more light, they connect more equipment. Those running their generators, for instance, will switch off their generators and connect into the system. The loads they were carrying with their generators are called suppressed loads. The moment power comes; they will leave their generators and come into the load again. Nevertheless, I think that if we can make up to 10,000 mega watts, Nigerians will be happier, but it will not be enough.
Our population is 160 million. South Africa has a population of 46 million and that country is generating 40,000 mega watts. Against this backdrop, therefore, it will not be out of place to suggest that we also need to generate 160,000 mega watts to fully stabilise our economy. But it is not realistic for now.
I want to say that if the projects on ground, like the NIPP stations and some others stations that are undergoing rehabilitation, if they can be completed on schedule, between now and December as scheduled, may be by December, we will be close to 7,000 mega watts.
The question is will they be completed on schedule? Those that failed to meet their mandate, that is, completing the projects on schedule, were they sanctioned? We cannot be sure of what they are going to produce by December because there is no sanction for those who defaulted in the past.
What is the way out of the crisis in the power sector?
I said in my earlier answer to your question of our call for an all-inclusive stakeholders meeting to re-evaluate, and design a practicable work plan that will ensure that the TCN plays its assigned role and achieves desired objectives.
We urged the federal government to implement a critical infrastructural and economic project by building a national gas grid that is wholly Nigerian-owned or executed in partnership with credible private sector players within a public-private partnership.
The grid can be put in place within four years, and should have capacity to handle gas volumes far in excess of the present limited domestic and regional demand. Such gas infrastructure will stimulate further domestic demand for expanding electricity requirements and various industrial purposes as well as facilitate domestic gas competition.
This is because the Nigeria Vision 2020 Economic Transformation Agenda has it that the overall target for the power sector is to grow installed power generation capacity from 6,000MW in 2009 to 20,000MW by 2015 and 35,000MW by 2020.
What is SSAEAC’s take on the agitation for a downward review of salaries and allowances of political office holders, especially the National Assembly?
We still subscribe to the issue of the review of our constitution. If you look at the political structure of a country like Switzerland, the governor of a state is far more important and more popular than the President of Switzerland.
This is so because that is where the resources are. So, people would rather vie to become the governor of a state or a member of the legislative arm of a state rather than going for the position of the President of Switzerland.
The point I am trying to make out of this is that we need a political reform that will reduce the resources concentrated at the centre.
The moment you do that, you create an economy where if you don’t work, you will not eat. Then it will be very difficult for lawmakers to appropriate to themselves a larger share of the cake that must have been baked either at the national level or state level.
Take Lagos State as an example, over 75 per cent of the state revenue comes from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). If the private sector in Lagos State should grind to a halt today, that will be the end of governance in the state.
The amount that the state governor will get from the federation account will be inadequate for him to continue to be a performing governor; in this case, the survival of the state government is tied to the survival of businesses in Lagos State.
For the state government to continue to have access to the taxation of these people, they must invest in their environment to keep those businesses running. But currently, we do not have that model, whether Cadbury pays its taxes or not, or Guinness pays its taxes or not, the legislators will earn their fat pay.
Why? For as long as Niger Delta is at peace and government can export crude oil, there will be enough money. But if that money is not there, very few people would want to go to the National Assembly. So, they have the knife and the yam now.
The only way to address this is to take the yam away and let them hold on to just the knife. So, it is not something we should just be advocating a reduction in the salaries and allowances of political leaders because nobody will want to reduce the level of income he is already used to.
All they will do now is to exercise control and caution in increasing what they are already earning which as you observed, is among the highest in the world. So, there is need for the review of our constitution that would give more power and resources to the federating states.
The moment you do that, they will not be able to sustain that level of pay again. This is because what the federating states will be contributing will not even be enough to run the National Assembly.
SSAEAC has been partnering some organisations on technical and vocational training programmes to empower members. What do you suggest should be the response of the Federal Government in terms of partnering with human capacity development institutions to boost manpower needs in the country?
The response from the Federal Government regarding the issue of technological and vocational training for Nigerians needs improvement.
There is need for the Federal Government to identify those organisations that have started wonderful proggrammes that are yielding results and get them into national initiative that can be able to triple the outcome so that we can drive the government’s manpower development scheme for actualising the Vision 20:20:20?
Why are there increasing cases of strikes and agitations by workers in the country and how can they be addressed?
The agitation for payment and increment in salaries by workers and the high incidence of strikes in the country have been more in the public sector than in the private sector, but the structure and policy for managing industrial relations and collective bargaining from the national perspective is the same whether you are operating in the private sector or the public sector.
So, the question we should ask ourselves is, why has it worked in the private sector and it has not worked very well in the public sector? The answer to that is first, the government has to demonstrate responsibility and respect the agreement, which it signed with the unions.
This is because quite a number of past strikes had to do with the failure of government to honour agreements, which it signed. The second issue as to why there is a higher incidence of strike in the public sector is the failure of the parties involved to respect the structure which they have agreed upon for engagement.
I give an example, the current structure of collective bargaining in Nigeria is anchored on industry-wide collective bargaining, and just as we have industrial unions in the private sector, we have sectorial unions in the public sector.
In the private sector, it is the industrial unions that negotiate with the employers but in the public sector, the employer is the government. The third question is why are those unions in the public sector not engaging their employers in collective bargaining on regular basis?
One reason for that is that quite unlike in the private sector where you have procedural rules of engagement that are very clear as to when you are going to negotiate, in most public sector organisations, you do not have rules of engagement.
If the rules are well structured, they will know that there is a time when they can do that and when that time comes; there will not be any reason to engage government.
The government structure comes out of the dynamics in your environment and your strategic objectives. The current structure we are operating has been in existence since 1970s and there have been a lot of changes in our economy. Whether you are talking about the public sector or the private sector that is where the reform issue comes in.
I think the time has come for us to really ask this question: Is the current structure we are operating in really the best?
How do you think the problems of manpower needs in the country can be addressed to make the nation’s economy competitive?
It is imperative for capacity building organizations in the country to be supported by the Government in the bid to shore up the quality of the human capital for the real sector in Nigeria, to prepare the nation’s economy to outshine other economies in the world.
The best option is only on investing in massive skill acquisition programmes in these capacity building organizations that will address the lingering manpower and skill deficiency that has plagued the manufacturing sector in the country because the three tiers of government, the federal, states and local government investing in people-centered innovation is essential to Nigeria’s developmental needs
We have made it clear to the government, not only to be in the vanguard of the rush to develop Nigeria economically and technologically, but also must be aware that its future can be determined by the ability to support the capacity building organisations in reducing unemployment and developing the critical manpower that is much needed to move the nation forward.
We also made it clear that the government need to concentrate on the constant development of vocational and technological capacities of its trainees, so that companies would be more encouraged and willing to absorb them on completion of their trainings.
This is because there is urgent need for Federal Government to initiate policies that would develop the human resources capacity needs for backward and forward integration of the Nigeria economy.
DailyIndependent – Culled from: http://dailyindependentnig.com/2015/07/35000mw-realisable-2020-tcn-insulated-politics-opara/