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Editorial

Power Distribution Time To Break PHCN Monopoly

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Disturbed by the apparent inability of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to effectively evacuate power from its gas turbines and distribute same to end users, Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi recently threatened to shut such under-utilised plants to avoid further waste.

The governor’s frustration was borne out of the state’s desire to address the very epileptic electricity distribution needed to enhance industrial development in the state, but which is repeatedly hampered by existing enactments that allow the PHCN unfettered monopoly.

 Under the arrangement, while states and other corporate citizens may generate electricity, through the many Independent Power Plant (IPP) projects, they are by law inhibited from distributing power to end users for whom such is meant.

For instance, the Rivers IPP projects, alone have the Trans-Amadi (1&2), and the Omoku Gas turbines, which together should generate 300 megawatts installed capacity, but are forced to generating about 250 megawatts due to evacuation hiccups on the part of PHCN. Like Rivers, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) also recently commissioned its 650 megawatts  Afam VI, the third in the area, intended for improved power distribution in the state.

Intrinsically, should both Shell and the Rivers State Government enjoy the legal backing to both evacuate and distribute power to end users, the state would, without doubt, be the first to celebrate uninterrupted power supply for a considerably long period.

This is because, the state is estimated to need between 250 and 300 megawatts to achieve such uninterrupted supply which the volume generated by both the state and Shell can comfortably cover and even supply excess to the national grid.

In essence, every effort made by corporate citizens and state governments will be a huge waste unless the monopoly enjoyed by the obviously ill-equipped PHCN is broken to enshrine healthy competition in power generation and distribution.

This is why The Tide sympathises with the Rivers State Government over the frustration of watching its people suffer epileptic electricity supply in the midst of plenty.

Even so, the governor’s threat to shut under–utilised turbines, we think, is not the right option as it would further negatively affect the level of service.

Instead, the Rivers State government should join forces with other stakeholders and push for the breaking of the monopoly now being enjoyed by PHCN for the good of the citizenry.

We say so because, many industrial and manufacturing concerns are either relocating or folding up on account of the huge bills incurred on private plants and outrageous charges imposed by PHCN for services haphazardly rendered or never rendered at all.

Further shutting running turbines, we fear, will drastically reduce the  present quota from the national grid and plunge parts of the state into even more debilitating power outage nightmare.

Even so, The Tide insists that the federal government should, without any further delay, break the satanic monopoly, if Nigeria is to be counted among the comity of nations keen on industrial and rapid infrastructural growth and development.

That electricity generation is one major pillar on which rests the transformation and growth of any economy is merely stating the obvious. This, perhaps, underscores President Goodluck Jonathan’s resolve to personally superintend the power sector.

It is on this count that The Tide is optimistic that the right things will be done, key among which is the empowerment of states and other willing stakeholder partners to generate, evacuate and distribute power rather than encumbering an inept PHCN with such vital national demand.

We are encouraged by the success achieved in the communication sector with the introduction of cell-phones and GSM service providers, and the benefits such healthy competition has provided the citizenry.

Unless those benefits are extended to the power generation and distribution sub-sectors, all the talk on improved electricity services would remain what they have always been – lip service, nothing more.

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Editorial

Towards Food Security

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Almost a forthnight ago, the World Food Day was marked globally as part of programmes and activities introduced by the United Nations, to address one of the challenges facing humanity.
The World Food Day, celebrated every October 16 was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 1979 and was first observed in 1981. The goal, according to FAO, is to end world hunger, make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.
With the theme, “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together, our actions are our future”, the 2020 celebration focuses on the deliberate actions humanity takes to ensure that sustainable and nourishing food is made available around the world for healthy living amongst mankind, especially, among the very poor and vulnerable populations of the world.
The Tide wholesomely keys into the theme and objectives of the 2020 celebration. We believe that it is time the world, particularly, the developing countries wake up to the duty of ensuring that their people have access to, not just affordable food but healthy diets that can nourish and sustain the body. Indeed, food, one of the basic needs of man is critical to his survival and it is only when the need is supplied that focus could shift to other developmental frontiers.
In recent times, Nigeria and world donor bodies such as the World Bank and European Union have partnered to fly schemes like the FADAMA Projects I & 11 while Niger Delta States of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo also partnered the international bodies to pursue the SEEFOR Programme. These programmes were targeted at improved agricultural processes and food production. However, how well these schemes were pursued and implemented has left more room for questions than answers.
Before them were the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) – driven Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme and the Bank of Agriculture, (BOA), initiatives aimed at helping the farmer have access to necessary credit facilities to enhance and improve their production processes and capacity.
Today, under the present administration, the country is experimenting with the bogus but oblique programmes such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme and other multi-lateral schemes, ostensibly aimed at empowering farmers and other small scale entrepreneurs to engage effectively in the chain of production and have food on the table.
Regrettably, despite the humungous amount in local and foreign currencies said to have been spent on the aforementioned schemes, in spite of their avowed ideals and apparent good intentions, set goals were mostly achieved in the breach.
At the moment, instead of the food crisis abating, the situation exercabates by the day. Staple foods such as garri, yam and rice, which in the recent past served the need of the common man have gone out of the reach of even most middle class Nigerians as their prices soar on daily basis.
Even attempt to boost and protect local producers by the government, which led to the ban on importation of rice and other food items seems to have backfired. Availability and affordability of even the lowest grade of the locally produced grains have become a nightmare, to the extent that only the rich can comfortably afford the staple foods which hitherto, were for the average and poor population of the country.
Perhaps, it is either that Nigeria missed the plot or sabotaged the numerous schemes and programmes earmarked to lift the agricultural and food production processes in the country.
We are, however, happy that some states in the country, such as Rivers, are beginning to take agriculture more seriously. Only a few weeks ago, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike sought for and got approval from the state House of Assembly to secure a N5 billion loan facility for agricultural development.
Geared towards making Rivers State an agriculturally – viable economy that would lead to increase in food production, employment generation and agro-business opportunities, the loan and the state’s policy blueprint would enhance and support commercial products of key agricultural sectors of crop farming, fish and livestock production.
With the existing crisis occasioned by unbearable prices of food items and the looming food insecurity in the horizon, we expect governments at all levels to spare no action in calming the frayed food supply chain in the country.
Firstly, communal peace and threats engendered by the wave of security issues across the country must be dealt with to enable farmers return to their farms without delay. This will ensure that farmers would concentrate on tending to their fields without fear.
We also expect the government to, through specialised agencies introduce and implement effective schemes that would empower only farmers without such schemes’ proceeds finding their way to the corners of non-agricultural players. In addition, while the government should find a way to provide for farmers’ access to fertilizers at subsidized rate, interest-free loans and improved plants and seedlings for bumper harvest, farmer-education is also key to their taking advantage of government schemes and programmes.
For states with established but moribund agricultural institutions, we think that now is the time to have a second look at such institutions with a view to revamping them. To this end, we expect such lofty Agric-farms and institutions like the palm plantations, Songhai farm and the School-To-Land initiative to be given consideration in Rivers.
As we reflect on the essence of the World Food Day celebration and the theme of 2020, it is pertinent that all hands must be on deck to ensure that all mouths are fed, nourished and sustained. This cannot be done by the government alone, but the private sector and civil society need to make sure that our food systems grow a variety of food to nourish a growing population and sustain the planet, together.

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Editorial

Buhari, Save Nigeria Now

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Nigeria was fully enclosed in violence as the popular #EndSARS protests entered a dangerous spiral. This followed years of failed promises to end police brutality, especially by officers and men of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Hooligans, taking advantage of the protests, overran prisons across the country, setting inmates free as well as embarking on unrestrained destruction of properties.
The Bus Rapid Terminal ( BRT) Station in Oyingbo, Lagos, the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), a famous television station, Television Continental (TVC) Nigeria, the Lagos headquarters of The Nation newspapers, and police stations across the country were razed to the ground over the ensuing massacre of protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
The palaces of the Soun of Ogbomosho, Oladunni Oyewumi and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, were equally touched. Before the violent turn, the #EndSARS protests had captured global interest, with highly placed international figures identifying with the miseries and quests of the protesters and calling on the Nigerian government to meet their demands.
Since the anti-Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), unrests of June 1989, there is scarcely any issue on which Nigerians have attained a broad consensus like the #EndSARS protests. Political, ethnic and religious sentiments were jettisoned as the youths spoke out strongly against years of calculated assaults by the police.
Amid the tremendous protests, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP),  Mohammed Adamu, dissolved all SARS formations and assured that a new policing system to deal with armed robbery and other violent crimes that fell within the mandate of the sundered unit would be created.
The Presidential Panel on the Reform of SARS promptly acceded to the five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters, to wit, the release of all persons arrested and justice for victims of police brutality, setting up of an independent body to investigate every report of police misdeed; psychological examination of the dissolved SARS officers before redeployment, and augmentations to the salaries of police personnel.
A communiqué issued by a presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, after the panel’s meeting, stated that the forum ratified the dissolution of SARS, reaffirmed the constitutional rights of Nigerians to peaceful assembly and protest, and substantiated the sanctity of life of every Nigerian and the role of the police in conserving these rights.
The release further indicated that reform proposals would be based on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and existing legislations such as the Nigeria Police Act (2020), the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act, 2019, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the Anti-Torture Act, 2017, and the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2010, amongst others.
The forum then called for timely steps, including an order to all state police commands to end the use of force against protesters; outright release of arrested protesters and citizens; and open communication and outreach to citizens to establish trust and confidence, and a roadmap for the implementation of the White Paper of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the SARS.
However, action was yet to commence when the IGP announced the formation of a new unit, the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT), to replace SARS. And when the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), hinted that the new unit was very distasteful to Nigerians, he stuck to his guns, further inflaming passions and bolstering the notion that the disbandment of SARS and its swift replacement with SWAT was a strategy for continual police savagery in disguise.
While the revolts proceeded, it was obviously noticed that artfully manipulative actions were in operation. The most distinguished confirmation of this subterfuge was the brutal attacks on #EndSARS protesters by hoodlums at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Then came the cruel shootings at defenceless protesters by the Nigerian military at the Lekki toll gate that finally discarded any restraints previously placed on global anger.
We were shocked that even with the descent into the escalating violence, President Muhammadu Buhari maintained a stunned silence despite pleas to act by prominent individuals and groups within and outside the country, including highly placed persons such as former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Democrat presidential candidate, Joe Biden, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, among others.
Though Nigerians eventually heard from the President, his address was adjudged to lack substance. We recall a similar conduct of the President during the highly intensive Covid-19 era. While African leaders with fewer cases were regularly speaking to their citizens, President Buhari was silent for 24 days after the index case on February 28. This inclination to be reticent when Mr President should speak, particularly during a national crisis, gives cause for grave concern.
In line with popular thoughts, The Tide agrees that the Federal Government failed spectacularly in its handling of the protests. Rather than shoot at protesters, efforts could have been made to continually engage the young demonstrators, give regular updates on actions taken to reform the police, and repeatedly appeal for calm while deploying security agents to trouble spots under stringent rules of engagement.
For that reason, we seek justice for all the protesters that were killed unjustly. We salute the courage of the #EndSARS demonstrators and applaud them for making their efforts worthwhile. Clearly, they have proved to the nation, and the world, the much unity can accomplish. Nonetheless, we appeal for calm and implore them to interface with the government to resolve the extant issues.
The authorities must realise that the protests have since gone beyond police brutality to a response to the dismal situation in the country and the terrible conditions of most Nigerians despite the self-adulations of our leaders. Therefore, The Tide urges Buhari to pursue strict implementation of the five-point demand by the protesters and call a halt to the nation’s rapid descent into anarchy.

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Editorial

Withdraw Onochie’s Nomination Now

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In what appears to be a deliberate assault on the sensibility of Nigerians, President
Muhammadu Buhari recently nominated a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Ms Lauretta Onochie, into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a National Commissioner.
Coming at a time when the torrents of protests against the notorious anti-robbery unit of the Nigerian Police Force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have reached a feverish pitch, the appointment of Onochie is, to say the least, very insensitive and ill-advised.
No fewer than 70 civil society organisations (CSO), some opposition parties, Senior Advocates of Nigeria and other interest groups have vehemently criticised the appointment.
It is unimaginable and paradoxical too, that the President who, not too long ago, enjoyed the goodwill of the Nigerian populace over the conduct of the Edo State governorship election and the dismantling of the vicious, infamous anti-robbery squad would make a turnabout to commit such a political heresy.
Recall that President Buhari was commended for his non-partisanship in the Edo State governorship election held on September 19. He was also recently hailed for dismantling the notorious arm of the Nigerian Police that was terrorising Nigerians.
His recent appointment of Onochie, a well-known member of APC in Delta State into INEC has, however, eroded this goodwill going by the avalanche of criticisms that is currently trailing this infamous action.
Like many other Nigerians, The Tide considers Onochie’s nomination as an assault on the Nigerian Constitution and in particular, a gross violation of Item F, Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which forbids a card carrying member of a political party to be a member of INEC.
By this constitutional provision, the appointment of Onochie is an insult to the institution of INEC and a direct affront on the patience and emotions of Nigerians who have tolerated the excesses of the Buhari government in the last five years.
Besides being a card carrying member of Buhari’s political party, Onochie is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Media. Her nomination into such a sensitive position will surely compromise the neutrality of the electoral body.  As a political officeholder and an ally of a political party, Onochie should ordinarily not be allowed to hold any office in INEC.
We say this because the position of INEC commissioner requires some elements of maturity, neutrality and non-partisanship. Onochie doesn’t have these credentials to serve as an impartial arbiter in INEC.
Like the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, recently noted, the appointment of Onochie is a recipe for election rigging ahead of the 2023 elections. Her appointment will not only constitute an impediment to the independence and sanctity of the electoral umpire, it will also erode the recent gains recorded by INEC and undermine the entire democratic process.
At a time when Nigerians’ confidence in INEC and the nation’s electoral system is beginning to shore up, it will be suicidal to erode the people’s trust on the platter of vested interest. In other words, Onochie’s appointment does not sit well with the Nigerian Constitution and the recent gains of the nation’s electoral system and should, therefore, be withdrawn forthwith.
This appointment is least expected from a President who has always professed his support for the independence of INEC. As a President who is serving his second and final tenure in office, it would have been more honourable and dignified for Buhari to bequeath to the country a viable, non-corrupt and truly independent electoral body.
We insist that the mood of the nation at this period of #EndSARS protests does not call for such erratic nomination by the President. This period calls for sober reflection and a lot of proper reasoning on the part of our leaders. Anything short of this will be very insensitive to the feelings of the generality of Nigerians and may further challenge the already angry populace to action.
Again, we urge President Buhari to withdraw, without delay, Onochie’s nomination that is currently before the Senate. If, however, the President finds Onochie’s services too indispensable to him, he may find another job for his beloved aide. But her service is surely not needed in INEC.
However, if the President refuses to yield to popular demand, the members of the Senate, irrespective of their political leanings, should rise up to the occasion to reject Onochie’s nomination and save the nation the ugly backlash of this thoughtless appointment.

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