Like most parts of Nigeria, electricity supply in Rivers State was erratic and inter-nutrient for many years. The impact of the inadequate power supply situation had seriously damaged the state’s industrial and economic capacity.
Prior to 1999, the state had to manage a meager 30mw from the national grid through Afam lines 1 and 2. This caused local businesses to rely heavily on generating sets which affected higher production cost, unemployment and poverty. But today, the state generates almost ten times that much.
The integrated Independent Power Programme of the Rivers State government is based on the premise that adequate power throughout the state is essential for industrialisation and economic transformation.
Although the responsibility for the provision of power infrastructure in the country lies with the federal government, the Rivers State Government, realising the critical importance of power to a modern economy, has made tremendous efforts towards a reliable, affordable and uninterruptable power supply by investing hugely in generation as well as in distribution capacity. The ongoing power sector reform in the state, when completed, will open up distribution to the private sector.
Currently, Rivers State has a generation capacity in excess of 400mw, transmission lines of 237km and is improving distribution facility as well. Additionally, the state under the current leadership of its Governor, Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has attracted an independent power plant such as Afam – 6 to generate power from Rivers State.
The state government is working very hard to ensure a 24 – hour power supply in the state this year. To this end, it has committed enormous resources to the realisation of the project. About 30 billion naira has been set for the project. The State Commissioner for Power, Augustine Nwokocha, recently confirmed this in a statement.
Nwokocha said what the Rivers State Government is doing to get 24-hour power supply this year is “to generate capacity, have a robust transmission infrastructure that will take the power to the people, to their neighbourhood and then have a very solid distribution infrastructure that will take it to their routes, and so we are addressing these three things – power generation, transmission and distribution,” says Nwokocha.
To actualise this project, the Amaechi administration has formed a committee of technocrats to deliver power to Rivers people. A vendor has been chosen with very reliable technology in distribution and transmission.
The vendor is Sunder Electrical of France and the State government has entered into a contract with it to supply all the materials that are required to stabilise power supply in Port Harcourt.
The government has also given out contracts to build sub-stations that will reduce the length of feeders that sometimes stretch as far as 40 or 50 kilometres through diverse places. To demonstrate the seriousness of government, contracts for the acquisition of all parts and components of power substations have been awarded. Nwokocha confirmed this in the following words:
“Currently, the contract for the acquisition of the parts and components required for this exercise has been awarded. The contract for those who will do the implementation, the construction proper has been awarded, some of them in clusters of three substations, five contractors. We didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past where one person was doing generation, transmission and distribution. So, we have seven contractors doing the distribution substations each handling only three and then we have a contractor trying to remedy the lapses that are in the transmission backbone, and you have another contractor handling strictly generation”.
The model adopted by the Amaechi administration has produced some results. At the moment the state power project is generating 466 megawatts with an additional 150 megawatts coming from Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). This capacity is likely to increase to over 700 megawatts by the time the Phase 2 of the state Afam power project is completed about next year.
Another area where the Amaechi administration has focused attention has been the improvement of power supply to grassroots communities at the local government level. The government estimates that most, if not all communities, will benefit from rural electrification. Already several communities like Buguma, Opobo and Abonnema have been electrified. A lot of other smaller communities have been electrified as well. The government has spent so much in the electrification of these rural communities.
As the present administration celebrates one year in office, in its second tenure, Rivers people expect the government to effectively electrify all rural communities before the expiration of the administration’s lifespan in 2015. To accomplish this goal, the government has procured a number of transformers for communities to enhance rural power supply. It is also facilitating the completion of the substations and the injection stations to boost power supply from the gas turbines.
The huge investment in the sector is an indication of government’s seriousness in bringing about a stable power supply as an elixir to a speedy socio-economic growth and development in the state. When this is achieved, the state can begin to reap the fruit of sustainable development.
Of course, a stable power situation in the state would ensure the vibrancy of the entire system. The economy would be buoyant and the people would relish in affluence, progress and prosperity.
It is not in doubt that a stable power supply in the state will translate into more employment opportunities for the people, greater occasion for capacity building or development for all full industrial capacity utilisation, improved productivity as well as quality and cheaper goods and services. Additionally, residents of the state would experience a more peaceful environment, while families would witness economic progress and happiness.
This is what investors hope to see in an environment they want to do business in. The Rivers State Government is on its way to accomplishing this by its massive investment in power.