A remarkable improvement has been observed in the quality and quantity of electricity supply to Anambra state, especially the state capital. Here the Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof Boniface Egboka expressed appreciation to the Minister’s giant strides. He noted that he has now proved skeptics wrong by showing that we have what it takes to fix the sector. CHUKS COLLINS was there and recorded the comments.
Poor power supply has been seen by many people as one of the biggest problems in Nigeria for decades now. But there has been some kind of enthusiasm in some parts of the state, especially the state capital, Awka. What is your assessment of the situation as someone strategically located here?
I think there has been some form of continuity on the part of the current Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo to improve on what he met on ground and there has been that improvement already. If one can talk about one’s experience here in Awka, one can say that the university community and the community around it have experienced a new thing. For some time now, the students have been coming around to thank me and to glorify the government for that effort. The community around the university has done so too. One can appreciate the efforts of the state government, the Central Bank of Nigeria and Juhel Pharmaceuticals and the university in approaching PHCN to boost electricity for the university and beyond. So there has been great improvement. In fact there is excitement about the power supply here in the community and beyond. One believes that if the minister will be given enough time and enough support – the moral, financial and political and other support
>>> he needs, he will do a lot better than where he met the situation. The efforts to get enough power supply here actually started during the tenure of his predecessor, Prof. Berth Nnaji. In fact, recently, we had to commend the power ministry for this monumental improvement. As you know, universities cannot run without adequate power supply. It is what is needed in in achieving optimal results in teaching and research. So, that is the situation and one believes that there will be greater improvement with time.
Where is this new turn of event coming from? Is it as a result of the Nibo power facility as people have been saying?
First of all, there is this central generating facility that was brought in to support this new one being built and was hooked into this our line, the Enugu-Onitsha high tension line. Before, we used to get power from Nibo power station and it was terrible. The power source was very low and very poor. Then we used to spend millions of Naira on fuel and diesel. But now, we get direct connection from the high tension from the station at Agu Awka. This has brought a lot of improvement. And it is not only in the university community, or the government house or the Central Bank or Juhel Pharmaceuticals, but many communities are enjoying the improved power supply. That is why I believe we have to encourage the PHCN on their efforts so they can do more. When somebody does well in this country, that person has to be encouraged so that he can do more. Negative criticisms should not be encouraged.
What does this encouraging development translate to both for your university and the the society, the entire system?
Life is better, people are happier. You have more power source all the day round, day and night. This has a lot of impact on security, because the lights are on, the streetlights are on. It has a very serious impact on research and productivity because people can now stay late amours, work on Saturdays and Sundays. Lecturers and students can also benefit. As I said earlier, we used to spend a lot of money on diesel and we are going to cut down a lot on that. Already, we have cut down from the N1.4million we spent every week on diesel to more than half. But it is not only the cost in terms of money, but cost in terms of the environment, because when you burn all these fuels in the generators, you release a lot of noxious gases into the environment. These include carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide ammonia and so on. All these are not healthy for not just the environment but the human beings and animals.
All these small scale industrialists, those who rely on generators for their small scale industries and other small scale entrepreneurial activities, the impacts are on them. Around the university and beyond, the current steady power supply has changed their lives. So, it has very wide-ranging implications. For instance, when you talk abbot Ghana, Republic of Ghana having stable power supply, one is very pleased that in Nigeria, at least here, we can talk of the same thing. And we pray that it should be sustained and the sustainability is very important. We can make it sustainable if we appreciate what has been done so far and encourage the government, the authorities in the power ministry, including the PHCN. Happily, it is no longer a storm in a teacup, because it has lasted for more than one month. Even though once in a while, the supply goes of, but in just five or ten minutes it is back.
Sometimes it takes just about two minutes for it to come back. And the power we are talking about comes in full scale. It is not the type that comes in 20 or 30 per cent illumination, it is full blast. As a result, you can use all your electrical facilities – freezers, storage facilities, and so on and so forth. So, it has far ranging implications, not just for the university community but for the society at large, especially in the sociology-economic activities that I have enumerated, including the cutdown of noxious gases on the environment. Even the terrible noise pollution from the generator sets are reduced, if not eliminated. Besides, you will no longer be talking about such issues like fires from generator sets, kerosine or fuel explosions or people dying from generator gases. They are going to be past issues. You will no longer be talking about the huge amounts being spent by Nigerians in buying or repairing generators and fueling them. As it is for the university, so it is for the society. As I said, we are already saving a lot of money and I believe it
>>> will be the same for the ordinary people out there. The benefits are endless. I must also commend the media for trying to highlight this aspect by taking the interest you are presently showing in the positive aspects of this development, so that all those involved in making it possible will be encouraged. With this type of encouragement, we hope that what is happening here in Awka will translate to the entire country.
Most of the industries here have folded as a result of poor power supply in the past; do you believe that the situation will change soon, from the picture you have just painted?
That is what I’m praying for and that is why sustainability is very important. Already, as I have said, we have experienced this change for over a month now and I pray that it is sustained. And if it is sustained, such stories are very commonplace in the system. People will come back. As you know, people from this part of the country are very entrepreneurial. Instead of all these generators and purchasing of diesel, if people are sure of credible and sustainable power supply, they will come back. Many of them have about two or three generators that they are using and frustratingly managing. So, they will be noticing. They are businessmen and women. They will be noticing this positive change even more than all of us. Even more than you media people. And if they are convinced that it will be regular and continuous and I pray that it will be sustainably continuous, they will hook on it and there will be a lot of change.
We need to encourage our young men and women to become entrepreneurial and become self-sustaining. And this will be a boost if it will continue and I’m sure government is conscious of it. This issue of unemployment will have a good fight against it, because people will now begin to be on their own. There is no doubt that our people are known for taking charge and mastering their destinies in terms of self-actualization. So, I agree that if it is sustained it will give a lot of boost to the country’s sociology-economic advancement and I’m sure PHCN is aware of it. Let them complete the new power line at Agu Awka, to support the new temporary one and then our dream will come sharply true.
With this, do we still need the privatization as is being proposed by the Federal government? Is it still an attractive option, since it appears the PHCN can do it?
Well, I don’t have an opinion on that. I’m not a privatization expert.