Power is a sector that has given successive governments in Nigeria damning records. Ensconced constitutionally on the exclusive list of the federal government, power supply has been an intractable malady that has afflicted our beloved nation for decades with massive investment in the sector always dissolving into more prolonged darkness. Manifesting the traits of the proverbial Abiku in our literal folklore, power supply has remained defiant to many supposedly well conceived solutions including changes in name to the unbundling policy. Known to operate on the critical prongs of generation, distribution, transmission and marketing, power supply has for long adopted the character of rocket science with well heeled administrators/professionals meeting their waterloo in this very sector.
In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo during his second coming as a democratically elected President having earlier served as a military head of state from 1976 – 1979 vowed to find a permanent solution to the recurring epileptic power supply that Nigerians had become accustomed to. He appointed the highly principled and revered former governor of old Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige, a progressive to boot to man the power sector. Ige, a no nonsense and celebrated administrator, promised that power outage would be a thing of the past. With this public record, Nigerians girded their loins to celebrate the new dawn of uninterrupted electricity supply. But that celebration never came and Nigerians have still not celebrated that envisioned sustained power supply almost two decades later. Chief Ige left that office with his tail tucked between his legs. It was in the power sector that late Chief Bola Ige recorded the worst public outing of his life. I have volunteered this history to enable us appreciate that Akwa Ibom is leading the way and has pushed through where angels feared to tread.
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State seems to have found the solution to this malignant tumour called power outage as indigenes of the State who are pleasantly shocked have confessed to recording between 22 to 24 hours power supply daily. A renowned APC Chieftain is quoted to have without any prompting said, “whoever is responsible for constant electricity at Shelter Afrique (where he resides) should be applauded. Small, small, we will get there. I had thought that it is only my children that will enjoy Nigeria. I have been proven wrong. I hope it continues. For weeks, electricity is interrupted for only 3 to 5 minutes whenever it happens” This is a confession of an APC Chieftain who could no longer resist the anointing of speaking the truth and shaming the devil.
The confession of the APC member is part of the growing plaudits that the man behind the constant supply of electricity in the State, Governor Udom Emmanuel is being buffeted with. Many adults are nostalgic about the development as they can only recall seeing 24 hours supply of electricity without outage only back then in the 70s when fewer appliances were said to be in use and which serves today as the excuse for prolonged blackouts. Then, one could find lit bulbs for 24 hours. But one can say with near certainty that no person born from the mid eighties to date can boast of seeing 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply until recently in Akwa Ibom State. Rather, they are used to the slogan “UP NEPA” which is the result of epileptic supply that the country is known for. As a friend of yours truly observed, the slogan, “UP NEPA” is the first language phrase a Nigerian child acquires because of the frequency that he or she hears the slogan which of course is also synonymous with the regularity of the outages.
The magic of uninterrupted power supply did not just happen in Akwa Ibom State. It is the product of vision and strategic investment. Governor Emmanuel once told a story of how he attended an international business summit and was alarmed to watch business moguls identify investment friendly countries in Africa with Nigeria not in contention. He said that he tried to enquire from some of them why Nigeria was not being considered. According to him, the response he got was shocking but real. The investors told him that Nigeria is not ready for investment. They cited sustained power supply as a key component of an investment friendly environment and reiterated that no reasonable investor would go to where access to power cannot be guaranteed.
The comatose power infrastructure in our country which has lingered for decades has witnessed companies relocating from Nigeria. For instance, Michelin Tyres was a thriving industry at Trans-Amadi which absorbed many of our people. After years of struggling with epileptic power supply and worrisome overheads, the company had to relocate to Ghana where it is currently doing well. They are many other companies in Nigerian cities like Peugeot Assembly of Nigeria in Kaduna, Volkswagen Nigeria in Lagos, Textiles Industries in Kano and Lagos, to mention but a few which have shut down and relocated out of the country because of lack of electricity. It is this trend that Governor Emmanuel wants to halt, reverse and redirect to attract these industries to Akwa Ibom State. Hear him: “our duty is to put Akwa Ibom on the terrestrial of industrialization”, Governor Emmanuel stated with passion. The Chairman, Ibom Power Company, Engineer Etido Inyang on his part noted that the governor has kept his promise of delivering power to the extent that companies would be relocating to Akwa Ibom. The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Power and Managing Director, Ibom Power Company, Engineer Mmeyene Etukudo who seems very proficient and adept in his work stated that Akwa Ibom would be used to show that 24/7 power availability is possible. He said that since power supply is a quasi social responsibility, the governor has worked diligently at discharging his part of that social contract and commended him for the vision of investing in the power sector.
The supply of electricity which is encapsulated in distribution and transmission is in the exclusive list of the federal government. But Governor Emmanuel has facilitated the boosting of power supply in the State through the provision of enabling infrastructure. To achieve this, he awarded a contract in September 2015 for the building and commissioning of a sub-station in Uyo within 6 months. Unfortunately, the land allocated for the project was mired in some controversy. And so in July, 2016, another land was acquired and a most modern 2/15 MVA sub-station finished, delivered and commissioned on July 10, 2017. Since that commissioning, Uyo metropolis and the environ have not been the same again in terms of electricity supply as people are enjoying almost 24 hours of power.
But the visionary and modest Governor Emmanuel believes that the best is yet to come. He said that the ongoing power sub-station in Ekim, Mkpat Enin Local Government Area once completed would boost electricity supply in at least five (5) local government areas in the industrial belt of State. The Akwa Ibom helmsman noted that the success recorded by his administration in power infrastructure development was part of his promise to develop the sector. Hear him: “When I was campaigning, I said that these things are not rocket sciences, it takes dedication, sincerity of service to get things done…” The 2/60 MVA sub-station at Ekim is scheduled for commissioning during the 30th Anniversary of the State. The governor said that soon after the Ekim project would be Oron which would ensure a 24/7 coverage of the State.
Electricity is critical to the socio-economic development of any society. The multiplier benefits of steady power supply range from the sprouting and sustenance of businesses and even opportunities, reduction of overheads of businesses thus leading to increased profit margin, reduction of rural-urban migration and improved living conditions. Many have said that if any Nigerian leader achieves steady power supply, then such leader should be credited as a success story. Governor Emmanuel has achieved this in two years and has by this uncommon feat joined that pantheon of great leaders that came to make a mark and a difference in the lives of the people.
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