Power failure blacks out most of Nigeria

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WIRE:03/11/2000 16:58:00 ET Power failure blacks out most of Nigeria LAGOS, March 11 (Reuters) - Most of Nigeria, including the capital Abuja, was without electricity on Saturday because of technical problems with the creaking electricity network, power officials and residents of cities across the country said. "A systems failure on the national grid" cut off electricity supplies to most of the country on Friday, a senior official of Nigeria's largest power plant at Egbin, near Lagos, told Reuters. Power was being restored by Saturday night, he added.

"We lost the entire system yesterday and the power cut was near nationwide," said the official, who asked not to be named. the cause of the problem was not immediately known, he said.

The Egbin plant, with installed capacity of 660 MW, was operating at about 75 percent on Saturday and the country's hydro-electric plants appeared to be working normally and were carrying most of the load, he added.

Power cuts are a chronic problem in Nigeria, holding back economic growth and discouraging investment in industry because companies face the additional cost of providing their own electricity.

In theory the country has fairly adequate installed capacity but the power plants were neglected during decades of mismanagement by military rulers.

Elected President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the urging of the International Monetary Fund, promised to privatise the power authority NEPA, but this is low on the list of projects in a three-year programme. http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/reuters20000311_861.html

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 11, 2000


Mor The Guardian Online - http://www.ngrguardiannews.com Sunday, March 12, 2000 Power-play Worsens Electricity Supply


Adeleke Adeseri

Senior Correspondent

POWER-play between the Power and Steel Ministry and the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) may have been responsible for the current nationwide blackout.

Electricity consumers, who are the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants fight will have no relief for some time to come.

Also an estimated N5 million may have gone into power generation by companies and individuals within the last 24 hours in Lagos alone, and the situation has been worsened by the steaming weather with temperature at between 36 and 38C.

Authoritative NEPA sources told The Guardian On Sunday yesterday that "system insufficiency" would have better described the situation which was presented to the nation at the weekend as system failure.

There has been no power supply throughout the country in the past 36 hours. According to the sources, "this horrible state is the apex of the long term decay of the generation plants and anyone who gives a time limit must be deceiving the nation.

"You must be aware that the honourable minister has been in Lagos for five days; he was actually directed to move to Lagos to taste the problem," the source said.

"Unfortunately when he got to Lagos, the worst happened and the whole nation was thrown into darkness," he added.

It was gathered that the actual problems are:

inability of NEPA to award a single contract since last year, even with the widely publicised release of N2.3 billion for the reactivation of the generation plants;

alleged hijack of purchases of materials approved by the Abubakar administration before the handover last year; and

refusal of contractors to take the jobs awarded by the ministry to refurbish the generating plants because of low approved contract sums. However, power and steel ministry through the Special Assistant to the Minister, Dr. Olu Agunloye, summarised the blackout as "sabotage by NEPA and a power tussle with the honourable minister".

Explaining how Chief Bola Ige came to monitor power supply in Lagos, Dr. Agunloye told The Guardian On Sunday that: "the minister had a report from his monitoring team showing that power in Lagos was in its lowest ebb in six years that is going and off between 10 and 12 times a day.

"He (minister) obtained a clearance from President to come and sort out the problems in Lagos and on getting to Lagos with his team they went straight to Egbin Terminal Station where power is supplied to Lagos", Dr. Agunloye said.

According to him, "by the third day of meeting and work with NEPA officials on how to restore power to Lagos they arrived at a solution which was put to test on Wednesday night. However, sabotage which the minister, as a more matured man, preferred to call coincidence, caused Egbin to be shut down after only a few hours".

He explained further that although the situation at Egbin was put right again on Friday, they were unable to connect to the national grid because they were waiting to synchronise the frequencies from the other stations.

This was the case until distressing reports reached the minister that there was an explosion at Shiroro, that the explosion was fatal and involved lives. By yesterday morning the Delta axis was said to be involved in the system collapse.

On the allegation of non-availability of funds to repair the plants, Dr. Agunloye said: "the issue of Egbin can be taken as an example. Council approved money for Egbin on October 11, 1999, while the president approved five days later. But you know every spending in this dispensation needs appropriation which we are still awaiting".

He replied to the allegation of delay in award of contract for materials: "the minister has written two letters to ask why awards have not been made for the approved N2.3 billion and it surprising to hear that NEPA says it will not make awards until the money is physically given to them".

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 13, 2000.

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