Victor Udo, the Special Adviser on Power, looks the race to build the power infrastructure to drive the state’s industrialisation programme
NewsAfrica'. In what way has the present administration impacted the people in the area of power considering the industrialisation dream of the administration?
Udo: I must say it’s a milestone in the way the present administration has handled the issue of power. When I resumed, I saw so many transformers bought by the previous regime but abandoned in Government House. They were actually purchased by the state government to be issued to the people. Let me say that apart from Lagos State, Rivers and perhaps the Federal Capital Territory, there is no other state in the country that still buys transformers for their people except Akwa Ibom. In every part of this state you visit, the state government is doing massive interventions in the area of installing transformers. Because people know about the state government intervention in this regard, all the requests on my table are purely for transformers. Not only is the state government giving out transformers, we are equally installing them. To that extent, we have asked communities not to task their members on contributing anything to procure any transformer. We have made it clear in the whole of this state that government is giving out free transformers.
The only problem government seems to be having with the communities where these transformers are installed is that they do not guard them properly and vandals often destroy the cables. In such situations, it takes the government a long time to replace them - but as for installing new transformers in various communities, it is already the policy of the government. In all honesty, the Udom-led administration has made a giant stride in the area of power.
To what extent has this intervention impacted on the people?
Well, I don’t want to be the one to appear as if I am blowing my own trumpet but prior to the tenure of this present administration, everyone in Akwa Ibom knew the palpable state of power but from the feelers we get now and from what we have seen so far, there is improvement. At least, power is now available for 18 hours per day, unlike before.
In concrete terms, what did you do to reach the peak you are presently?
Now, one of the things we did when we came on board was to persuade the Port Harcourt Distribution Company to change some panels along Oron road. Those things are as old as the state. You can imagine what it means for an old transmission system to be changed. That worked the magic. We are equally pleading with them to change the breakers at Idongsit Ikanga Secretariat. There is another sub-station there. The mother of all intervention, however, is the 2.15 AVA sub-station by four lanes.
The governor has directed the Commissioner for Lands to acquire the land in question for that project to take off. Although the host communities are foot- dragging because of the issue of compensation, talks are ongoing to ensure that the project comes up in not too distant future. Once that project is completed a number of places like Shelter Afrique, Ewet Housing Estate will be connected. In that case, Oron and other places will be relieved. By then, even the 18 hours a day people are talking about will be increased to probably 20.
As I speak, we have what it takes to supply the entire Akwa Ibom with power for 24 hours. The problem, however, is with the downstream, and that is beyond the control of state government. In the area of generation, Ibom Power generates power every single day up to 100 to 150 MW. As a matter of fact, what we consume in this state is less than 80 MW.
The major policy thrust of this administration is industrialisation, which cannot be possible without power. How do you intend to complement that?
Its an ongoing thing. Not too long ago, I was in the company of the governor with the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry and the managing director of Ibom Power where His Excellency received a licence to generate 685 MW of power. This was at the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) headquarter in Abuja. What this means is that Ibom Power can now generate, build and distribute power up to that quantum of megawatts. The only thing they need to do to begin the process is to get the Power Purchase Agreement. When this becomes a reality, the state alone cannot consume the whole of the power we generate. We will simply sell the remainder and that means a lot of income for the state government.
That is not all. During that visit to NERC, the governor told the chair of NERC that he would still return to the commission for what is called Embedded Power Licence. This is in consideration of the Ibaka Deep Sea Project from which so many companies and industries will be springing up. For that place alone, not less than 108 MW is expected to be used by the industries that will be operating there. Again, this is called captive generation.
That is also another way the industrialisation policy of the government is being complemented Akwa Ibom is the only state that has the licence to generate this quantity of power so far. Since that was made public, there have been series of calls by investors from outside the country for the purpose of collaborating. Honestly, it will be a major milestone when everything is ready.