In Bayelsa State, every successive administration has had to battle with the problem of power generation and distribution to the people and business outlets in the eight local government council areas. This has often posed a serious challenge. But Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s administration appears to be complicating the power problem in the state.
For the past few weeks, residents of Yenagoa, the state capital have been thrown into darkness for days without any improvement on the issue of power supply. Unlike in the past, where the Timipre Sylva led-administration worked tirelessly to ensure constant power supply, the worried residents have castigated the present administration for not doing more to sustain such improved policy it met on assumption.
During the administration of Sylva, the fear of poor power supply became history when it decided to install three gas turbines worth N7.6 billion to boost electricity supply in the state. It also adopted a policy of ensuring that three turbines units of 20 megawatts capacities each, with digital and analogue gas are installed.
The last administration, as part of its reform agenda, announced that the existing refurbished 20 mega watts would be supported at the Immirigi Power Station by another 20 mega watts. While another 40 mega watts is billed to be installed during the second phase at the Gbarain axis of the state to assist the generation and distribution of power to every quarters of the state. But, Dickson’s government last weekend broke its silence over the rising criticism by turbine electricity consumers in the state against the complex system of payment of tarrifs and procurement of pre-paid meter from the authorities of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, asking the people of the state to shun acts capable of disrupting the billing process and pay up what they owe for effective service delivery.
Although some groups including the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch (NIDDEMCOW) faulted the Bayelsa State government investment of over N50 billion in the procurement of gas turbines from the United Kingdom and Russia without benefits to the people of the state, the power situation in Yenagoa and other parts has improved tremendously. Opinion sample conducted by the LEADERSHIP show that the residents and owners of business outlets expect Dickson to do more in the area of power generation and supply, blaming the current power outages on the alleged conflict between the PHCN and the state government. However, the state chief executive has denied the claim that the present administration is engaged in a contractual dispute with the authorities of the PHCN over the state government because of its refusal to discontinue the payment of N30 million monthly subsidies for the generation and supply of power to some parts of the state.
Speaking through his senior special assistant on media, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, the governor denied any rift between his government and the PHCN, insisting that the power outages experienced in the state is common to the 36 states of the federation, due to the problem at Kainji Dam. But as a palliative, Dickson has already set up a special committee on power generation and distribution to undertake a comprehensive review of the power situation in the state.
According to the governor; “The truth about the epileptic power situation in Bayelsa State is a national problem. It is not peculiar to Bayelsa alone. It is a well established fact that Kainji Dam has been shut down owing to some challenges being experienced with the operations of that facility, hence, the PHCN has had to ration power to all the 36 states of the federation”.
The governor noted that the ultimate aim of setting up the committee is to ensure uninterrupted power supply, describing it as the only way to attract investors and in the process create employment for the teeming youths of the state.
In his words, “The present administration is packing a new Bayelsa where tourism will have a pride of place. We cannot achieve that without stable power supply”.
The urgency of the matter may have necessitated the governor’s two-week ultimatum to the committee to submit its report, with an interim report within one week.
Responding on behalf of members of the committee, the chairman, Engr Ollis Kemenanabo, thanked the governor for the confidence reposed in them and assured that his members would deliver on the terms of reference. He said the responsibility of the committee is to provide the technical framework, but advised that achieving uninterrupted power supply could be a mirage if the government does not provide the political will.
The 10-man committee’s terms of reference include identifying the present mode of power generation and distribution, identifying government’s current assets and liabilities in the sub-sector, identifying the challenges militating against power supply and to suggest ways of improving on this. Other terms of reference include the recommendation of ways the government and people can actively participate in the privatization of power holding and to recommend structures to be put in place for uninterrupted power supply.