As part of efforts to keep the public aware of the true state of developments in the nation’s power sector, the ministry of power, housing and works organised a guided tour of three key hydro power generating plants in Niger State recently. FESTUS OKOROMADU, writes on the prospect of the sector as investors strategise to take advantage of turning water to electricity.

The Nigerian power sector has been described by various stakeholders as one that is critical to the economic growth and development of the nation. Various initiatives such as privatisation of some sections of the sector as well as government’s entry into new contracts geared at improving the power situation have not yielded the expected results.
But in the face of the numerous challenges facing the sector, government is optimistic that there is a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel.
Basically, the sector stands on a threefold cord of generation, transmission and distribution.
In the Nigeria’s situation each of these sub sectors has their peculiar challenges. Unfortunately, the end user is concerned with product delivery.
The ministry of power, housing and works, the executive arm of government charged with the responsibility of directing the affairs of the sector, in a move designed to unveil recent developments in the generating subsector took a trip of the hydro power plants in Niger State.

The Zungeru Hydro Power Plant
Back in 2013, the federal government in collaboration with China’s Exim Bank entered into a partnership agreement to build a 700 MegaWatts (MW) hydro – electricity generating plant in Zungeru, Wushishi local government area of Niger State.
The Zungeru dam project was said to have been first conceived in 1982, but was abandoned due to lack of funds. But with the Chinese bank offering to fund 75 per cent of the $1.3 billion deal, while the federal government takes responsibility for the balance 25 per cent, China National Electrical Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) and Sinohydro Consortium, commenced building activities at the plant site in September 2013.
According to the contract documents, the project comprises a 700 MW hydropower station, a river dam, a 2,400m RCC (roller compartment concrete) gravity dam and a clay core rockfill dam, a power house behind the dam, a tailrace channel, and two switchyards on both banks.
The project was conceptualised with a duration period of 57 months, with less than 20 months to the targeted completion period, the wisdom of verifying what was on ground can be said to be apt.
At the site, the project supervisor, deputy director, Energy Resources, Ministry of Power, Works & Housing, Engr. Olatubosun Owoeye, told the visitors that the project was 45 per cent complete.
According to him, the dam excavation project was complete. He confirmed that the first turbine of the six turbines expected to be installed at the power plant would be fired by December 2019.
He noted that the perimeter fencing which covers an area of over 5 kilometer was cast in concrete to ensure security and safety of the workers.

According to him, the project when completed, would not only increase power generation, but equally improve the agriculture activities around the dam thus improving the economic well-being of the host communities.
Speaking on relationship with the host community, the project’s local content representative, Mustapha Yerima, said while plans have reach advanced stage to build 36 settlements for the 93 communities identified to be affected by the project, the inhabitants of these communities currently have access to the healthcare facilities in the company’s camp site.
He added that over 200 glasses had been given to inhabitants of the host communities with sight impairments, while students were offered books to facilitate their educational careers.

A visit to one of such resettlement site under construction showed that a block of classroom, health centre, and tap water were among the facilities the natives would enjoy when completed.
On payment of compensation to the affected communities by the federal government, Mustapha said the federal and Niger State governments has put in place a committee to interface with the contractor and the host communities with a view to resolving any differences that may arise in the course of the construction.
As noted by Owoeye, the Zungeru Hydro Power project when completed would not only add 700MW to the national grid, it would also create thousands of jobs for Nigerian engineers, technicians and artisans during the construction phase as well as boost the economy.

Jabba, Kainji Hydro Power Plant
Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited (MESL) is the concessionaire of Kainji and Jebba hydropower plants in located in Niger State.
Managing director of MESL Engr. Lamu Audu, spoke on his company’s investment since it took over the plants to bring them nameplate capacity.
According to him, the Jabba powerhouse is equipped with six turbines and six turbine-alternator groups, however, one of the turbines was currently out of operation due to a major fire incident that occurred in April 2009.
He noted that prior to taking over the plants, the failure of previous management to carry-out overhauling when due affected the machines but insisted that since Mainstream Energy Solutions came on board, the plants have been overhauled and were working to full capacity except for the challenge of load rejection by the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET) Limited.
Speaking of the uniqueness of the hydro power generating system, Audu said it was cheaper when compared to electricity even though the cost of machines may be high at inception.
He however regretted that despite all the efforts the company has put in place to resuscitate the system, the issue of stranded electricity due to inability of transmission and distribution to take the power generated by their machines had not allowed them to run at full capacity.
“On several occasions we have been asked to shut down our production, unfortunately, when we do, we are not paid for capacity lost,” he stated.
According to him, his company has an unsettled N81billion receivable outstanding with NBET.
“We want the government to address the issue if we want to get out of the woods. If we want this country to move forward power has to be provided,” he stated.
Nevertheless, Audu applauded government for taking some intervention steps including the privatisation of the sector and the approval of the eligible customer.
Acting director, Press, Ministry of Power, Housing and Works, Mrs. Etore Thomas, who led the delegation charged the companies to continue to do their best in supporting government’s efforts at ensuring that Nigerians were provided with electricity.