Katsina State is home to about a dozen almost abandoned federal government funded power projects. With the return of some of the contractors to sites and a few others set to resume after long period of time, ANDY ASEMOTA examines the Katsina power infrastructure and their prospects.
For many business people, traders, artisans and industrialists in Katsina State, the biggest obstacle that stands on their road to success is power supply that has eluded them for many years. Not a few businesses have gone into extinction in the state. And this is not because of lack of managerial skills, but because operators couldn’t stomach the high running cost mainly from providing alternative power.
Musa Ali, 45 had to abandon his machine rolling factory in Funtua for welding business because the running cost of his 100kva generator put him on the lost side of his accounts. “I had to abandon the business for welding because of cost of power. I used less diesel and a smaller generator to work. Power supply is a major challenge for small business people in this part of the country, I love my machine rolling business but the cost of staying in business is very high and putting me at a loss,” Ali said.
Many like Ali have either switched trade or gone out of business owing largely to the erratic and sometimes lack of power that has beclouded the economy of Katsina State.
This among other things the state government had to grapple with in providing quality life for the people. Conscious of this, the Katsina State government has to rise to the challenge especially having the opportunity of hosting about a dozen power projects started by previous governments but later abandoned and now rotting away.
No fewer than 11 of the power projects inherited by the administration of former President, Goodluck Jonathan, suffered unprecedented delay stalling the projects for about a decade. The projects were initiated by former President, late Umaru Musa Yar’adua who hails from Katsina State.
Even though the projects are outside the ambit of the state government, the determination of the Katsina State government to improve power supply in the state has seen the completion of two of the projects.
To facilitate the projects, Katsina State governor Aminu Bello Masari, appointed a special adviser to take charge of the department of power and energy. He facilitated the completion of two of them while a third may come on stream in the near future as he gives the necessary push to the focus of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to ensure the completion of ongoing projects.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Sunday reveals that the department of power and energy created by Masari led government to liaise with relevant federal government’s agencies to see how to shore up power poverty in the state have been making efforts to see the state lighted in no distance time.
“Out of the 11 projects, I think so far, we have the 60 MVA in Funtua completed by TCN. That was late December, last year. And on Daura transmission line that has been ongoing for over 15 years, we have been able to get a single line to Daura on 132 KV line. There is also a transmission sub-station there with 40 MVA a transformer. I think that is an achievement. Then, the 16 MVA here in Katsina, along IBB Way Katsina, the Katsina sub-station, which will also be commissioned soon. That will give us enough capacity to take more power,” Engineer Mansur Mamman Musa, the special adviser to Governor Masari on Power and Energy, told our reporter.
Musa, who lamented that funding was essentially the major source of the problems delaying the power projects, affirmed that “we are talking to financiers, the owners of the projects: the Federal Ministry of Power and the TCN. We are even talking to the contractors; they tell us their issues, their problems and we try to see how we can influence some payments”.
He reiterated that some of the contractors have been mobilised and they have started to bring in equipment for the different aspects of the projects.
Some residents of Katsina who spoke with our reporter expressed worry that almost all the power projects started by the administration of the late President Yar’adua of blessed memory stopped soon after his demise.
Idris Aliyu, a consultant to one of the contractors said, “These projects just stopped; the past administration did not fund them well, so may be, that was why they could not be completed but now, I think, there is a new thinking. I think some funds have been provided to the various contractors and the jobs are ongoing now but very slow. At least, some of the contractors are back to site in some areas.”
Aliyu applauded the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Lambar Rimi Wind Mill Plant would be completed before the end of 2018 and dismissed critics concern that the wind mill contribute barely 10 MW on completion. “They say its contribution will not be much, but at least, it is an addition to what we have already. If that one can come on board this year, we will be very happy,” he further stated.
It is largely believed that President Buhari seems to be walking his talk in works on the first phase of the wind powered project which is believed to have reached an advanced stage following his declaration. Similarly, there are positive signs that the 30 KVA transmission line project from Kano to Katsina will take off again, LEADERSHIP Sunday’s investigations reveal.
According to Mamman Musa, the paper works had resumed and he believed that the project financiers were talking to the contractors just as his department was also pushing for the project to be completed, saying, “We are talking to the Federal Ministry of Power and TCN because it is essential to the project.”
The energy expert, who admitted that the 30KVA transmission line, was dear to his heart, said its installed capacity of 250 MW would be enough to meet the power need of the state for now if it can have all of that.
“To have the capacity is one thing but to have power is another, but we are sure of at least 100MW in Katsina if that project is completed. If you look at what we are having now, it is may be 20 to 30MW. You can compare that with about100MW. I think it’s about three to four times over what we are having now. I think that will bring in some development,” he said.
He however commended the effort being made towards making the Lambar Rimi Wind Mill a success after a long period. On why the plant is significant, Musa said the plant will provide the state with renewable and clean energy, arguing that is where the world is going and it is, perhaps, the first of its kind in the country.
Beaming, searchlight on the prospects of the projects, he was confident that if all the ongoing projects could be realised, Katsina would leap frog forward after few years because of the development that will come along with availability of power.
Further investigations revealed that the Masari administration had envisioned the production of power through solar plants as he had given land to solar power developers and many of them had promised to build between 80 to 100 mw plants in the state.
Going by the focus of the federal and state agencies and the promise of the private solar power developers, if all the projects come on stream and the bridge is complete, the power and energy experts believes Katsina would have to export power.
“We will not be able to consume all of these when they come on board. So, my view in terms of power is that in the coming years, Katsina will be exporting power. So, that is exactly where we would be in three to four years if the projects are realised,” Musa enthused.
On what to expect as gains at that stage, he described them as endless. “If we have power to export, definitely industrialists will all come to Katsina to establish firms and that will lead to creation of thousands of jobs and there will be hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs.”
“That is enough benefit because once you have that, crime rate will drop, youths restiveness will be ruled out and there will be economic activities and I think these are things dear to every society,” Musa added.
Another expert, Yusuf Danbaba, an engineer and civil servant in Katsina, however expressed worry that only government is still expending a lot of money in building power infrastructure.
“The investment of the company that took over defunct PHCN’s assets is not quite visible to us. In Katsina, it is government that is doing most of the work. It’s providing transformer, building lines across voltages: 415 volts, 11,000 volts and 3,000 volts. It’s still the government that is building most of the infrastructure.”
He argued that if the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) would equally invest as the government had been doing, the Katsina would had been able to overcome problem of overloading of transformers and the underserved areas would have also received attention.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also learnt that the challenge posed by vandals is another key issue facing the power and energy sector.
Speaking on the lessons he has learnt since he assumed office about five months ago, Governor Masari’s aide, Mansur Mamman Musa, lamented that the challenge of vandalism was ever present threat in the provision of capital intensive power infrastructure.
“Vandalism is still ongoing. You will finish a project, commission it and the next thing is the operation of some elements will come vandalise it. This has to be curtailed by both security agencies and the general public,” he emphasised.
Contrary to the common perception that key stakeholders in the state, particularly members of the National Assembly, were not making any effort to fast track the completion of most of the power projects in the state, Musa was of the view that the representatives were doing their best in complementing the effort of the government through the provision of transformers in the state.
“They also try as much as possible to ensure funds are allocated to these projects and they are also released but what we call on them to do now is to rededicate their efforts to see that funds are not only made available in the budget but they are also released as at when due to the contractors. That will be of great help.
“I think if they do that and with the effort of the governor of Katsina, we are really going to realise these ongoing projects in no time because most of them are supposed to be completed within 18 months but, as I said earlier, some of them are 10 years old and they are yet to be completed. Some are even yet to take off apart from their perimeter fencing,” he stressed.