The power sector continues to be a vital component for development. Nigeria, known for its erratic power supply and unstable services, has sought the assistance of China to make transformation in that area a reality through manufacture of its own transformers. BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.
The federal government of Nigeria recently sent an oversight team to China. The team consists of some members of the National Assembly and the National Agency for Science & Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) to finalise plans in the power sector. Working in partnership with China, the three staged project is determined to enhance Nigeria’s poor power sector. The joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives team led by NASENI arrived China ending of May to inspect as part of their oversight function the ongoing project that commenced since 2013.
“We are here on what I would call an oversight function to see what one of our agencies, the National Agency For Science & Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), is doing in collaboration with China Great Wall Industry Corporation in respect of three projects; the transformer project, the high voltage testing facility and the solar energy project,” the Senator Representing Ondo North Senatorial District, Professor Robert Ajayi Boroffice, who is the head of the team disclosed in an interview in Beijing, China’s capital.
“We have gone round the facilities and we have interacted with the management of the companies. We have been to their factories and we are satisfied that they are in a position to assist Nigeria in acquiring these facilities. China has worked with Ethiopia and Mali. I felt a bit embarrassed that these two countries, not as rich as Nigeria have these infrastructures and Nigeria does not. I hope that we would re order our priority in Nigeria and do what is right for the interest of Nigerians,” he stressed.
He further admitted that the process was taking time to mature, stating that an agreement had been signed as far back as 2013 between both countries. “The problem is the implementation of the agreement. There are many bodies involved. Our function at the National Assembly is to oversight this project and make sure that it is a project that will be funded. We also make sure that we monitor the implementation. With this visit, we are almost at the end of starting the implementation of the project,” he averred with positivity.
In terms of obstacles, the head of the team pointed out, “The present challenges may be from our Nigerian side in releasing funds for this project. It is being financed by the China Great wall to the tune of 85 percent. Nigeria is supposed to provide 15 percent counterpart funding. From my experience you find out that for Nigeria, its side of the funding may become an issue which we hope will not be the case. This is why we are here to ensure that adequate provision is made for it. In the 2017 budget, provision has been made for it. We continue to ensure that provision is made for it, so that we can conclude this project within a short time. In Ethiopia it took them just 18 months to complete it. We should not take more than 18 months also to complete it in Nigeria,” he said. “We will get back home, put our heads together and do the necessary intervention with the executives to ensure that this project takes off very soon,” he finished with resolve.
The Chairperson of the Science and Technology Committee, House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja, Honourable Beni Lar, reiterated, that an approval would be given upon the team’s return to Nigeria. “Nigeria has shown its commitment to the use of science and technology in transforming our society. More importantly, it has chosen to partner with China in order to bring this about. I think I am very happy with the terms and conditions that the Chinese government is providing, it is more of a partnership.
Relating to the funds given by the Chinese government for the project, Honourable Lar disclosed that it will last for about 20 to 25 years and will be very significant in the power sector. “This loan will go a long way towards increasing power and boosting the power sector in Nigeria. Nigeria will no longer have to import transformers, but will now produce transformers. We import about millions of transformers in a year. We have a high dependence on utilisation rates of foreign made transformers. But China has said, ‘We will come and help you. We will set up an assembly plant in your country and teach you how to produce it yourselves. A production plant so that later on you don’t need to rely on us because you have the raw materials.’ Nigeria has steel, silicone and every single raw material in abundance. And that is the advantage we have,” she stated.
She equally commended the work of the implementing agency, NASENI for the agency’s ability to harness all the human resources to ensure that the project takes off. “NASENI has shown that we have all the engineers and technicians necessary, and all we will be doing is training about 350 of them in China so that they will go back and utilise these trainings in the production of transformers,” adding that necessary monies would be appropriated for this project until it is completed.
Highlighting the various roles of the parties involved to successfully implement the project, Honourable Lar pointed out, “We have different roles to play. The executive and the legislature, in bringing about this project. Our role as legislature is to appropriate funds for them (executive) which we have done. And we have also come here to oversight and monitor how these monies will be expended. And we have to give approval for this project to be started.”
On expected overall outcome, she underlined, “I think what the key outcome of this visit will provide is not just a better life for Nigerians in terms of enhancing the power sector, but it will forge closer ties with China. China is becoming a major economic global player and political player in the world right now,” she said.
The Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, National Agency for Science & Engineering Infrastructure, Professor M.S Haruna, affirmed that NASENI is already producing full mounted transformers. He cited that it is necessary for continuous research and for the availability of local input component to the power sector that Nigeria needs to manufacture transformers at home.
“The other component is high voltage testing laboratory. This is a key project in the area of power. There can be no successful power company in Nigeria without production of this component locally,” he said.
“Within the mandate of NASENI to intervene in the area of power, we have come to China for this project. That is getting support from the government of China.
Talking about the third project solar cell manufacture, Prof Haruna pointed out that NASENI currently produces solar panels and modules in Karshi, Abuja. “But it is an assembly plant. It is therefore compulsory to use raw materials that is locally available in Nigeria to produce the cells in order to increase local contents. Doing this will drastically bring down the cost of solar installations in Nigeria and it will support also the sub regions. Because the solar cells we will be producing will certainly meet the needs of Nigerians and will be in excess to allow exportation. This is the main purpose of this visit,” he said.
He also mentioned the companies visited to include; the host organisation, China Great Wall Industry Corporation, and enterprise of the government of China which he noted is in collaboration with Huawei in Shenzhen, both leading manufacturers and researchers in China in the power industry. “Especially power transformer and high voltage testing laboratory. We visited their facilities, inspected their production process, their designs, research process,” he said.
He reiterated that the major challenge is the absence of the 15 percent counterpart funding from Nigeria, stating that it has been the cause of delay. “The Chinese since 2014 have always been ready to disburse the 85 percent funding support that is coming from the government of China. But it is the preparation at home that has been delaying the taking off of the project. But we thank God the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, has graciously provided some components of this 15 percent counterpart funding in 2016 budget and in 2017 budget and that’s why we are here to facilitate the take-off of this project,” he said. He equally added that with the positive statements from members of the National Assembly team, he believes the project will take off before the end of October this year 2017.