Imperatives of power assets protection
THERE is growing concern over how the activities of vandals and communities hinder the completion of some of the power facilities in the Niger Delta and the South East regions.
Why this challenge linger, over 800 Megawatts (MW) of electricity generated from some of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs) plants are trapped.
The affected transmission facilities are projects of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) Limited being constructed to evacuate electricity from the Eastern supply loop to other parts of Nigeria.
Officials have accused communities of frustrating NIPP’s Rights of Way (RoW) despite resolving compensation issues with individuals and communities in such places.
To see things themselves, top management officials of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) recently went on a tour of the affected projects.
From Obonarie in Okigwe to Oronta in Umuahia, to Ikot Ekpene and to Nekede, the stories reflected the same trend.
It was observed that much of the delay caused was the demand for compensation or diversion to avoid the Silos. Officials said due compensation had been paid and work started before some individuals appeared and started holding the projects to ransom with fresh requests.
They narrated how individuals allegedly go round to put up small structures and thereafter secure court injunctions to stop the contractors even when compensation was alleged to have been paid to such persons.
At some of the locations, the facilities were either destroyed or equipment charted away.
In one of the sites in Umuahia, Abia State 10 drums of transmission conductors worth 40tonnes were stolen recently.
General Manager, Transmission of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Claudius Ogunrinde, lamented that the vandals overpowered the guards at daytime and took away the critical transmission materials used for stringing a 330Kilovolt (KV) tower.
“Using manual labour, it is difficult to move even one let alone the 10 drums. It means they planned it well and got their machinery and equipment right to do that,” he said in amazement.
Ogunrinde also decried the theft of transmission tower members and the pulling down of conductors already hung on towers by vandals saying such acts have stalled completion of critical transmission infrastructures that would have improved power supply from the new NIPP plants in Calabar, Alaoji, Egbema, Afam VI and Ibom Power.
At Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom state, Ogunrinde said the ongoing NIPP major Switching Station will be completed within three weeks and energised to transmit power from four plants which would result in improved power evacuation shortly.
“This is a switching station where most of our lines come into before they face the north and east. They are to harvest power from the four stations in this zone and then take into the grid through Ugwuaji in Enugu state,” he said.
Worried by the Right of Way challenges, the NDPHC is seeking accelerated court hearing on many restraining cases on transmission way-leave to speedily complete the lines and deliver power supply.
Executive Director, Legal and Company Secretary at the firm, Mr Abdullahi Salisu, told newsmen that most of the cases observed were pending because certain individuals wanted additional compensation which could not be justified.
He said: “We are working on enlisting the cooperation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to also enlist the cooperation of the chief justices of the states so they can grant accelerated hearings to these cases and take off frivolous cases so we can complete these projects and deliver power to Nigerians.”
He appealed to the state governments to quickly gazette allotted Right of Ways (RoW) for similar projects now and in future to avoid impediments.
He added: “We are enlisting the judiciary support on these just like they did for the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) for the speedy recovery of debts.”
Executive Director in charge of networks at NDPHC, Dr. Albert Okorogu, said communities and individuals who had ordinarily been compensated were holding the transmission projects to ransom with what he described as ‘frivolous’ demands.
He said the tour was part of renewed efforts to rescue over 800 mega watts (MW) stranded electricity in some of its power plants in the Niger Delta region.
He stressed how some of the power plants constructed under the National Integrated Power Plants (NIPP) were generating power, but not feeding the National Grid, because of challenges of transmission network.
Some of the projects were originally due to have been completed in 2009, while some were to have been completed two years ago, officials noted.
He said: “We have issues of power outage. In a country of over 170million people, we barely generate 4,000mw and practically, most cities are left in the dark. The story out there is that government is not doing enough to provide electricity but these powers are stranded in many generation plants with people frustrating its evacuation and distribution to the nation.”
Conducting journalists round some of the shanties in some of the concerned sites, Okorogu said the structures were hurriedly erected along the right of way by communities and individuals.
He said adequate compensation had been made for cash crops, land, and structures around the way of the projects.
The tour took officials round the 330Kilovoltage (KV) transmission line connecting the 330mw Egbema plant around Ohaji in Imo state with Port Harcourt and Owerri, where they reported that new structures were erected right under the line, a dangerous situation when the lines is energised for power evacuation.
Some of the 330KV transmission towers were said to have been mowed down at night.
Okorogu gave an instance of a situation where a medical doctor allegedly mobilised youths to hack down a tower weighing about 30tonnes with a generator and steel saw over perceived inadequate compensation at the Right of way (ROW).
About 45 uncompleted structures were also erected along the Enugu-Ikot Ekpene line that connects the completed 563mw Calabar plant in Odukpani.
Head of the Environment at NDPHC, Mr. Ben Iroha, gave further insights into the situation.
He said: “To allow construction of transmission lines, we had to create a corridor of Right of Way (ROW) to build two level transmission lines of 330KV and 132KV voltage levels with 50metres and 30metres space requiring the acquisition of land and due payment of compensation.
“We had gone through these processes sometimes more than twice due to legal constraints especially along the Port Harcourt, Egbema, Ikot Ekpene, Owerri axes where people go to get court injunctions to stop our nearly completed facilities for not paying them enough compensation or for us to pay them another round.”
He explained further: “These encroachments and court injunctions have delayed transmission facilities that have caused stranded electricity supply in recent times especially from the 330mw Egbema NIPP, the Afam Power in Port Harcourt and 430mw Calabar plant in Odukpani.”
Executive Director (Legal) at NDPHC, Mr Mahmud Mohammed said: “We have a lot of stranded power in the completed stations but we need to evacuate them to the grid through the transmission stations. If these facilities are continually hacked down, how then do this power get to Nigerians even there is over 6,000mw capacity to generate power.”
At Obiofu Amaoji, Nenwa, along the Enugu-Ikot Ekpene road, a community member, Mr. Godwin Onwe, alleged that they were not well compensated, stressing how that could have given rise to the hurriedly erected structures around the Right of Way of the transmission lines.
His words: “We had issues with what they wanted to compensate us with which we disagreed but later got something from them.”
Secretary of Oronta Development Union ( an accused communities) , Ikoro Onyebuchi, said the community opposed the activities of those who brought down an NIPP tower.
He noted, however: “We agitate for full compensation to our bushes, forests and access roads.”
NDPHC officials, however, said that there were documented evidence to proof that anybody who needed to be compensated was duly settled.
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