Double power tragedy!

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The persistent blackout across the country in the last two weeks may soon be over, as gas supply is said to have been restored to power generation companies.

However, losses suffered by individuals and organisations may take long to calculate, even as labour unions, which shut down distribution system at Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC), on Friday, decided to have a change of mind like the oil workers, under the aegis of Nigerian Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSON).

Oil workers, who kicked against the restructuring programme for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had shut down power production companies in Sapele and Lagos, in the wake of the protest.

Although power supply is yet to improve several hours after the strike and picketing of Ikeja DISCO were suspended by labour unions, darkness still pervade in most cities in the country.

Nigerians have started counting their losses and reeling their pains as a result of the unprecedented outage.

For Olutoye Olomola, a dry cleaner at Ikosi Ketu area of Lagos metropolis, business has been dull since the beginning of the year only to be compounded by the blackout.

He told The Guardian that he was going through difficult times, as a result of the constant power outage in the area.

“I moved to this area from Ikorodu in January, when traffic became problematic. I came here to move my business forward. Initially, it was better, but now it is funny. There is no electricity and my business is crumbling on that account. I cannot meet my customers’ expectations because even if I manage to wash manually, I still need to iron the cloths before delivery. The business is still on a small-scale and I cannot afford to buy a big generator. And even if you have the generating set, you still need fuel to make it work, and the commodity is now not available anywhere,” he lamented.

Mrs. Odia Ofemu, a housewife in Ikorodu, says life has become unbearable. She explained that she hardly sleeps for two hours at night because of the blackouts.

“The weather is very hot now, and I can hardly sleep at night. To worsen it all, the cooked food I kept in the freezer for preservation has all gone bad. We have not had power supply in the last three days. That is not all; we don’t also have water because we cannot fuel our generator to pump water. Yesterday, my husband brought water from the office and we all managed to have our bath and cook. Today, I managed to buy 10 litres of fuel and that is what we used to pump the water we are using now.

How long are we going to continue like this,” She queried.

Mrs. Mosunmola Sekinat said: “We came here from Itire because we were receiving crazy bills and we have not had light since January. My business has to do with selling chilled drinks, so it has slowed down, because nobody wants to buy a hot drink in this hot weather. To make matters worse, I can’t even get fuel to power my deep freezer. Government should help us settle the challenge Ikeja DISCO is facing.”

Femi Balogun, an Itire resident said: “I don’t really understand how Ikeja DISCO could put us in darkness for as long as a week. The unfortunate thing is that they will still bring crazy bills after this strike, and we will pay, because we don’t have options. I am a welder, and I need light to work. My customers are breathing down my neck to finish their jobs despite knowing that power has not been supplied. I can only use my generator for a few hours, but even the fuel is now hard to get. Look at filling stations, there are queues everywhere, black market sells at ridiculous prices, which would result in a loss if I buy.”

Stephen Uche, also an IKEDC customer said, “We have not had light since Sunday, and this hot weather makes it terrible. My question is: Would this reflect in the bills since they did not give us light because workers are protesting? There is no reason for us to suffer in darkness. It is just because we don’t have alternatives to DISCO that they are subjecting us to this suffering. If we had choices and there was competition, I don’t think any of us would be waiting, we would just switch.

Government should just help us resolve this before it becomes something else.”

However, the Executive Director of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Olurotimi Oduntan told The Guardian that power distribution within the Ikeja zone would soon become normal. He said, “We have had consultative engagement with the workers already and we have resolved the problem. The disagreement was as a result of communication gap. We have told the workers our own side of the story and they have set up a committee to fine-tune issues, because we made them see what we are doing.

“Nigerians are complaining that many of our people are corrupt. So, we rolled out competence assessment programme for the workers due to complaints of infraction here and there. After that, we trained those that needed to be trained and we told those that needed to be thrown out to leave. Since then, we have engaged another 700 new staff and people are not seeing that. The new staff are Nigerians, so it was not a blanket disengagement. But now we have been able to communicate. The workers at Osogbo, who went on solidarity strike with Ikeja workers will now return to work, because once the problem in Ikeja is resolved, that of Osogbo will also be automatically resolved, as it was a solidarity strike they embarked upon,” he said.

The Egbin power plant was shut down last Wednesday at about 3pm, bringing power production, which used to be at over 1,000 Mega Watts (MW) to zero at the station.

A source at the station said, “As we speak, my plant is down. We shut it down due to non-availability of gas. There is no power production going on now because without gas, we cannot do anything. The striking oil and gas workers, protesting the unbundling of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) cut off gas supply to Egbin power station. Gas is our main production input.

We need it to fire our turbines.

“Before the shutdown, we were producing 1,100MW. We are now at zero mega watts production. For now, only the hydro power stations at Kanji, Jebba and Shiroro are working and that is where Abuja gets its power supply. So, if Abuja has light, the people in power in Abuja may not feel the need for quick resolution.”

The authoritative source said Lagos had been enjoying priority supply of power since February because of the agreement between Ikeja and Eko DISCOs that 220MW of power be supplied to further improve supply to Lagos.

“So because of that agreement, we borrowed money to rehabilitate one of our units and we have been supplying extra power to Lagos since February, because it is an area where we can quickly recoup our investment.”

Before the industrial action of Wednesday, the highly pronounced power failure across the country had worsened due to partial system collapse on Tuesday and the continuous cut in power generation ascribed by government to pipeline vandalism, which interrupted supply of gas to the power plants.

As a result of the collapse of the system at Shiroro electricity plant, production plunged as low as 1,233.4MW from the peak of 3,207.7 Mega Watts recorded the same day.”

This ultimately affected the electricity load allocated to the distribution companies and accounted for the blackouts prevailing in many parts of the country.

A look at electricity load allocation in the last few days shows that Ikeja had the highest electricity load allocation with 237.09MW daily, followed by Ibadan DISCO with 205.48MW.

The load allocated to Eko DISCO daily is 173.87MW, Kaduna, 126.45MW, Port Harcourt, 102.74MW, Kano, 126.45, Enugu 142.25MW, Benin, 142.25MW, Abuja, 181.77MW, Jos, 86.93MW and Yola DISCO, which has daily load of 55.32MW

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