Unarguably, power remains cardinal to the socio-economic development of any country.
This truism, perhaps, explains why President Goodluck Jonathan has placed considerable emphasis on the development of the country’s power sector.
The president launched the Roadmap on Power in 2010, five years of inactivity after the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005.
In line with the roadmap, the Jonathan administration completed the handover of the country’s electricity generating companies (GenCos) and electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to new private sector owners on Nov.1, 2013.
This singular act was widely acclaimed as one of the most transparent privatisation exercises in Africa.
A document from the Ministry of Power, describes the power reform as a catalyst to the country’s economic transformation.
It lists the benefits of the power sector reform initiative as improved electricity supply to homes and businesses under the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan, NIRP, more jobs, higher GDP and increased household incomes.
Other benefits include improved standards of living, improved youth employment and social security.
The Ministry of Power observes that with the privatisation of the power sector, electricity generation has increased significantly from 2800MW in 2011 to about 4517MW, resulting in more hours of power availability per day in major cities across the country.
“Besides, gas to power has increased from 380mmscf/d in 2010 to 1000mmscf/d in 2014, while over 450km of gas pipelines have completed, with all power generation plants now connected to permanent gas infrastructure,’’ the records of the ministry indicate.
In the area of rural electrification, the Federal Government initiated a programme, “Operation Light up Rural Nigeria’’, in January 2014, with a view to providing electricity for “off-Grid’’ rural communities via renewable energy.
The ministry notes that many rural communities, which were electrified with solar technology under the programme, recently celebrated one year of uninterrupted power supply.
Going from the general to the specifics, nearly all the 10 hitherto abandoned National Integrated Power Projects, NIPP, have been completed, bringing additional 4,700MW to the grid.
Besides, the ministry says that electricity transmission lines in the country have been increased by 4,550km in 2010 to 15,760km in 2015, while transmission substations have increased from 121 to 162, with additional 122 projects under construction.
The electricity distribution capacity of the power sector has almost tripled from 3,658MW in 2010 to 9,200MW in 2014 due to the inauguration of several NIPP distribution projects.
In a nutshell, over 4,000 rural communities have since 2010, been connected to the national grid.
The Ministry of Power says new projects such as the 700MW Zungeru Hydro Power Project, the 3,050MW Mambilla Hydro Power Project and the 215MW Kaduna Thermal Power Plant, among others, are currently being executed.
Moreover, the country’s first coal-to-power plant in Itobe, Kogi state, being constructed by Zuma Energy Nigeria Ltd., will soon be inaugurated.
By most accounts, one of the major achievements of Nigeria’s power sector privatisation programme under the Jonathan led administration is the upgrade of the Egbin Power Plant.
The Ministry of Power says that N50 billion was invested in the thermal plant to revitalise its sixth turbine which has since been moribund; thus adding 220MW to the national grid.
Also, the power generation capacity of Ughelli Power Plant has been improved from 160MW to 610MW, with plans to further boost it by 1,000MW soon.
As regards Kainji Hydro Power Plant, its electricity generation capacity has increased from 80MW to 230MW, with plans underway to achieve a 470MW level, while Jebba Hydro Power Plant’s capacity has increased from 450MW to 546MW.
As part of efforts to stabilise the privatised power sector, the Jonathan administration, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Intervention Fund, released N213 billion as loan to the electricity industry to offset legacy gas and power debts as well as shortfalls in the Interim Rule Period, IRP.
It is, nonetheless, pertinent to recognise the power sector’s human capacity development efforts of the administration.
The Ministry of Power says that over 3,000 engineers have been hired for the sector after over 16 years of zero recruitment under previous administrations.
Besides, more than 7,400 youths have received training under the ongoing National Power Sector Apprenticeship Scheme, NAPSAS.
Nevertheless, the ministry insists that continuous vandalism of gas pipelines is the greatest challenge facing effective power delivery in the country.
It cites 60 major incidents of pipeline vandalism between June 2014 and March 2015, noting that the vandals’ attacks usually occur whenever power generation level rises above 4,000MW.
It, however, says that the Federal Government has increased surveillance on gas pipelines across the country so as to boost their security.
All in all, the Ministry of Power describes the power reform as work in progress, saying that the Nigerian experience is already a model for all other countries in Africa.
Meanwhile, observers on Jonathan’s transformation in the health sector opine that effective family planning plays a fundamental role in reducing infant mortality.
In their views, efficient family is the bedrock of women’s better health and a tool for tackling poverty.
In spite of its values, they note that women are unable to access family planning services because of cultural or religious beliefs.
Medical experts believe that when women cannot access family planning, they are unable to delay conception, space or limit their pregnancies resulting in a large family.
They, nonetheless, observe that some family planning methods such as using modern prescribed contraceptives could prevent unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
They observe further that other methods, including the use of calendars to calculate women’s ovulation period, have contributed to family planning, especially where access to contraceptives is hindered.
Whatever methods adopted by couples, medical experts believe that family planning enables couples to anticipate a desired number of children with enough spacing in giving births.
They observe that the importance of family planning underscores the inauguration of several initiatives at promoting advocacy for its practice by government and non-governmental organisations.
They cite the example of Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, NURHI, a non-governmental organisation that has inaugurated family planning related projects in FCT, Ibadan, Kaduna, Ilorin, Benin City and Zaria.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is set to increase contraceptive prevalence rate in Nigeria by 20 per cent.
NURHI notes that at the inauguration of the project, the use of modern contraceptives among women was between six per cent and 33 per cent in the project cities while fertility was high.
“Many low-income women living in urban areas were unlikely to receive pre-natal care or skilled care during delivery, heightening their risk of maternal morbidity and mortality.
“As such, expanding access to family planning information and services in urban communities will improve maternal health and save mothers’ lives,’’ it says.
NURHI Project Director Moji Odeku says the organisation’s mid-term assessment notes great improvement in the use of family planning methods.
“Scientific evidences have shown for more than seven years that by providing quality family planning service, it will reduce mothers’ death by 30 per cent.
“It will also improve child survival by 25 per cent; and such an improvement in maternal and child survival will avert about half of the deaths in women and children in Nigeria.
“Based on the successes that we have made, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have shown intention to scale up the project.
“We have only been working in the urban slum for the past years but the foundation says it will scale up this to both urban and rural communities,’’ she said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs. Enyiola Awoniyi, the Head of Family Planning Unit, Family Clinic, Abuja, said that with the assistance of NURHI, there had been improvement in family planning services of the clinic.
She said that with the presence of NURHI, staff of the centre received refreshers training and training on direct and close supervision.
“The NGO supplies us with information communication materials which we use to enlighten our clients and they are always prompt with delivery of materials,’’ she said.
According to her, family planning is for both women and men as men are also enlightened on its benefits. NAN
Unarguably, power remains cardinal to the socio-economic development of any country.