• Sunday, July 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

How Adebayo Adelabu is steadily beaming light on Nigeria at the end of a dark tunnel

How Adebayo Adelabu is steadily beaming light on Nigeria at the end of a dark tunnel

Gradually, light is overcoming darkness in Nigeria’s firmament. Gradually, sighs of relief are replacing groans of despair in the country. There is a palpable difference in the air. But the question is: Is this the end of an infamous era of erratic, unreliable, and insufficient electricity supply to brighten lives in Nigeria and power its industry?

While we ponder the future, let’s examine the triggers for the difference that is at present perceptible. It’s not by accident. Someone at a very high level is making a difference, and the signs are that Nigeria is breaking from an embarrassing past.

The difference-maker is none other than Adebayo Adelabu, Minister of Power. Adelabu started his career with PriceWaterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), an international firm of chartered accountants and management consultants.

Read also: Energy firm unveils solars panels at Nigeria oil & gas conference in Abuja

Adelabu received a first-class degree in accounting from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, and an Associate Member of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

During his seven years with the firm, he led and managed various audit and consultancy engagements for large banks and non-bank financial institutions within and outside Nigeria.

He was on secondment to the Central Bank of Nigeria for one year in 1999, when he led the finance team on the CBN re-engineering and corporate renewal project tagged “Project Eagles.” Adelabu left the firm in 2000 as an audit manager and senior consultant to join First Atlantic Bank as the Financial Controller and Group Head of Risk Management and Controls. He was later promoted to Chief Inspector of the Bank in 2002. The new Minister of Power moved to Standard Chartered Bank as the West African Regional Head of Finance and Strategy (Consumer Banking Business), with dual offices in Lagos and Accra. He was there till 2009, and later he became the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Nigeria’s largest bank, First Bank of Nigeria Plc. (FBN), at the age of 39.

He was later appointed by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in February 2014 as Deputy Governor, Operations, of the CBN.

The man’s vision is spot-on. “In terms of our vision and the legacy we intend to leave behind, we want to be remembered as a bold and courageous ministry that tackled the root causes of the power sector’s problems head-on. Our goal is to achieve major improvements in electricity supply stability in Nigeria, thereby changing the narrative of the industry.”

 “The strategies of increasing generation, stabilising the transmission network through the Siemens project, and enhancing the distribution companies’ activities have led to the vast improvements that are in evidence.”

He also understands what meeting this vision entails when he says, “It involves creating an energy system that is resilient, efficient, and environmentally friendly. It’s about utilising our resources in a manner that meets our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.” He went on to promise: “By addressing the sector’s infrastructure challenges and embracing sustainable energy development, we are not only meeting our current needs but also paving the way for a prosperous and resilient nation.”

Also, tell the man that he has ambition and is leading the nation to scale up the provision of infrastructure to enable the sector to meet the nation’s aspirations. An example is the plan to procure 3.5 million electricity metres before the end of the year to improve revenue for the cash-strapped power sector, where more than half of the customers are subjected to a very unfair estimated billing system.

The government signed an agreement last month with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority to finance 10 million electricity metres for households and businesses at the cost of 1.325 trillion naira ($946 million) within five years.

Read also: Nigerians spent ₦16 trillion on generators, fuel in 2023 FG

This goes with the release of 20 billion naira to electricity distribution companies to procure metres for big users for whom tariffs were raised in April. This will ensure they are all metered by September.

“This year, 2 million metres would be procured, plus the 1.5 million metres being procured with World Bank support. We are going to have 3.5 million metres installed by the year end,” Adebayo Adelabu, Nigeria’s minister of power, said at an energy conference organised by this newspaper.

He also said the government has agreed to release 20 billion naira to electricity distribution companies to procure metres for big users for whom tariffs were raised in April. This will ensure they are all metered by September.

Millions out of about 13 million customers are unmetered, according to government data. Previous efforts to metre all customers have run into problems, underscoring the significance of Mr Adelabu’s effort.

Not one to indulge in fruitless blame games, as soon as he was appointed minister, Mr Adelabu hit the ground running by embarking on critical tasks in the following contexts:

“The improvements we aim for are measurable in three key areas. Firstly, we plan to significantly increase the generation output from where we found it. We have already achieved 5,000 megawatts, the highest in three years, within nine months of taking office. Our short-term target is to reach a minimum of 6,000 megawatts by the end of 2024, representing a 50 percent improvement in generation. This would be the first time in Nigeria’s history that our collective generation output hits 6,000 megawatts. We are committed to surpassing this target and will continue to strive for even greater output before leaving office.

“Secondly, generating power is only part of the solution; it must be delivered effectively to users. We aim to leave behind a robust and high-capacity transmission network. We are strengthening the entire transmission network to reduce, and ideally eliminate, the possibility of grid collapse. This is being achieved through the Presidential Power Initiative and the efforts of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). We are also exploring the establishment of a supergrid as a backup to the existing transmission infrastructure.

“Thirdly, we envision more responsive and responsible distribution companies that prioritise customer service and efficiently deliver transmitted power to consumers. A key part of this vision includes significantly reducing the metering gap to ensure proper metering of consumers, thus putting an end to estimated billing.”

The ambitious projects have yielded fruit. In his works: “First, we increased electricity generation from less than 4,000 megawatts to about 5,000 megawatts. We achieved this through improvements in the gas power plants and significant enhancements in the hydroelectric plants, particularly with the addition of the new Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Company, which added 700 megawatts to the national output. On May 3, 2024, we reached 5,000 megawatts, the highest in three years.

“Second, we expedited action on the Siemens project, the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), that started in 2018–2019 but slowed down due to COVID-19. Upon taking office, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed an acceleration agreement with the Chancellor of Germany in Dubai. We quickly moved on to the pilot stage of the project, which involved importing 10 power transformers and 10 mobile substations into the country. We have installed almost 70 percent of this equipment, stabilising our transmission network. As a result, we haven’t experienced a grid collapse in the last three months, significantly improving power supply across the country.

“Third, we improved the activities of the distribution companies (DISCOs). We put them on their toes, and they have become more responsive and responsible. They are now investing more in upgrading their distribution infrastructure, including feeders, substations, transformers, and lines, and reducing the metering gap for households and businesses.”

The strategies of increasing generation, stabilising the transmission network through the Siemens project, and enhancing the distribution companies’ activities have led to the vast improvements that are in evidence. According to the minister, “the cost-reflective tariff or tariff increase is actually in the best interest of the people and is long overdue. When compared to the cost of alternative power generation through generators, the new tariff is far cheaper. Households, companies, and industries will spend less, reducing production costs and inflation, and ultimately lowering the price of goods and services. This initiative is in the people’s best interest and is not anti-people.”

He pleads for public understanding of and patience with the ongoing reforms and transformations, saying they “can be turbulent initially, but we believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Nigerians will enjoy better electricity supply services in the future.”

Suddenly, the normally overcritical Nigerian public is united that, for the first time in a long, long time, the right person has been put in charge of the power sector in the country, doing the right things needed to be done to fix the sector.