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Generating 25,000MW in four years is unrealistic- Ex-TCN boss

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Usman Mohammed, a former managing director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has said the plan by some presidential candidates in the 2023 general election to generate 25,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity in four years was unrealistic.

During a discussion with a local television station on Wednesday, Mohammed said that most political parties and presidential candidates do not understand the power sector.

He described it as a mirage, the plan by some of the leading presidential candidates to solve Nigeria’s power sector in four years and move the country’s power generation from a 4,000 MW to 25,000 MW.

“If you talk about these declarations – moving from 4,000mw to 25,000mw, where in history do we see a country move from 4,000 MW to 25,000 MW in four years?” Mohammed said.

He also said that when he was at a programme in Lagos recently, organised by PricewaterhouseCoopers, we analysed the manifestoes of the political parties and the conclusion is that most of them did not do any deep-down analysis on why we are still at 4,000MW for years.

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“And then they come up with declarations that we are going to move to 25,000MW. The conclusion is that most of the political parties do not even understand the power sector,” Mohammed said.

“And the fear is that like previous interventions, it is likely that if they enter government like that, vested interests will come in and at the end of the day, they are not likely to move forward.”

According to Mohammed, in four years, you are not going to solve the problems of the power sector. We need to have a non-partisan consensus on how we want to move forward.

The former TCN managing director advised presidential candidates to understand the sector to be able to solve the intravenous and decade-long challenges in the sector.

He also advised the next president to resist vested interests and not expect money from the power sector to make progress.

President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 had promised to expand Nigeria’s electricity capacity to 25,000mw by 2025 when he inked a deal with Siemens Energy in Germany under the Presidential Power Initiative but his administration is far below the target as his eight-year tenure winds down.

Similarly, Atiku Abubakar, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), promised to increase the country’s power generation capacity to 25,000 megawatts (MW) by 2025 if elected president in 2023.

Mohammed further said the power industry is a slow one and it takes time for investments to manifest.

“Any intervention including the Siemens is useful but to say that it is the Siemens that will take us to this megawatts, it is a mirage,” he said.

Mohammed further said that transmission is not the challenge with Nigeria’s power sector but distribution.

According to him, no investment came into the sector since its privatisation about a decade ago. He also cited a lack of investment and managerial capacity as part of the cause of the conundrum.

“TCN is supposed to work on the capacity of redundancy, meaning if the generation capacity is 10,000MW, transmission capacity is supposed to be 20,000MW and distribution is supposed to be double that transmission. That is how you can have a reliable power supply,” Mohammed said.

“But I don’t believe, even as of today, that transmission is the main problem. No; the main problem is actually distribution because no investment came into distribution since the privatisation took place.” He also said the power distribution networks should not have been privatised at the same time but in phases to learn and move forward.