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Electricity: 'Power in 100 days initiative' lightens up faces in Nasarawa in anticipation of succour

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From Ali Abare Abubakar Lafia

For the people of Nasarawa state, an issue that has remained irresolvable, but which has subsisted since the creation of the state in 1996, even with efforts by previous administrations to alleviate it, is the problem of power supply. This has continued to haunt residents, grievously affecting businesses, leaving people with no option but to resort to the use of generators, damning the consequences.
With the creation of Nasarawa in 1996, Lafia, the emergent capital, witnessed an unprecedented influx of people and proliferation of facilities that consequently placed enourmous strain on the existing power arrangement for a city that had instantly transformed from a local government headquater to a state capital. The  increased demand further strained the system, giving rise to an unbearably low power supply, which has since then persisted all through the years, denying residents access to the steady power supply that would have brought improvement in their living conditions.
Even today, residents, particularly in Lafia, have not experienced any improvement in that respect, as power supply continues to dwindle as overloaded and overused transformers collapse with sickening regularity, sending the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) officials in a futile race  to tackle a situation that is clearly out of their grasp.
In Lafia, as in most parts of the state, power supply has consistently remained epileptic with most households invariably going without supply weeks on end, thereby jeopardizing any meaningful economic activity and, considering that at times the temperature soars as high as 40 degrees Celsius, life, for the majority of the inhabitants, is far from comfortable.
It is against this sorry backdrop that residents breathed a sigh of relief when on his assumption of office, Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura, while on a tour of facilities he termed "critical priority", listed power among such priorities. Addressing officials of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) at the Lafia District office, he stressed that the importance of PHCN to the need of the society could not be overemphasised, declaring that his administration is ready to dialogue with the company on how to ameliorate the problems of power in the state capital.
Giving reasons for the power situation in the state, Abdulganiyu Isa, business manager PHCN, disclosed that capacity limitations, lengthy and weak network,  weak transformers combined to account for the low power supply in the state, adding that the state government is yet to clear a backlog of debt totalling N78 m. He disclosed that only 17 megawatts was being supplied daily, as against the 85 megawatts required for sufficient supply.
The 'Power In 100 Days Initiative' is the result of series of meetings and high level interventions on the part of the Nasarawa state government with all the relevant agencies, particularly, the PHCN, with a view to finding a lasting solution to the persistent power problem in the state.
While flagging-off the scheme in Lafia recently, Al-makura recalled that even while he was campaigning to become governor, he had prioritised issues that his administration would tackle in order of priority and that the first in that category is "to redress infrastructural decay". 
Listing the issues which his administration intents to tackle according to their order of priority, the Governor said roads, power and water supply remained topmost, stressing that his administration is passionate about the provision of roads, amelioration of the power problem and provision of portable drinking water, adding that they are aware of  how much the people had suffered over the years in trying to access these utilities.
He pointed out that as a people-oriented government, his administration's pre-occupations were not grandiose, not things that were "white-washed" or window dressing. He stated that they were looking at the very things that strike the cords of subsistence, of people's living, of people's convenience, which according to him are the reason why the CPC government made the provision of infrastructure and utilities its topmost priority.
Regarding the issue of power, Al-makura stated that it was the target of his administration that by 100 days, the situation of power supply would have to improve, declaring that his administration has made all the necessary contacts at the highest level as well as reaching out to the relevant bodies in the state so that together they could actualise the 'power in 100 days initiative.'
As a result of this collective resolution, the governor further disclosed, his administration was able to purchase 30, 500 KVA transformers for a start, in addition to the 132 KVA, which each local government in the state will hopefully be connected to.
Elaborating further on the power initiative, managing director of the Nasarawa State Electricity Company (NASENCO), Professor Sani Suleiman, disclosed that Al-makura started the initiative in May ahead of his inaugurated, putting up a team taqsked with the mandate finding out the problems of power in the state.
"We decided we are going to trace the problems of power through the value chain, from the generation point, through the supply, transmission and  distribution through the state and finally through township distribution of power. That we did in conjunction with the PHCN engineers and we submitted a report based on our findings," he annonced.
He claimed that  the power supply from the National Grid to Nasarawa state was inadequate , saying that PHCN allocates only 17 megawatts. 
"This is the power scenario in the state and if we put this side by side with the PHCN analysis of the load requirement, they told us that Lafia alone will require about 25 megawatts, Akwanga will require probably 20-25, and Keffi zone will require another 20-25, bringing the total to the neighbourhood of 85 megawatts. 17 is what we are getting and 85 is what we need to stay afloat. So there is a shortfall obviously," he lamented.
Prof Suleiman went on to suggest that the shortfall must be addressed from within and without, explaining that within the state there is the need to have a power generation plant, so that at the very least, "we can supply ourselves", in order to support economic activities and even have a good social life". From without, the managing director urged the state government to put more pressure on the federal government to allocate more power to Nasarawa, through the PHCN.
He further disclosed that upon receiving the recommendations of the team, Al-makura met with the major players in the power industry including the MD of PHCN, Engr. M.D Nalado and the CEO of the Abuja power distribution company.
He disclosed that the MD of PHCN had pledged to allocate a few more megawatts and this has resulted in the increase of power supply presently witnessed in the state.
In the area of transmission within the state, the backbone of this are the 33 KVA lines that  run throughout the state, which, according to Professor Suleiman, is grossly inadequate. He also disclosed that a master plan was in place to ensure that all local government areas are connected to the 132 KVA.
"With this, the people can not only open the barbing saloons, the SMEs but they can in fact set up industries."
He added that with Nasarawa state so close to the federal capital, it was hoped that the state would become a centre of manufacturing activities, cashing on the readily available market in Abuja.
The purchase of the 30, 500 KVA transformers, according to the formerly US-based professor of electrical engineering, is a step towards addressing the problem of power in the state, assuring that with their eventual installation before the end of the month, the power situation will definitely improve.

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