By Godwin Ibok
Governor Emmanuel has, since his first term, demonstrated a clear understanding of the central role that power plays in the effort to change the status of the state, from a predominantly civil service to an economic power. In other words, he is fully aware that the effort to build infrastructure to support his economic programme would come to naught without uninterrupted power supply throughout the state.
The various initiatives of the administration in the power sector over the last five years have been geared towards providing the backbone for other sectors of the economy to thrive. These initiatives have primarily centered on intervention projects in power generation and injection, to ensure every community in the state is linked to the national grid. The interventions have seen the government construct injection and sub-stations in strategic locations around the state, from Uyo, the state capital, to other locations that would enable easy distribution of power to the nooks and crannies of the state.
The focus of the Udom Emmanuel administration from inception in 2015 has been the building of an economy that would make Akwa Ibom State not only economically self-sufficient, but also one that would reposition the state as an economic and business hub not just in Nigeria, but also in the West African sub-region.
The governor spent the first four years of what would be an eight-year tenure laying the foundation that would make that plan realizable. Apart from setting up numerous industries, about 18 so far, that have employed thousands of the state’s indigenes with the domino effect of contributing to improvement of the standard of living of a good number of people, the governor paid priority attention to the building of critical infrastructure on which the state’s economic independence would stand, in order to guarantee sustainable development of the present generation of Akwa Ibomites and beyond.
For instance, the government has constructed a 2×5 MVA, 33/11KV injection sub-station on Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo, to ensure constant power supply in parts of the the state capital and environs. The construction of a 2×15 MVA injection sub-station at the Victor Attah International Airport is intended to move the airport away from dependence on the electricity generating set on which it has operated since its inauguration on September 23, 2009, which has been at an enormous cost to the government. The constant and uninterrupted power supply to this important facility is expected to significantly enhance efficiency and improve services at the state’s major gateway to other parts of Nigeria and the rest of the world. This is more so as the state now has its own carrier – Ibom Air – that is expected to play a leading role in conveying the expected surge of visitors to the state on investment and tourism.
The government has constructed 2×60 MVA, 132/33 KV power sub-station at Ekim, in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, in addition to the rehabilitation of facilities belonging to the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company at Etim Ekpo, Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi Ekpu and Ikot Ekpene.
The effort to ensure electrification of all parts of the state has led to the installation of 1×60 MVA, 132 KV transmission sub-station at Afaha Ube, Itam, in Itu Local Government Area and acquisition of 1×30 MVA transformer for communities in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area. The present administration has also extended public power supply, through dedicated lines, to Four Points by Sheraton Hotel at Ikot Ekpene.
Perhaps what could be regarded as the boldest and most ambitious initiative of the Udom administration in the area of power supply is the launch of Power-for-All by December, 2021. The commitment of the administration to attaining this goal could be seen in the fact that it is actually tied to an achievement date. It is unarguably the first of its kind in the country.
These initiatives were targeted at achieving the government’s objective of providing uninterrupted electricity supply to all the communities in the state, 24 hours of the day, seven days of the week. The significant improvement in electricity supply that is noticeable today in all parts of the state is a pointer to the fact that the objective is achievable.
Realization of this objective has, however, been hampered by the fact that the state is not allowed to transmit the power it generates. Despite the liberalization of the power sector, which allows private participation in power generation and distribution, transmission still resides with the federal government, through the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). As it stands at the moment, only 40 per cent of the electricity generated by Ibom Power is evacuated by TCN. As a consequence, the power generated in Akwa Ibom is not available in large quantity even to the people of the state.
Governor Emmanuel has remained undeterred by this development, as he is bent on meeting the target of his Power-for-All by December, 2021 Programme. The government is currently collating data for all villages in the state for a community metering programme, with a view to ensuring every community is connected to the national power grid.
Also, an inventory has been made to know villages in the state without electricity power
Even with the inability to evacuate all the electricity generated by Ibom Power, the government is still forging ahead with its plan to generate additional 685 megawatts of electricity from the power plant, for which the state had since received a license. This would increase its capacity to 875 megawatts, from the current 190 megawatts. The hope is that sooner than later, the state would be able to transmit and distribute the power it generates, for the optimum benefit of the people.
The plan to generate more power is an indication of the governor’s foresightedness in recognizing, from the futuristic infrastructure he is putting in place today, that the power the state currently generates will not be enough to sustain the economy he is building when it gathers full steam to fully benefit from the numerous investments that are being anticipated from within and outside the country, post COVID-19.
Generation of additional power would not only ensure availability of electricity throughout the state, but would also enable it to sell the surplus to neighbouring states in what is certainly a veritable source of huge revenue to the state.
The single-minded approach of the government to the building of power infrastructure is borne out of the fact that the plan to make all parts of the state conducive for residency and investment is tied to availability of uninterrupted supply of electricity to all the areas, including the hinterland. The aim is to make it possible for people to live in any part of the state to utilize the numerous opportunities the various government incentives are opening for job creation in all sectors, including micro, small and medium enterprises. This would achieve the overall objective of significantly improving the quality of life of the people of the state, now and in the future.