There are strong indications that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and the management of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) may be on the warpath over epileptic power supply in the state.
The governor had vehemently said that in an industrial age, no one can underestimate the place of electricity in development.
From powering heavy industries and small businesses to lighting up machines and equipment in schools, health centres and homes, power, in a manner of speaking, is life, he said.
In the many years that Nigeria has made frantic efforts at transforming its economy, the inability to fix power supply – the harbinger of industrial growth – has been the albatross dragging the country down, leading eventually to the unbundling of the monopolistic state power company, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). After this, it was thought that the emergent companies would dramatically change the narrative.
However, amid a litany of challenges, the distribution arm of the unbundled power companies seems to have been hit by a hard brick over how to deliver power to homes, offices, industries and other critical infrastructure across Nigeria.
This peculiar situation has pitted Governor Godwin Obaseki against the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) and its management in Edo State.
While the governor is unleashing an ambitious plan to industrialise the state and deliver good governance to the people, it appears BEDC is at a loss on how to meet its mandate to distribute electricity to customers in the state.
Realising that the company has become a stumbling block in his plans, the governor sought alternatives to get electricity to power government offices, business clusters and street lights across the Benin metropolis through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from CCETC-Ossiomo Power Plant, an agreement that is set to change the tune of power distribution in the state christened the Heartbeat of the Nation.
Governor Obaseki has not minced words on his disappointment with the services of BEDC in the state, as issues got to a head when he walked out the managing director of the company, when she joined a delegation from the National Assembly on a visit to the government house, in Benin City.
On that day, he was livid. He said: “BEDC has been an obstacle all the way. They will not provide electricity and will not allow you to get alternative sources of power. The state will not allow that.
“As governor of Edo State, we have lost confidence in BEDC. We don’t want them here. We are in darkness. Let us remain in darkness until we find people who are capable of delivering electricity. This is our position.”
The governor said despite the fact that the state generates about 600 to 700 megawatts of electricity, the people are still in darkness, wondering how he is expected to explain the irony to the people, who are well aware that they produce a substantial amount of electricity in the country.”
He said BEDC has failed to recognise that they have to be patriotic and responsible to the state and the country, instead they have been noncommittal about the issue of power distribution.
“To assist them in their function, we set up electricity committees across the local government areas chaired by the Deputy Governor of the state, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, with BEDC as member to understand the challenge. But BEDC frustrated our resolve to finding a lasting solution to the issue of providing electricity to our people,” the governor said.
CCETC-Ossiomo Power plant to the rescue
As consumers of electricity anticipate the withdrawal of BEDC’s operational licence by the Federal Government, Governor Obaseki has made progress with his plans to rescue the state from the grip of BEDC with the commencement of construction of the CCETC-Ossiomo Power plant.
The first phase of the construction, according to the governor, is expected to be commissioned in April, which will make more electricity available for distribution in the state.
Director of CCETC Clean Energy/Ossiomo Power Plant, Dr. Uwa Egiehon, confirmed that the 55 megawatts power plant which is a joint venture between a Chinese Company, CCECT Clean Energy and Ossiomo Power would be delivered between April and May, as the company intends to use natural gas from a 50-metre gas pipeline close to the site to provide 5 megawatts of electricity to the state government offices and street lights along Sapele road in Benin City, the state capital, in the first phase of the project.
The 55MW Power Plant project which is expected to be built in phases, the governor said, will ease the distribution of power, as a substation would be set up around Kings Square, which would provide power for street lights.
According to the governor, the state government is concluding transaction to deliver electricity to 200 kilometre street lights across the city. The governor believes that with the 55 megawatts power plant by CCETC Clean Energy/Ossiomo Power Plant, in place, some electricity will be made available for the distribution company to supply to consumers.
“We believe that if the megawatts produced increase, the distribution company will have more power to distribute to other cities in the state. There is an arrangement to drop power in certain processing centres where artisans can move into and do their businesses with the assurance of steady power supply,” the governor said.