How Isoko can overcome power supply issues – Engr. Ekpoh

Engr. Michael Ikoro Ekpoh is a seasoned energy management expert with bias in providing solutions in power development

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How Isoko can overcome power supply issues – Engr. Ekpoh
Independent Power Project at Plantation City in Udu Local Government Area, Delta State, executed and being administered by DMTL Oil and Gas Coy Limited


Engr. Michael Ikoro Ekpoh is a seasoned energy management expert with bias in providing solutions in power development and management. He is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of DMTL Oil and Gas Coy Limited and Head of the Power subsidiary providing Independent Power Projects. He is a successful Engineering Consultant, ICT expert, Business Administrator and Manager. Michael is also a renowned teacher and currently he is the chairman/chief executive officer of SafeConnect Investments Limited and Safe Information and Communications Technologies Limited respectively.

He has a very high level of specialty in systems and business development; Project Management and providing energy/power solutions to estates, businesses and institutions. His experience in the power sector of the Nigerian economy as a seasoned General Manager in former Power holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) respectively has helped to effectively design, develop and build Independent Power Projects (IPPs) with over 98% technical and commercial efficiencies. He has Developed, built, Managed and supervised Independent Power Projects (IPP) - (off grid power solution) for Industrial and residential ring-fenced estates, Communities and Business concerns; a singular reference case is the IPP in Plantation City, Otokutu, Warri.


In this interview with Isoko Mirror Newspaper Publisher and Regional Editor Kelvin Ohoror, he bares his mind on how Independent Power Projects (IPP) can effectively be built and sustained in the Isoko nation.




What is Independent Power Projects (IPP) all about and how can it light up Isoko nation, Delta State! How does it work?


Independent Power Projects (IPP) are off-grid power solution were power is generated, transmitted and distributed to a cluster or set of customers within a ring fenced area which can be an industrial area, estate(s), and community. The major characteristic is that the boundaries must be well defined and delineated.

Before we go to Independent Power Projects (with emphasis on Gas Turbines), I want us to have overview of the electricity problem in Nigeria. You see, the national grid is designed in a way that it is a single network. Because of that if there is a system collapse; the entire country is in darkness.  Politics, regional, sectional and personal interest has made it to be more difficult to redesign or removed power from the exclusive to the concurrent list in the Nigerian constitution. This has overtime affected electricity production by interested parties like the States, Local Governments and private investors. The shabby privatization of the power sector from 2005 to 2013 when the Gencos and Discos were handed over to private owners have not also helped to reshape the electricity development of the country. So, because of all these, power is seen to be elusive and we will continue to have power problems and challenges.

The alternative solution and a quick fix to bring power to our people particularly the Isoko nation is through Independent Power Projects (IPPs). Isoko is an oil producing region. The oil producing communities have oil companies operating in their domain. These companies have 24/7 power in their locations powered by IPPs and fuelled by Natural Gas. From the beginning of establishing these oil companies, if power was also extended to the host communities, power would have been everywhere in Isoko land. This would have also been applicable to other oil producing communities and regions. If the oil companies can have 24/7 electricity, then a little strategic and self-willing efforts by the host communities by way of IPPs with natural gas as source of fuelling will light up these communities and extend the same power to other non-oil producing communities by linking them to the IPPs via networking concept.


How can we ensure that we get it right?


We have to engage networking concept. Now you have a universal set and you have subsets inside of the universal set; the characteristics of a subset is derived from the characteristics of the universal set because of that, you see that if the national grid is allowed to create sub-grids then Regions, States, Local Government Areas, Communities and smaller nations can embark on sustainable energy and electricity development (in the form of IPPs) to promote growth and development.

 Let me give you a little puzzle, if we segment power generation, transmission and distribution among the local governments, and they are given a target to develop and build independent power of 10megawatt each for four years tenure; how many megawatt will be produced by all 776 Local Government Areas for the four years? If my calculation is right, then you will come to understand that the LGAs will produce 7,660 megawatts of electricity within the four years.

We have different sources of generating electricity – thermal (gas) in the South, wind and solar in the North, Coal in the East and hydro in the Middle Belt.

This idea of generating power in the South and transporting via single grid transmission line to other parts of the country (Vise versa) does not make sense. Before it gets to the North for example, the energy losses may have reduced the quantity and quality of the power to unbearable proportion that one will not get value for such huge investments. This is one of the major problems we have in electricity in Nigeria why the megawatts does not increase despite the very huge investments on power. This is why and what brings about the concept of Independent Power Producers.


So how does this concept play out in Isoko nation with abundant oil and gas resources?


Isoko nation is blessed with abundant gas deposits in Uzere, Irri, Oleh, Olomoro, Igbide, Ozoro, Owhe, Ellu, Ofagbe and other host communities for oil producing companies. To be frank, Isoko nation do not deserve poverty and social menace. This concept of IPP can be well developed first from each of the oil producing communities and then linked via networking. The major raw material is gas (fuel). Take Uzere for instance, Uzere has gas, Uzere can be ring fenced. Uzere has boundaries with Asaba-Ase, Irri, Emede and Aviara. So a ring-fenced IPP is very possible and easy. Uzere can produce enough power for self-sufficiency and supply same to bounding communities of  Aviara, Irri, Emede and Asaba-Ase.

You see that the raw material that is in Uzere (same to other oil producing communities) is not being harnessed; they are flaring gas in Uzere; Uzere is improverished whereas Uzere with all the abundant oil and gas resources is supposed to be the Dubai of Isoko land. We have similar places like Uzere such as Olomoro, Oleh, Irri, Igbide, Enhwe and Owhe. These communities have gas in abundance, so, if we are able to create mini Independent Power Plants in these communities in a subnet form, we can link the subnets together and form a universal set for electricity. Isoko will now be an industrial hub in Delta State because of availability of power.


So what is keeping us as a people from achieving this model?


We have not started thinking in this direction as leaders; but if we start thinking and planning in this direction then our very strong and resourceful youths will develop a new way of thinking. I assure you, like I was discussing with some people recently that if there is steady electricity in Isoko there will be new ways of thinking. It will be business, business, business and business all the way. It will be industries, industries and industries all the way. It will be research and development all the way. It will be a new way of life in Isoko land and not this present way of our youths not really engaged in doing virtually nothing. Social ills in the land will give way to prosperity and growth.

So we need to promote Independent Power Projects (IPPs) in Isoko land and for everywhere  IPP is established, the people should be made to understand that electricity is not for free, you have to pay for it. There must have to be a paradigm shift from free electricity and no-productivity to commercial electricity with propensity for production, growth and development.

 Anywhere I make presentations on IPPs, I always end the presentation that, that place can become Dubai of that region. Dubai is a desert place, yet it is the bride nation for all because of selfless and pragmatic growth, industrialization and beautiful living. We have abundant resources of gas and oil, yet, companies come to our land to exploit these natural resources and cart away with wealth leaving us in abject and perpetual poverty degrading our land and promoting hardship for our people. The time to act is now.


What is the best way to solve the problem of poor or no electricity supply in Isoko?


The best way we can solve the problem is, we must come back together as leaders and technocrats; let us develop a new way of thinking; that yes we have gas; again there are some Memorandum of Understanding that the oil companies signed with the communities, those money given to them, let them save them and invest then in IPPs. Let the oil communities and their leaders yearn for electricity in all their engagements with the oil producing communities in their domain.

Let them go back to the companies and negotiate minimum cost of gas, let it not be free, I am one person who does not believe in free things, yes they are in the communities working but again, how much is gas, if you remove transportation and haulage from CNG, CNG is very cheap, CNG is about $12 per 1 million scm, if you convert it to naira, you will be surprised CNG is about N25 per scm. Let oil communities collaborate with the oil companies, let them build gas turbines for them, 1 megawatts, 1.5 megawatts, 2 megawatts etc. This will spark up developments in the communities, create industrial hubs in the communities, promote employment and investments and turn lives around. See bolts and nuts for example and other servicing tools and equipment needed by the oil companies for maintenance and services; electricity and power can give birth to manufacturing companies that can produce these tools within the host communities. This no doubts promote businesses and job opportunities instead of always going to China for imports. In deed this is a shame and wickedness.

 So, we need to encourage IPPs in Isoko land, it will help to lighting up not only Isoko nation but the entire state. What you do for place A, place B will want to copy it, so, if you have 5 megawatts or 10 megawatts in a particular location, another community who has been using their resources in less productive ventures will now know that they should use their money for IPP, by the time you know it you have modular IPPs that is lighting up the whole places and promoting industrial growth and development.

It is the person that does not have anything to do that agitates for things to be done with violence. In business model, we have what we call SWOT, Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. You should be able to convert your threats to opportunities and you should be able to convert your weakness to strength; all the things we are thinking are threats to our environment, we can convert them to opportunities, the weaknesses of our unskilled labour we can convert them to strengths for them to be skilled and opportunities will be all over the land.

This clarion call for Independent Power Projects (Gas Turbine) especially in Isoko nation, how do we go about it?


Yes you have asked it before, you are asking again in a different form. Okay! what we do is this, our community and political leaders should reach out to the oil producing communities, let us make them understand that yes, it is high time you convert your threat to opportunities, let us engage them more than ever before to collaborate and build IPPs for the host communities. Let us ring fence our areas and produce uninterrupted power supply, let us employ technology that will make the power to be sustainable, let us also educate our people that it is not business as usual, let us embrace the fact that you don't steal energy, you pay for energy.

Let us see how we can encourage small and medium scale industries not only hairstylists, barbers and hairdresser but manufacturing and production of goods and services in small and medium scales. Today diesel is very expensive, there are some people who spent as much as N700,000 monthly to power their generators, but when you tell them to spend N200,000 to pay for electricity monthly they are aggressive and want to steal energy when it is available. This attitude must change for us to succeed.

We must stop seeing electricity as a free thing, let us encourage ourselves to spend money on electricity. Power is expensive but the return on investment is also unprecedented. Look at Plantation City, Otokutu, Warri today, if the light goes off for only 10 minutes, everybody is crying they have started again for just only ten minutes, the good thing is that, let us even start it for 12 hours and then grow it to 24 hours uninterrupted a day and people are sure of the power, pay for the electricity that they consume, then there will be expansion and growth.

Greed and selfishness has been the bane of political and community leadership in Isoko.


 Do you think they will shun greed and selfishness and buy into this idea of IPP's?


Let me tell you; in societal development, there is what we call paradigm shift. It is like repentance in the religion circle. When you repent from greed and selfishness and you embrace selflessness and promoting societal development, then that is paradigm shift.

 So, our political leaders, our community leaders, our industrialists and people who are representing the people at the forefront in political circles must remove selfishness and promote selflessness. I normally tell people if you are generous, you are peaceful but when you are selfish you are afraid because you don't know who is coming after you, but when you are selfless people will see the gains of selflessness in you, everybody will want to come around you. That is the simple truth our leaders must understand.

Again, let me tell you, you may think you have the power and the connection to take everything for yourself, it is not true; you don't have anything (in selfishness) if you compare it to selflessness, being generous to people, promoting community development, promoting cultural development, promoting industrial growth and development, promoting human capital development, promoting you inter-personal relationship and being simple and free with your society and people earns you more satisfaction. When you are selflessness and you see the good things and satisfaction your position of life has brought to your people, you will always smile for a well fulfilled life and living.

Our leaders should try and shun greed and selfishness. One thing I know is that it is not possible for Isoko nation to have regular power supply from Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC). They may not be willing to make such investments. The only way now is to go the way of IPP's. We have to start it from Isoko South and North. They are surrounded with oil producing communities, first let us light up the oil producing communities, then the oil producing communities will have enough light and now share with their neighbouring communities.

 If we light up Uzere today and Uzere has enough, the first place I will want to give light is my paternal side Aviara, between Aviara and Uzere we can create a synergy of development that is the truth. Let us be honest to ourselves now, Uzere has villages of Ekregbesi and Otoka, then adjoining town of Asaba-Ase; though these areas are riverine, they can be transformed into areas of development.

If we need transformation in our societal lives and the only instrument to use to do this is electricity, will BEDC be able to produce this needed power? The answer is No. Can we take our destiny in our own hands? Yes. Can we invest in IPPs? Yes. Can we harness the natural resources in our localities? Yes. But it takes a very bold step of doggedness and leadership-will from our political and community’s leaders to be able to achieve it.


What is your advice in other to achieve this project in Isoko?


We are still meeting people, a lot of Isoko leaders have done very well in this regard. I know when I was still in public service, Chief Iduh Amadhe, the unifying leader and a very dogged leader of Isoko nation has shown so much interest in electrifying Isoko nation. Like I always say, you can't take it as a whole, you will fail but you have to take it small, small and link them together. I encourage High Chief Amaidhe to continue pushing to actualize this vision.

Leaders in Isoko like Hon. Sam Ogrih and Bashorun Askia Ogieh are people who have shown passion and interest in the recent times to electrifying Isoko nation; so, if these people can come together, I know of High Chief Eta Enahoro and other big men of Isoko who have also displayed selflessness to promote growth and development in Isoko nation. You see, we will meet them one on one and with your help the media, we can bring Isoko leaders together to make sure we champion a new course, a new vision and a new spirit of bringing this long dream of Isoko to reality. Let us admonish ourselves that government alone cannot do it for us, we can do it for ourselves.

We don't need to fight the government for development, we can only work with government to provide us the raw materials and enabling environments that we need (which is gas) and the villages will get 1megawatts, 2 megawatts etc of electricity through IPP and they will be ready to pay for the utility services. I assure you in four year time such community can double their electricity capacity to 4 megawatts or more. Many people who are very far from those areas will now come to get space to establish their industries. If Uzere can do it, if Olomoro can do it, if Oleh can do it, if Owhe can do it, if Igbide can do it and if Enhwe can do it, tell me where in Isoko that I have not mentioned?


What about the gas they are flaring, how does it affect the people?


Let me tell you something, there are some threats but when you convert them to opportunities, you no longer see them as threats, but you see them as instruments of opportunities. So, the gas they are flaring, you know they must flare the gas as oil producing companies because they cannot store them.

Gas can also be converted to domestic use that can also promote other opportunities but that is a different project entirely. Today you are talking about gas turbines; we can also have gas to domestic. Are we not having Isoko big men who can establish gas processing companies along those areas to be able to produce domestic gas for people instead of using firewood or kerosene?

Also there are opportunities that are available for our teeming youths, so government should relax their stringent policies so that the oil producing communities can be able to harness the potential they have within their environment to promote growth, development and good livelihood for their people. They are flaring gas every day causing environmental hazard, whereas there are people who can use that gas for economic growth and development.


To build IPP, is there any approval or license from the government?


You have to liaise with a lot of government agencies such as NERC, you also have to liaise with other regulatory bodies like NIMASA, and then you liaise with DISCOS that have the franchise, is a win, win thing. You have to negotiate with the Disco also to reach agreements to be able to use their Distribution Network infrastructure to distribute power produced from the IPPs to the teaming customers. The networks also need to be sanitized. All these are done in collaboration with regulatory agencies.

 There is what we call royalty. We need to negotiate royalty and pay to the Discos; they will enjoy the free money, we will use the IPP to distribute with their infrastructure, make sure it is standard to withstand the distribution constantly instead of the infrastructure to remain fallow there. Then you have to pay from what you generate to NERC.


What noticeable difference does IPP have over the Public Power Uitility?


The measuring factors of the success of provision of electricity to consumers are the availability index, billing efficiency, collection efficiency and customer satisfaction. As an investor, we produce and provide affordable and sustainable power to our consumers and in return get good customer satisfaction reports with a robust technological and customer care services; provide windows for online real-time customer complaint and response services, ensure that the DT networks are adequately serviced and maintained to ensure that our ATC & C losses are less than 10% and billing and collection efficiencies are respectively near 100%.

The positive differentials in the above analysis in favour of IPP operators are the noticeable differences between the IPP power services and the public power services.


What are your final words of hope to the Isoko Nation?

Hmmmmmmmm. Isoko wadooooooo!!!!!. God being on our side, we shall harness the human capital and technological know-how of our people; the good and quality natural resources of our land; the quality leadership of our community’s and political leaders to faction out a new course to move Isoko nation from where it is now to a developing industrial nation where life will be very meaningful to both young and old, man and woman, skilled and unskilled. Can IPP transform the life of our teeming society? Yes! It will; can it bring development to our communities? Yes! It will.  Can it promote a new economic life style for our people? Yes! It will. But let me tell you, this concept of IPP we have spoken about today, if you carry it from Delta State here to Lagos holistically it will fail. You have to plant a seed of corn and that corn is allowed to die before it can grow to produce combs. Let us use what we have to get what we desire and want.



Source: Isoko Mirror Newspaper


Engr. Michael Ikoro Ekpoh



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