Solar Energy for Communities

THE federal government has announced plans to expand the usage and application of solar technology to bring electricity to far flung communities, as part of its ‘Operation Light Up Nigeria’, in 2014. Chinedu Nebo, minister of power, said that government was targeting local communities that are far removed from the national grid with solar energy technology.

“The way electricity delivery is structured in Nigeria today gives an impression that there are three Nigeria. One Nigeria is the urban centres that are connected to power but are not getting enough power, the other Nigeria is semi-urban, sub-urban and part rural areas that occasionally might have some distribution transformers deployed and getting about one to three hours supply on daily basis, then the third Nigeria is the area that is far flung from the National grid,” he said.

According to Nebo, such remote communities have “no connection to electricity, no connection to the national grid and no connection in the foreseeable future. It is this third Nigeria that we now want to face because eventually with the master plan and the blueprint for transmission expansion which Mr. President has endorsed, number two Nigeria will eventually get power completely but the third Nigeria will still take years if not decades to have electricity saturation to the point of functionality, that is why we targeted them.

“And knowing that these areas are far-flung from the national grid, we think that it is not going to be feasible to use gas fired turbines. So we decided to go renewable so that the source of fuel is supplied by nature and we are emphasising solar. So far it has been remarkable. For the past several years I have never seen the joy and euphoria we saw in these areas that we are working on now.”

The minister explained that it was not true that consumers were no longer to pay the electricity bills with the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, even as he noted that the government and operators in the sector would devise suitable and sustainable ways to bill electricity users in the rural communities.

“The electricity consumers are supposed to pay their bill as at when due. It was wrong information; some people believe that government should provide electricity at no charge to the people anyway. In these villages we are lighting up, people are asking me how they are going to pay, we are trying to device a system which is digital and a scratch card, pay as you go. They are buying diesel, petrol, kerosene and candles. Some of them spend over N1000 a week on kerosene and how can they say they won’t pay for electricity we are giving them now which can enable children read at night, have better social life. The medical facilities are working. Businesses are thriving all over the place, so they can pay but we have to teach them that they need to pay,” he said.

NLC urges Federal Government to Pass PIB Bill


THE Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has urged the federal government to ensure that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is passed urgently. The labour union stressed that it was unacceptable that the petroleum sector was still regulated by the old Petroleum Act of 1969. Abdulwaheed Omar, NLC president, said “We support the demand by the oil sector unions for the urgent passing of the Petroleum Industry Bill, if possible, in the first quarter of this year because it is unacceptable that the petroleum sector is still regulated by the old Petroleum Act of 1969. The PIB with all the proposed inputs by all stakeholders will undoubtedly promote transparency and accountability and national benefits. Looking into the future, there is the need to recognise that the international market for Nigerian crude oil this year is likely to shrink as alternative sources come on stream because investment in gas development in the US and other countries are beginning to yield results,” he said.

He also called on governments at all levels to put job creation at the centre of their activities. According to Omar, the economy in 2013 was plagued by the continuing challenge of unemployment as a result of anti-workers’ activities as official statistics put the unemployment rate at 23.9 per cent.

“While anti-worker and anti-union practices in the banking, telecommunications and oil sectors, among others continued, during the year, which clearly demonstrate that workers’ and union rights guaranteed by the constitution cannot be taken for granted, we use this as an opportunity to salute workers and union leaders, as well as activists, who have kept up the struggle in defence of those rights.”

Refineries Not to be Sold


THE Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria have told the federal government to ensure the turnaround maintenance of the nation’s four refineries instead of thinking of selling or privatising them.

The unions told a government delegation that met with their officials on Tuesday, January 7, in Abuja, at a meeting convened to douse the tension generated by the alleged plan of the government to sell the refineries to private investors that the turnaround maintenance must be completed or they would take appropriate actions.

Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources; Bernard Otti, group executive director, finance and account, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Benjamin Dikki, director-general, Bureau of Public Enterprises; and Chinedum Dike, a director in the ministry of labour, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that stated that the government would not sell the refineries. Babatunde Ogun, president of PENGASSAN, as well as Achese Igwe, president, NUPENG, signed for the unions.

Emeka Wogu, minister of labour and productivity, who read the MoU, said, “The federal government is not selling the nation’s refineries. The trade unions in the oil and gas sector of the economy have agreed with the federal government to engage in social dialogue/discussions to develop viable and workable business models for the nation’s refineries. Based on the above understanding, the trade unions in the oil and gas sector shall not embark on any form of industrial action over the subject matter,” he said.

Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu 

— Jan. 20, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT