The Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) announced it was shutting down its pipeline by Saturday for 10 days to enable it effect maintenance on the lines feeding Lagos Thermal Station in Egbin near Lagos.
This means that the worsening power supply crisis may not abate soon.
NGC is a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) responsible for gas distribution and sales in the country and beyond.
NNPC, in a statement last Friday, said the shut down of the gas pipeline between Ore and Iwopin in Ondo and Ogun states respectively is to enable the company carry out "pigging" otherwise known as cleaning of the sludge along the pipes.
The sludge, according to the corporation, has blocked the pipe thereby affecting the flow of products along the lines.
“This is to inform our valuable customers that we will be shutting down our pipeline for 10 days to carry out repair, between April 6, and 16, 2007,” the statement said.
Besides the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) facilities that will now have a reduced gas supply, other industrial customers will also be affected by this closure.
The thermal station in Egbin is the largest power station in the country with about 1,320 Megawatts MW installed capacity.
The plant has had its generation reduced to about 600MW last month due to poor gas supply. It is expected that with this development, the power coming from the plant may further go down within the 10 days of maintenance work proposed by NGC.
PHCN officials on Friday told the Guardian that power generation situation in the country now is very critical as the company generates between 1,700MW and 2,500MW as against the projected 3,000 MW that could give stability to the network.
President Olusegun Obasanjo had early last week redeployed his Special Adviser on Electric Power, Joseph Makoju to PHCN as its Chief Executive Officer.
The redeployment, which took immediate effect, the Presidency sources said, was informed by the near collapse of the power sector since last year.
The Guardian sources also hinted that the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) has been directed by President Obasanjo to suspend all processes of privatisation in PHCN until the power services is improved.
Under the new dispensation, all the Chief Operating Officers of distribution, generation and transmission companies will now report their activities to Makoju as the Co-Coordinator of PHCN activities in the country.
Makoju was until mid last year the Managing Director of PHCN. He has mid-wifed the unbundling of the establishment, which has resulted into the creation of distribution, generation and transmission companies from the old National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).
The Guardian reported that the Minister of Energy, Dr. Edmund Daukorn had an hour-long meeting with Makoju and other top officials from the presidency, as well as PHCN officials on Tuesday in Abuja to chart a new strategy for improving the electricity situation in the country.
The sources said that there was lack of co-ordination in PHCN since last year when BPE took over the privatisation of the establishment, a situation, which the Guardian learnt, has affected the performance of the power sector.
An official of the Ministry of Energy who confirmed this development to The Guardian said what the President did was asking his special adviser on Electric-Power to go back into PHCN and co-ordinate the activities in that organisation in order to improve the power situation in the country.
“Between me and you, the power supply situation in the country is very bad and it gives concern to everybody, so the President is determined to address that as a matter of urgency and asking Makoju back means he has confidence in him that he (Makoju) will deliver,” the Ministry official said.
But when contacted over the issue last Friday on phone, PHCN, General Manager, Public affairs Mrs Efuru Igbo told the Guardian that, she has been out of Abuja and could not confirm the story.
But Head of Communications of BPE, Mr. Joe Anichebe told The Guardian that the President's action did not affect the privatisation of the PHCN, rather the President merely appointed Makoju as Co-ordinator of activities in the power sector particularly as it relate to PHCN and its entities that are supposed to be independent companies.
Anichebe said the BPE is forging ahead with the privatisation, noting that the President has even asked the organisation to ensure that the exercise timetable is followed.
“Makoju's role as Co-ordinator of PHCN activities will be responsible to Mr. President. Instead of the President's relating to all the COOs of the unbundled entity in PHCN, Makoju will act as reporting leader between the COOS and the President,” he stated.
Power Generation has dropped considerably to as low as 1,700Megawatts (MW) from 3000MW towards the end of last year.
In January this average power generation hovers around 2,100 to 2,250MW.
Apart from Benin Republic, Nigeria is also under bilateral agreement to supply about 100MW of power to the Republic of Niger.
Mostly hit is the Lagos Thermal Station in Egbin, which had the highest generation of about 800MW, including about 280MW from the Lagos AES barges since the beginning of this year.
The Guardian had reported last month that only two units out of the six units at the Egbin Thermal Station are actually generating power now adding that three units were forced out of operation as a result of low gas supply.
Also that three units were slated for Turn Around maintenance (TAM) at a cost of $100 million. The plant has six units of combined installed capacity of 1,320MW6*220MW.
The Managing director of NGC, Mr. Chris Ogiemwonyi had also told the Guardian that the low level of gas supply to PHCN was caused by vandalisation to its Escravos-Lagos pipeline on the 18th of February 2006.
According Ogiemwonyi, his company currently supply about 200million standard cubic feet of gas per mmscf/d to PHCN against 350 to 380mmscf/d under a normal supply contract.
He said that more supply would be restored to PHCN as soon as the pipelines are repaired and normal production delivered to the company.