Nigeria Needs Strategic Leadership In All Aspects Of The Economy For Survival ––Chris Nwayalani

Christopher Chiedu Nwayalani is a multi-dimensional professional, an expert in power and energy sector/IT, and an Industrialist. In this interview with our Features Editor, OKOBI BENSON-ALLANAH and Senior Reporter, PAUL NWAYALANI, he spoke authoritatively on a wide range of problems currently confronting the country.
Excerpts:-
Tell us more about yourself?
Christopher Chiedu Nwayalani is from a humble beginning. A lay Roman Catholic faithful, born 47 years ago to late Ogbueshi and Mrs. Okocha Nwayalani’s family of Obodogba Quarters, Okpanam, in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State. My early education was from Umegbali Primary School, Okpanam and Okpalani Secondary/Commercial School, Okpanam, Delta State. I attended Edo State University, Ekpoma, where I obtained my first degree, B.Sc (Hons.) Physics in 1995, and LAUTEC, Ogbomosho, where I obtained my Masters of Business Administration (MBA) – Marketing and Masters in Information Technology (MIT) respectively between 2011 and 2014.
Also, I had my early work experience in NITEL Exchange “C” Switching Room in Kano for my NYSC Primary Assignment and Abbey Building Society Limited, CHQ Lagos, as Officer I (Banking Operations), I resigned my appointment from Abbey Building Society in January 1999, and joined NEPA immediately after my resignation. I worked with the electricity sector in various divisions and capacity for about 18 years.
I left PHCN as Senior Manager, Billing Operations/IT to join Ikeja Electric Plc, as Team Lead (Revenue Billing) under Commercial Department. I was also a training facilitator to IT/Billing Department, Commercial and Technical Departments. In my last two years in the sector, I was Undertaking Manager and Team Lead in charge of Ilupeju and Ifako (Ogba) undertakings respectively.
I was equally privileged to benefit from vast training in both power Distribution (Marketing Sectors of the Electricity Industry locally and internationally. Some of the international trainings certification includes AVR (U-Vision) Utility Billing training Certification in Houston Texas, USA, HOAWEI CIS Training Certification, SCO Unix Administration training, Electricity Distribution Network Management training, etc. I resigned voluntarily from Ikeja Electric Plc on 30th November, 2016 to go into private practice.
From the above emphasis, the power Sector dominated my career. Christopher was also President of Ugo Anioma Social Club of Nigeria between 2008-2016.
As an expert in Power and Energy Sector, what should be the Federal Government’s top priorities in setting up a good energy policy?
I am aware that Nigeria had always kept good government policies on power and energy. The major challenge is how these policies have been handled by politicians. Power Reform Act 2004 has been there but the government hardly follows the provisions of the law religiously. We all know the process of transformation of NEPA to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and to successor companies within two-term tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was impossible to transit from PHCN to the 18 successor companies. This was largely due to internal politics between the President and the Vice President.
You will recall that certain clauses in the Act of Parliament, among others, have it that before the transition can take place, all labour issues must be resolved and the negotiation can only be handled by the National Committee on Privatization which must be headed by the Vice President, hence the in-fighting between the President and Vice President caused the nation serious delay in that process.
If you recall the Ndudi Elumelu Committee on Power revelations on Nigerian Power Projects, which was publicly televised and how the powers-that-be frustrated the good work by indicting “the Chairman of the Panel, among other vocal members of the committee”. You will agree with me that politics have a major role to play in the growth of our Power Sector over the years. Moreover, during President Jonathan’s era, a particular Minister for Power promised to sell PHCN 18 unbundled companies at no cost to government. All these created bottlenecks to smooth transition up till the Minister was removed and the same government arrived at a concession with labour. This also helped in achieving a smooth transition from government to private investors.
However, for government to get their top priorities right, certain issues must be spelt out. The statisticians told us that Nigeria has a population of about 187 million people, estimated in 2016. Out of the installed energy capacity of 12,522Mw which was raised by the immediate past federal administration 85 per cent comes from gas-fired (thermal) and 15 per cent hydro-generated. As at February 2016, Nigeria achieved a peak generation output of 5074Mw.
The implication of the aforementioned is that there is a wide gap between the available energy capacity and the peak generation output. At this point, government should worry about firstly, how to narrow the gap between installed versus available energy, a robust strategy on how to expand the capacity by building more plants, and extending both distribution and transmission network to enable it carry effectively the generated energy.
Furthermore, I believe also that if the right job is given to the right professionals from Power Ministry to regulatory agencies and parastatals, given adequate political will, the power sector, which remains the gateway to Nigeria’s economic growth, will bounce back again.
In this time of high unemployment and inflation, in your opinion, what should be done to improve our nation’s economy?
I must state at this point that I so much sympathize with Buhari administration, especially when some of his policies and “body language” syndrome are not co-operating with the economic realities of today. This simply means that leadership is not as easy as we think. At this point, government must do away with certain politicians in the present cabinet, especially when their strategies are failing the nation. We need strategic leaders in all aspects of the economy.
In Power Sector, for instance, if we site all gas plants near the gas deposits, it will reduce the cost of guarding the pipelines. If the government can stop calling Nigerians corrupt people and promote a better image of the people, foreigners might develop trust and invest in the country. Even though, I do not support any form of corrupt practices, I believe that over blowing it could be a form of de-marketing of the nation’s economy and could chase investors away. Some and medium-scale businesses can change economy for good within a very short time and in a fast rate.
In your opinion, what are the most important challenges facing our country and how do you propose to address these challenges, if given a position of trust in the government?
The Holy Scripture made us to understand that you should know the truth and only truth can set your free. Insincerity on the part of our leaders has given room to agitations and sometimes militancy. Nigeria needs to listen to all these groups so that peaceful co-existence will usher in growth and development.
Quota system and Federal Character laws have destroyed hard work and have also contributed to weak leadership at the centre. There is urgent need to review some of the present government economic policies, such as pegging of the exchange rate for a reasonably long period without due consideration to the prevalent market forces. This, for sure, cannot promote investment in core sectors like Power and Energy.
Government of the day should try and fulfill some of their campaign promises to enable Nigerians exercise some level of trust on their leadership, and efforts must be made to create enabling environments for small and medium-scale enterprises to thrive, as this will definitely promote employment opportunities for the people. Much investments should be channeled to the area of electricity generation, transmission and distribution sectors, for Nigeria’s technological growth is directly proportional to power and energy stability.
Compare and contrast the Jonathan administration vis-a-viz that of Buhari government’s policies on power and energy?
I personally do not like comparing two personalities. This is because I know that God created us all with different gifts. If I may analyse critically what happened in power sector during Jonathan era, before Buhari administration and now, I think I have these to comment:
I am aware that prior to Jonathan government, Ndudi Elumelu Panel revealed to us that so much investment was approved and paid up to the tune of billions of Naira, but much was not executed. It should also be noted that it was that same government that raised the installed energy capacity to the level we have it today as quoted earlier.
Jonathan, in spite of serious labour crisis, was able to resolve the power industries crisis, which ushered in the privatization of the sector. Jonathan administration handed over a roadmap that promoted energy accounting error with the transitional energy period.
However, I am of the view that Buhari government is just about two years old, even though we are yet to know when the transitional period will end. It will not be fair to give a perfect comparison of the two administrations. Meanwhile, Jonathan is an intellectual while Buhari, as a fine general in Nigerian Army, they are all great people in their core areas of choice.
Within the past few years, do you think that the people of Delta North Senatorial District (Anioma) have got quality representation at the federal, state and local government levels?
Anioma in the past, have produced great leaders like late Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Chief Dennis Osadebe, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, late Marian Babangida, Senator (Obi) Nosike Ikpo, Senator Patrick Osakwe (Evidence), Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (Power Probe episode), late Barr. Chris Okolie among others.
In this present dispensation, Okowa has been able to prove that Anioma can still produce Delta State governor but only time will tell how much impact he can make. Senator Barr. Peter Nwaoboshi is also trying to empower a few people that I know, but he needs to push further as I believe that he can still do more.
In the Federal House of Representatives, I must tell you that there is an apparent vacuum since the last time Hon. Ndudi Elumelu represented the Aniocha/Oshimili Constituency. Let me use this medium to advice that our representatives need to tell us what is going on and what she is presently doing to assist Aniocha/Oshimili people. As for our representative for Oshimili North in Delta House of Assembly, I just reserved my comments as those who are on ground in the area should discuss her performance better.
Meanwhile, I have been around for a while now, but yet to see project going on at the local government level in our area, except the presence of some local government revenue task force that parade receipt booklets without directing any payment to the local government Bank Accounts. This is not healthy for a smooth running of any government, especially in the 21st century.
From your experience in the power sector, if you are asked to advise President Buhari on power and energy, what will be your priorities on the securities of pipelines/oil and gas installations, etc?
In a country where siting of projects are so political, gas turbines for power were sited without recourse to gas deposits. One cannot advise government to remove those installations from where they are sited. We equally know that the distance between the sources of raw-materials through pipelines like crude oil pipelines from Warri to Kaduna, Omotosho and Papalento power station in Ogun State to Niger Delta region where the gas deposits are available cannot be policed effectively by Nigerian Army or Police. If they do, it means that half of the population will be security personnel.
If I am meant to advise President Buhari, he should return back to local vigilantes like OPC in the West, retired militants from Niger Delta, etc. I believe that the people fear these groups more than even Nigeria Police Force. The last administration tried it and there was relative peace around the pipelines and politicians saw the early improvement in supply as President Buhari’s body language with the few weeks of his assumption office.
This, in my own opinion, will reduce the gap between the energy available capacity and energy delivered which is fluctuating between 3,500 Mw as against 12,522Mw installed energy capacity.
Nigerians want to see improvement before one can think of raising the capacity. I will also advise the government to use core professionals in appointments in power sector at Ministries, Parastastals, and regulating agencies.
Finally, threat to withdraw licenses from investors will not make them to invest their money in the sector. Government need to build confidence in the present investors so that more investments in the sector will be accelerated.
What do you consider to be the strength and weaknesses of Buhari administration?
Buhari is believed to be a man of integrity and experienced in soldiering. This is a major strength. His weakness remains the fact that he was not able to give direction to the economic challenges. Another major weakness is his inability to try some members of his party that Nigerians believed are corrupt. Not appoint the right personnel to their areas of specialization in both Ministries and government agencies have not made the government to do so well.
Finally, marginalization of certain geographical groups in development and appointments have not made everybody to have a sense of belonging in Project Nigeria.
Please assess the performance of Okowa administration so far?
I think Okowa needs time to be assessed as he will put in two years soon. He will be judged by physical projects around us. I expect him to finish the Okpanam-Asaba road project before the next rainy season, so as to reduce the hardship that people are facing right now from dust and traffic congestion, he needs to work on internally generated revenue as the oil price is what it used to be.
He must not adopt Lagos State style such as traffic control, rather he should see Delta like a land of other possibilities like tax revenue efficiency, investment in water projects and administration and partnership in real estate with private participation so as to boost the economy of the state.