Mr John Ayodele, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company Plc., on Sunday complained about the shortage of engineers to tackle the energy challenges facing Nigeria.
He made the observation at the 11th Ralph Alabi Memorial Lecture, organised by the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Lagos, which was held virtually.
Speaking on “Challenges in Electricity Distribution in Nigeria: What Engineers should do differently’’, Ayodele said that scarcity of power engineers started around year 2000 with the decline sustained.
He said that the trend was assuming a dangerous dimension, which must be tackled through massive grooming of young engineers into the power sector to address the challenges in the sector.
Ayodele, a Fellow of the NSE, also called for measures and massive education to ensure that more young engineers were encouraged to specialise in electrical/electronic engineering to bridge the skills gap in the sector.
“There is a deficit of competent electrical/electronic engineers to solve the problem. Most of our undergraduates do not have power background and it is usually difficult to indoctrinate them,” he said.
He enumerated the different challenges in power generation, transmission and distribution.
Ayodele, who was the keynote speaker, however commended recent Federal Government’s intervention for mass distribution of pre-paid meters which, he noted, would boost power distribution and ensure effective metering.
“The era of estimated billing would soon be over. We want it to be over too because it is not profitable to the electricity distribution companies too,’’ he said.
He also said the Federal Government’s intervention also offered local engineers the opportunity to be part of the meter manufacturing or assembly process; thereby, reducing capital flight and boosting the capacities of local industries.
He said that there was an ongoing meeting between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Ministry of Finance and the Presidency which would yield result within the next 70 days.
Besides, Ayodele said that DISCOS (electricity distribution companies) had been losing revenue due to factors such as estimated billing, power theft and vandalism, adding that effective metering would resolve the glitch.
He, however, bemoaned the government’s interference in the regulation of the power sector which, he said, had affected planning and investments in the sector.
“Service reflective tariff was developed and imposed on us. It is an invention in Nigeria and it is not practised anywhere in the world,’’ he said.
In his remarks, Mr Olutosin Ogunmola, the newly-elected chairman of the Ikeja Branch of the NSE, said that the branch would strengthen its Young Engineer’s Forum to encourage more engineers to major in power engineering.
He also said that the branch would also liaise with tertiary institutions to get more students interested in power engineering specialisation so as to reverse the decline in interest in the sector.
Ogunmola said that the annual lecture was held to honour the late Eng. Ralph Alabi, the first chairman of the branch, and explore untapped capacities in power distribution in Nigeria.
“Year-in-year-out, we try to look at topical issues by way of providing solutions to current challenges. This year’s topic is apt for us to look inward as engineers on what we can do differently, looking at the challenges of electricity,’’ said.