This is why Obong Nsima Ekere is the right man for the position of governor of Akwa Ibom State, come 2019. The job specifications for the position of governor require a tested hand on the plough; a track record in public service that even the most implacable critic would find hard to toss in the trash can; the heart of a leader and above all vision for time-tested transformation.

These specifications place Ekere above his rival in the state. Ekere has monuments to point to in his stint in the public service, even when he served in subordinate roles. As the executive chairman of Akwa Ibom Investment Promotion Commission (AKIIPOC) and chairman of Ibom Power from 2007 to 2010, Ekere was responsible for and successfully executed the evacuation of stranded power from the power plant, first to Eket, by initiating the building of a 330kv transmission sub-station, and subsequently to the rest of the state, through the Eket-Ikot Ekpene transmission line.

Though the state-owned 191mw power plant was ready, the facility was not operational in terms of actually getting the power it generated to end users: industries and homes in the state. The project was taken to its practical conclusion under Ekere who initiated the award and completion of the contract for the building of the transmission and distribution infrastructure, including the transmission sub-station in Eket, for the evacuation of stranded power from the plant.

The power transmission project is one of the unsung legacies of Obong Nsima Ekere’s public service career. It made all the difference in the power equation in the state and it is destined to constitute a major in the power generation, transmission and distribution architecture in the Niger Delta. It is one of the projects that have made Akwa Ibom potentially self-sufficient in power, as it shall be made clear later.

Ekere’s contributions to electric power supply and power infrastructure in Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta in general go beyond Ibom Power. It’s little known, and we are now saying it, that Ekere was one of the brains behind 4-Power Company Limited, which would become the owner of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), used as the special purpose vehicle to acquire the power transmission and distribution infrastructure for the region from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Today, PHEDC is the only state-partnered Disco jointly owned by the Niger Delta states of which Akwa Ibom is an equal partner, thereby giving the state a valuable stake in the power assets of the country to at least hand the state something to show for its place as the leading state in Nigeria’s energy sector.

That is not by any means the full significance of the PHEDC. The PHEDC is the architecture for the Niger Delta Power Pool project which is envisioned by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the initiative and leadership of Obong Nsima Ekere as managing director/chief executive. Mr Sonni Anyang, former commissioner for economic development in Akwa Ibom State, said the power pool is designed as the launch pad to cheap, abundant and reliable electricity for sustainable development of the region, a goal that has been the dream of the Niger Delta people from the beginning of time.

The Niger Delta Power Pool project targets 7-10 thousand mw of power for the region and is designed to tie up with the transmission line that connects Ibom Power through Ekparakwa, Uyo and Etim Ekpo to the 330kv switching station in Ikot Ekpene, the biggest switching station in the country. The switching station is also linked to the powerline leading to the Eket sub-station which is used to evacuate power from Ibom Power as well as power generated from the Alscon Power Station and the 657mw Qua Iboe Power Plant promoted by ExxonMobil in Eket.

The power pool, according to Anyang, a development economist and industrialist, will deliver up cheap and quality power to the region because the cost of execution of the project will be treated as sunk cost by the project partners—that is, construction cost won’t be passed on to the consumer. Anyang said the decision not to pass on the cost to consumers will reduce electricity tariff in the region by 40 per cent, adding, “This will be a game changer for the region; the Niger Delta will finally take advantage of its main resource, gas, to become a power hub and attract industries seeking to reduce their energy cost.”

The design of the Niger Delta Power Pool project shows that the power infrastructure “comes with economic mapping of the region, providing for the development of 27 industrial parks—that is one park per Senatorial District.” The power infrastructure will deliver great impetus to the industrialization of the region, Anyang said, adding that the credit to the coming rebirth of the Niger Delta should go to the leadership of the NDDC headed by Nsima Ekere.

Ekere was the spokesman for BRACED Power, which was meant to birth a power consortium made of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, for the BRACED states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta. But the project could not be achieved as conceived because in the privatization programme, the BRACE states lost Benin Electricity Distribution Company to a private bidder with which they had no affiliation.

The loss of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company notwithstanding, the power infrastructure in the region under the control of the states is being harnessed to adequately meet the need of the region. The compensation to communities for right of way for infrastructure for the power pool is being underwritten by the NDDC. This is first-of-its-kind intervention for the Niger Delta region and it’s happening under the direction and expert execution of Nsima Ekere as the managing director of the NDDC.

By Ekere’s direct contribution, it is possible for Akwa Ibom State to be fed from Ibom Power and five other power stations, thereby guaranteeing for the state round-the-clock 24/7 power supply to fast-track industrialization, tourism, growth of small businesses, and to power households at affordable cost.

It is thus evident that Obong Nsima Ekere has consistently used his positions in public office for the good of his state. He is also a man with the heart of a leader who cares deeply for his supporters through his private philanthropy.

The takeaway from this review is that if Nsima Ekere could achieve all that has been established and credited to him for Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta, working in appointed subordinate positions, it is realistic to conclude that he would do much more as the chief executive of his state, if his people give him the mandate to lead.

• Otongaran is Media Consultant to the Oil & Gas Free Zones Authority of Nigeria

Culled from The Nation of 20 November 2018


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