By Benjamin Jimmy
Residents of Cross River State and those living in some parts of Akwa Ibom State who have been facing blackout for more than two weeks now are to expect light again soon.
This followed the assurance given by the Executive Director, Transmission Service Provider of Transmission Company of Nigeria(TCN), Engr. Victor Adewumi, recently during an inspection visit to the site of the electric tower in Oku Ibeku, Itu Local Government Area which was destroyed by vandals recently.
Addressing journalists after the inspection of progress of work done, Engr. Adewumi lamented the level of sabotage perpetuated on the federal government facility by those he described as wicked and enemies of the people of the two states, and said the damage was colossal, as it affected the Odukpani – Ikot Ekpene 330kv line.
He said what led to the blackout in Cross River State and some parts of Akwa Ibom was that the vandals had destroyed one of the towers during their nefarious activities which led to the collapse of the tower and other ones affected in the process.
The Executive Director who lamented over the loss of over 400 mega watts from Odukpani generating station, Cross River State, that could have been evacuated into the national grid, expressed sadness that this has crippled a lot of businesses in the affected areas.
“You can imagine loosing more than 400 mega watts at Odukpani. As we speak, Odukpani has the capacity to bring more than 400 mega watts, but they are shut out because there is no other route for the power to be evacuated from there into the national grid”.
Engr. Adewumi regretted that the earlier promise made by TCN to fix the tower lines and restore power to the affected states within three weeks might not be realised within the time frame, owing to the magnitude of destruction done on the lines and the swampy terrain where the tower lines are sited.
According to him, it became necessary for the contractor handling the repairs to start from laying foundation for the fallen tower which was the stronghold of other tower lines along the track as a practice so as not to compromise professional standards.
The Executive Director who gave another reason why the work could not be delivered within the stipulated period, said the crane that was brought to be used to lift up conductors got stuck in the muddy soil of the area, the first day it was brought, owing to the rain experienced that day which made the terrain more difficult to be accessed.
“We started from the foundation so as not to compromise standards. Civil engineering takes time. So, with this, we lost about two weeks because we had to start from the foundation. We didn’t see this when we promised to restore the lines within three weeks. So, we are here to see the extent of the work.
“There were challenges during the stringing. We had thought that if we use crane to lift up the conductors, it would be faster. That was why we told the contractor that you have to use crane. But unfortunately, the bum of the crane could not get beyond the first cross hand, because this is a difficult terrain. So, we are back with the normal way of doing it: lowering the conductors right from the tension tower”.
Engr. Adewumi who assured that efforts were being intensified to restore light to the two states in the next one week, however appealed to Nigerians to take ownership of critical infrastructures in their domain to prevent being damaged by vandals, as such were provided for their comfort.
“We appeal to people that all critical infrastructures that pass through their area, they should take ownership. 450 mega watts is not a joke when we don’t even have enough. Odukpani is about 450 capacity generating station. Imagine the quantum of power that is being trapped now”.
The Executive Director who also appealed for patience from the affected people, called on the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) whose mandate it is to secure critical national infrastructures to rise to the occasion and save the nation from such huge investment.
“I’m appealing to security agencies, especially Civil Defence whose responsibility is to protect federal government critical infrastructures to wake up and see how we can protect this huge investment”.
On the plans by TCN to safeguard its facilities, Engr. Adewumi disclosed that the company was working towards engaging local communities to help in securing tower lines. He said persons engaged will be put in the payroll of the company.
He also stated that the Ministry of Power would soon deploy technology that will help in monitoring tower lines across the country, but added that this would be a huge investment with a lot of financial implications.
The contractor handling the repairs, Ralph Amenkhienan of Associates Power Solution Engineering Ltd. said the delay experienced in the completion of the project as stipulated was occasioned by the difficult terrain of the area, but assured that the work will be delivered in a week’s time.
“The problem we are facing now is that this area is a bad terrain. We cannot use crane, but they said we should use it. We have to repair all the towers they vandalized before we can put the cables; to prevent collapse of other towers”.
While explaining the difficulty involved in fixing back the conductors, the Regional Transmission Manager, TCN, Port Harcourt Region, Engr. Daniel Udofia, said due to the swampy areas and the river within the tower lines environment, the contractor needed to consider this so as not to allow the conductors slip into the nearby river or the swampy areas, thereby exacerbating the problem.
He said to overcome the challenge and the pressure to deliver on schedule, the contractor resorted to using pulleys to take up the conductors after the crane that was brought failed, a measure he said brought some level of breakthrough.
Engr. Udofia however condemned the act of vandalism which has caused residents of Cross River and some parts of Akwa Ibom untold hardship, adding that the destruction is a huge damage to individuals and businesses in the affected states.
“There are things to do, but the wicked ones decided to bring this punishment to us. To us, one can say we are paid to work, but to people in Cross River, they are suffering. They don’t have light. The whole of last week, the Chinese Company that produces steel; they were here almost crying because customers are on them. They can’t produce. There’s no production. They called me yesterday and asked if they can climb the tower. They are desperate to have supplies”, he disclosed.