Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Omo-Ettu urges power engineers to emulate telecom counterparts

Chief Executive Officer, Telecom Answers Associate, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, has urged the nation’s engineers in the power and energy sector to emulate their counterparts in the telecommunications sector.

Addressing members of the Abuja branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) recently as a guest speaker, at the opening of the Engineering Week and Annual General Meeting (AGM), Omo-Ettu who dwelt on “Energy Crisis and Economic Development: the Nigerian Telecommunication Development as case study” asked them to emulate their counterparts in the telecom sector “where there is already a model on ground to spy.”

He admonished them to take up their rightful place in positioning the nation’s power sector by canvassing for genuine liberalization in that domain.

He recalled that in 1989, NSE within the Power and Telecom sectors set up a committee which resulted in “irreconcilable differences on matters of strategy” among its rank and file, but the telecom subgroup obviously did not relent, stressing that their persistence paid off with what is today referred to as revolution in the telecom sphere.

According to him, the power challenge in the country has graduated from being a mere problem to crisis and now has deteriorated to the level of emergency.

Omo-Ettu also told the audience which had a representative of NSE president, Mr. Kashim Alli in attendance that it was NSE resolve to lead a crusade to ‘liberalize’ the telecom sector and ‘privatize’ the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and it came to pass that progress was made based on this resolution.

He pointed out that liberalization is not just about the era of stopping the attitude of throwing money at problems but to “start collecting money from the problems,” and enjoined NSE to take a radical position as far as power and energy crises in the country are concerned.

“NSE has no radical position on the issue of power crises in Nigeria. I call on our engineers to redefine their roles,” he asserted, urging the professional group to make bold to approach the government of the day with a comprehensive blueprint on how to go about solving the problems with the power and energy.

“Nigerian engineers should admit responsibility for the power situation in the country and go to government with a comprehensive blueprint asking to be given whatever they require to solve the problem,” he advised, warning however that they should not claim “knowledge of the energy sector” in isolation.

Emphasizing that Nigeria heard so much of ‘security implications’ as the reason for not wanting to liberalize telecom industry from 1987 to 1993, when the former military President Ibrahim Babangida-led government did it.

“It was a result of the call by engineers that the telecom industry was liberalized. All founding members of NSE are living principal actors including Bayo Bodede of blessed memory,” he said.

Omo-Ettu further cautioned that changing name of the public power supply institution from the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to its current status of Power Holding Nigeria Plc or any other, would not count as one of the solutions.
The astute telecom expert who also presides over the Executive Cyberschuul advocated for the return to the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).

“NIPP may have been a bad project but we have no alternative to it at this moment. What should happen is to see it work,” he said, stressing that training in the energy sector should be stepped up.

The world, he said, has changed its way of doing things and Nigeria cannot play ignorant to that fact and remain in isolation.

Explaining further, he said that the power crisis has resulted in manufacturers now using public supply as standby rather than the main source, even as some do not use public supply at all.

He cited an instance where an operator spends about N600 million monthly to service generators coupled with theft of standby-generators, these push tariff upward.

“In 2001 preliminary calculations put per minute of call to about N20.00 and energy crisis plus NITEL crisis shot the price to N45.00 per minute,” he noted, lamenting however, that telecom operators took advantage of these problems to shoot tariff up as well as in explaining poor quality of service (QoS).

“We have liberalized telecommunications and that means the cost of telecommunications service has spread to the user away from being absorbed only by the government,” he said, adding that instead of throwing money at the problems in telecom, the government has started earning revenue from the problems.

“We have started auctioning frequency making it revenue earning for government and stopped asking government for funding,” Omo-Ettu said.

Underlining the fact that technology has changed the belief of power usage from being the ‘power-to-serve-the-system’ to the ‘user also needs power to charge his terminal.’

He explained that each Nigerian now needs electricity power to be carried in the pockets via devices.

“We have started paying the true cost of telephone service, although being ripped off. We are now ready to pay for power but it is not there to be paid for,” he challenged.

Omo-Ettu attributed the non-optimized growth of the telecom industry to the power crises, saying that several people would not have had more than a telephone line, even as there is less viable Internet Service Providers (ISP).

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