The frequency of fire incidents across transmission substations in Nigeria has sparked concerns about the quality of the country’s transmission company procurements.

Stakeholders say this portends a severe threat to the country’s struggling national grid and the power sector.

For instance, the fire incidents on critical power infrastructure in Lagos, Kebbi, Niger and other states had at one time led to the collapse of the national grid.

The consequences were loss of power supply to Nigerians and damage to power infrastructure worth billions of Naira.

More worrisome is that the causes of these fire incidents have remained undisclosed.

Most times, the incidents, despite their huge impact on the nation’s economy, are narrated with terse statements by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN.

The development casts aspersion into the quality of installations by the TCN.

A report emerged four days ago alleging that the Managing Director of TCN, Sule Abdulaziz, violated the Public Procurement Act, 2007 in N5,677,692,943.26 worth of contract award in November 2023. But the TCN denied the claim.

However, experts have attributed the rising occurrence of fire incidents in transmission stations to substandard installation equipment, fake line materials, supply of undersized transformers, supply of refurbished critical equipment, non-availability or lack of protection facilities and other issues involved in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry, NESI.

The case in sight is the fire incident at Transmission Substation in Maryland, Lagos State, on December 16, 2023.

In defence, the TCN said the equipment was manufactured in 1983.

“The sudden failure of Maryland-Ikorodu 132kV Line 2 Yellow phase capacitor voltage transformer can be attributed to ageing and insulation failure. The equipment was manufactured in 1983,” it said.

Before then, the Kainji/Jebba 330kV line 2 (Cct K2J) blue phase CVT & Blue phase line Isolator of Kainji/Jebba 330kV line 1 also caught fire. The incident led to sharp drops in frequency from 50.29Hz to 49.67 Hz at 0:35:06Hrs with Jebba generation loss of 356.63MW and consequent grid collapse.

Another fire incident occurred in the Transmission Company of Nigeria transmission substation in Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State, on September 14.

Due to the incident, Kaduna Electric reported power outages in parts of Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara states.

Also, on June 14, TCN reported a fire incident at its Alagbon Transmission Substation, which affected one of its 60MVA power transformers and all Alagbon 330/132/33KVs in Lagos.

The recent incidents are not different from those that happened years back.

For instance, a 330/132/33KV substation caught fire in Adiabo Cross River State on September 5 2022, just as the 150MVA 330/132kV power transformer in Ayede Transmission Substation, Ibadan, Oyo State, went up in flames on April 15, 2022.

Similarly, the transmission substation 45MVA 132/33kV power transformers in Apo Abuja was affected on April 28, 2019, just as fire incident was reported in the 75MXreactor in the Benin Substation, Sapele Road in Benin City, Edo State

All these occurrences had striking similarities.

Speaking with DAILY POST, Engr Peter Ekwesor, former MD Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency, NEMSA, blamed the standard of critical electricity equipment for the rising fire incidents.

According to him, Nigerians may not understand the technicalities.

He noted that no development has been achieved ten years after privatizing the country’s power sector.

“After ten years of privatization, the country’s power sector is still struggling. If we don’t tell ourselves the truth, the problem will persist.

“Before the privatization, people thought it was the solution, but after ten years, there is nothing to show for it.

“We went into privatization blindly. We were supposed to have a prototype before going into it, but none was done.

“The country has been unable to put its hands together to address the power sector problem.

“Implementation has been the biggest challenge in Nigeria; we have the brightest policies but without proper implementation.

“No privatization process has succeeded in Nigeria. In telecommunication, private concerns were introduced. They came to open up the business space, a process that would have worked in the power sector, but that was not the case.

“There is zero impact of privatization, perhaps the generation companies. There is not a single investment from DisCos in the period under review”, he told DAILY POST.

Also, Prof Yemi Oke, a don of electricity law and an energy advisor, said standardization of electricity installations has been a major setback in the NESI.

“Standardization of electricity installation is a major problem the sector faces, just like vandalization of pipeline installation of petrol products.

“Occasionally, vandalism of electricity installations, like Hammond cables, high tension cables, and others, result in fire incidents.

“Generally, the enforcement and regulatory institutions must do their job; consumers will need to be sensitized on what to install or not; artisans need training and retraining on electrical installation,” he told DAILY POST.

On his part, Kunle Olubiyo, the president of the Nigerian Consumer Protection Network, blamed the supply of junk and substandard materials for the rise of fire incidents in transmission substations in Nigeria.

According to him, successive leaders of TCN have not been subjecting themselves to third-party verification of electricity installations.

Olubiyo called for proper capacity tests, certification of transformers, and stress tests on the country’s electricity industry.

“There are linkages in the system because the money budgeted for electricity equipment is diverted. Junks are being imported as electricity facilities.

“Money is not the problem, but the misappropriation of public funds from areas of critical needs that will impact the overall output of the national grid to unnecessary ventures.

“Many transformer facilities have been outdated and without proper maintenance since 1980.

“Burning of transformers are as a result substandard materials, undersized, fake labelled materials, fake line materials, refurbished critical infrastructure, absence of system protective devices and others.

“Successive leadership of TCN have not been subjecting themselves to third-party verification of electricity installations.

“TCN has compromised largely on safety culture because it failed to adhere to the safe use of electricity installation. Most TCN equipment is obsolete. There is complete absence of system protection.

“When you lose a facility worth billions, and there is no adequate investigation of the root cause, there is a problem.

“The government needs to strengthen its regulatory institution. For instance, we have NEMSA, but TCN doesn’t subject itself to it.

“Government has not carried out stress tests of the grid. There is supposed to be a regular stress test on electricity facilities in the country. All the equities in the power sector should be moved to the capital market for transparency.

“What we have in the DisCos is sole proprietorship disguised as evenly spread equity, helped by the proxies of sole proprietors,” he told DAILY POST.

Frequent national grid collapse: Concerns mount over quality of TCN’s procurements

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