Engineers raise alarm over shortage of manpower

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John Ayodele, the Chief Operating Officer of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company Plc, has raised the alarm over the shortage of power engineers needed to solve energy challenges in Nigeria.

Ayodele raised the alarm at the 11th Ralph Alabi Memorial Lecture organised by the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers in Lagos and held virtually on Sunday.

Speaking on the theme: “Challenges in Electricity Distribution in Nigeria: What Engineers should do differently,” he said scarcity of power engineers began around year 2000 with the decline sustained.

He said the trend was assuming a dangerous dimension, which must be tackled through massive grooming of young engineers into the sector to address power challenges.

Ayodele, a fellow of the NSE, also called for measures and massive education to ensure that more young engineers cherish specialisation in the power arm of the profession to bridge the skills gap.

He said: “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 enumerated the different challenges in the three different stages of power generation, transmission and distribution.

Ayodele, who was the keynote speaker, however, commended the recent Federal Government’s intervention for mass distribution of pre-paid meters, which, he noted, would boost power distribution and ensure effective metering.

He said: “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 also said the Federal Government’s intervention also offered local engineers the opportunity to be part of meter manufacturing or assembly, thereby reducing capital flight and boosting capacities of local industries.

He said a meeting was also ongoing between the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Finance and Presidency, which would yield result within the next 70 days.

Earlier, Ayodele explained that Electricity Distribution Companies were losing revenue to estimated billing, power theft and vandalism, which effective metering would resolve.

He also lamented government’s interference in regulation, which he said affected planning and investments in the power sector.

He said: “Service reflective tariff was developed and imposed on us.

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“It is an invention in Nigeria not practiced anywhere in the world.”

Newly-elected Chairman of the Ikeja Branch of the NSE, Olutosin Ogunmola, said in his remarks that the branch would strengthen its Young Engineer’s Forum to encourage more engineers to major in power engineering.

Ogunmola added that the branch would also liaise with tertiary institutions to get more students interested in power engineering specialisation to reverse the decline in interest in the sector.

He said the annual lecture was held to honour late Engr. Ralph Alabi, the first chairman of the branch, and to explore untapped capacities in power distribution in Nigeria.

He said: “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.”

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that new members were also inducted into the Ikeja Branch of the NSE after the lecture.

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