ugo“More IPPs must be built to meet Africa’s energy needs”

Exclusive interview with Ugo Amadi, Chief correspondent: energy, oil & gas for Champion Newspapers in Lagos, who are media partners of the upcoming African Utility Week.

Q: What are the main issues in the energy sector in Nigeria that you are focusing on?

A: As a matter of importance, I am focusing on all issues that will help the energy sector move forward in Nigeria. With the coming of a new president in Nigeria, I wish to join forces with him to see that good coverage is giving to the entire energy sector. I am looking at renewable energy and the need to ensure many IPPs are working in the country. For us power is critical to development and industrialisation. We need more IPPs to meet our energy needs. I’m optimistic that the privatisation of the power sector will yield a good result in no time. I am calling on our government to ensure that 90% of the rural dwellers are connected to the national grid before the end of 2015 and that power is working 24/7.

Q: What would you say are the main challenges that the sector is facing?

A: For me the challenges are surmountable. Paramount to us is the smooth passage of the Petroleum industry bill which has lingered for several years. The delay caused by non- passage of the bill has led to a lot of divestment by the IOCs and stagnation to some sought in the energy industry. I believe that if the PIB is passed in an acceptable way, it will boost the confidence of foreign investors and ensure effective and efficient running of the energy sector.

Another issue I want the incoming government to do is to ensure the unbundling of the gas sector. For me it is good to put infrastructures for the commercialisation of gas, ensure quality pipelines and aggregators of gas, so that gas commercialisation will be meaningful. Also, pipeline vandalism and oil theft must be checked adequately. Frequent vandalisation of gas pipelines has affected power generation in the country.

In addition, the lack of political will as well as poor access to finance are part of the major challenges why Nigeria lags behind its African peers in renewable energy development. There should be a clear strategy statement from the government backed by the commitment to implementing a renewable energy policy. As a matter of fact, commercial banks in Nigeria largely finance short-term projects while renewable energy projects usually tend to be long-term projects with hope that finance will come from other sources such as the Development Finance Bank.

There are more than 100 renewable energy companies in Nigeria. Most projects were restricted to small scale or model projects.  For me, renewable energy is an opening that Nigeria should clutch otherwise others will grasp it and we will be lagging behind because oil is finite. But renewable energy is infinite. So, the earlier Nigeria embraces this, the better for the country.

Nigeria is endowed with large fossil as well as potential renewable energy resources, but regrettably these potential resources have not been utilised for the benefit of a sustainable development. Industrial energy use in African countries is characterised by the rapid growth of the industrial sector of between 5.1% and 7.3% through to 2030. There is an opportunity to moderate use, increase industrial sustainability, improve competitiveness, and add more value to the product though a reduced energy intensity in the industrial sector.

Q: Are there success stories that you can share?

A: We have been at the vanguard of good and in-depth coverage of the energy sector. We are highly celebrated and pride ourselves as one of the nation’s foremost newspaper brands enjoying a readership base that cuts across all classes and with product visibility across the length and breadth of the country. Our niche is very well celebrated and the market rates us as the media gate way to the East. We publish every day of the week; each of our offerings comes with regular features, Energy, oil and gas, Business News, Insurance, Politics, Infotel, Law, Arts, Travel and Tours, Brands Edge, Motoring, Properties and Environment, Consumer affairs and sports.

The newspaper titles in our stable are authoritative national brands that provide reliable and analytical information on local, National and International issues. They are mass-circulating and geared towards enhancing a better society.

Our champion better society lectures have been a veritable source of information, agenda setting and advocacy platform for the Nigeria economy.

Q: You are Chief correspondent: Energy, oil & gas for Champion Newspapers in Lagos.  Tell us more about the history of your publication.

A: Champion Newspapers is a national English language newspaper in Nigeria. It is privately owned, and is published in Lagos. The Publications in its stable include Daily Champion, weekend Champion and Sporting Champion. It started in October 1, 1989. The newspaper’s publisher and Executive Chairman is Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu a renowned engineer by profession, politician and one of the wealthiest Nigerians.

Champion Newspapers covers a wide coverage of issues, policies, trends and developments in the Nigerian, regional and international oil and gas industries. It provides in-depth analysis, insightful opinions, informed projections and data needed by operators, investors and entrepreneurs in the industry for business decisions. In recent years we had played a major role as media partners to a range of local and overseas event organisers in the Energy, Oil and gas Industry in particular. Compared to other papers, the Daily Champion tends to report more positively on the Energy, oil and gas industry. The newspaper is usually cautious in its coverage of issues, and does not stray from the truth and facts of every issue.

Q: Champion Newspapers is an official media partner for this year’s African Utility Week and West African Power Industry Convention – why the decision to partner with us?

A: For us at Champion, we believe in developmental journalism, ‘it is wrong that something is happening in your father’s house and you cannot contribute’. We want to contribute our little quota in the development of the energy sector. We are highly excited to be part of it. Nobody can tell an African story better than Africans. We believe in Africa and we know that it is a great continent and together we will showcase Africa to the whole world.

Q: You plan to attend and cover African Utility Week – what are you expecting from the event?

A: I am looking forward to seeing the strategies and roadmap for Africa to meet her energy demands by 2040. One of the serious challenges of building IPPs is finance, and I hope see how African Utility Week will be a good solution ground and platform to solve the power financing problem that most countries in Africa are facing. At the end of the conference I hope to see every participant going home fulfilled. I don’t want it to be a jamboree but a week of fulfilled dreams and aspirations.