The Nigerian Power Consumers Forum (NPCF) has said that recent spate of fire incidents and disturbances on the national electricity grid and around power transmission infrastructure may be as a result of sabotage by sme unpatriotic elements.
The allegation is coming days after the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN said its management led by Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz achieved relatively stable electricity supply across the country for over 421 days, the longest uninterrupted service period in the country’s history.
For the first time, the TCN said it took delivery of over 30 power transformers in 2022 and were deployed to project sites located in the six six geopolitical zones for installation. TCN said the projects were to improve access to bulk electricity.
From independent assessment which started last year and up to this year, the Forum was able to confirm the various initiatives TCN deployed to stabilize the grid, including the use of Internet of Things (IoT).
The deployment of the stop gap system as a placeholder for a smart grid system which is in the advanced stage of the procurement process for a robust deployment of a full-scale state-of-the-art Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)/Energy Management System (EMS).
The group said unfortunately, just after the pronouncement on the efforts by TCN on grid stability, the power sector recorded at least two system collapses in succession, all caused by a fire incident in the Birnin Kebbi transmission substation and line snap along the 330kV Jebba – Kainji transmission line.
These, TCN, said caused nationwide outages which the NPCF said was to bring the management of TCN into disrepute.
“This Forum confirms that TCN has been maintaining its grid efficiently for 421 days and the grid is looped in some places. This rules out the lack of capacity on the part of the company. We are therefore pointing to cases of sabotage by hoodlums who may not mean well for the country.
“This is not the first time critical national infrastructures have been sabotaged as cases abound everyday of oil theft rupturing pipelines or hacking power transmission towers of which over 20 of such cases were reported by TCN in the last 12 months.
“The fire incident at the Birnin Kebbi transmission substation switch yard is more of a sabotage on the national grid systems,” the Forum said.
The group said power engineers who over three decades of experience, believe that technically, there was no way two power transformers separated by a reasonable distance from each other would be engulfed by fire simultaneously.
They argued that transformers have inbuilt system protection and the probability of a transformer ignition was quite low.
However, the Forum said saboteurs could devise any means to disrupt the flow of electricity by pulling out transformer components.
Immediate enquiries into the incident, the Forum said, both the 90MVA transformer on the 330kV line and the 60MVA transformer on the 132kV line experienced a fire incident simultaneously, despite being apart, separated by a reasonable space.
The Forum said the issue of voltage or surge was ruled out as TCN has robust protection and isolation mechanisms, instead, only internal issues within the transformer can lead to such incidents.
The internal components of the transformer, they said, consist of just two elements: the windings and the insulation materials, such as gases, oils, and SF6 gas, among others depending on the type of insulation.
When pressure builds up within the transformer, it noted that it was essential to safeguard it with a Buchholz relay, positioned at the upper section of the transformer.
The Buckholz relay, it said, serves as a protection against this internal pressure within the transformer. Should it malfunction, the pressure could escalate rapidly, potentially resulting in the transformer rupturing. While the investigation is ongoing, all indications refer to sabotage on both transformers as they are not linked and operate on two voltage levels and transmission lines.
Moreso, Niger Republic used to receive bulk power from a 150MVA lower transformer in the Birnin Kebbi substation, and because of the important role of this substation nationally and internationally, it is properly fitted with all protection and safety devices.
The NPCF said it noted strongly that there may be an external force acting against the nation’s transmission system and we believe that the government of the day will strive to identify and bring the saboteurs and perpetrators of this act to book.
In the meantime, while NPCF on behalf of Nigerian electricity consumers urge TCN to continue on its trajectory of investing in the transmission networks, especially in lines reconductoring, we implore them to proactively buffer other substations against further sabotage.