By Michael Dada
-Four years ago Ibom Power was in a moribund state
-Engr. Etukudo resumed on August 01, 2016 as the MD
-Accugas cut-off gas from Ibom power plant for 114 days due to debt
-A significant amount of debt Ibom owed has been paid off
-Ibom power unit 3 has undergone HGPI and CI, critical maintenance requirements
-33 court cases against Ibom power have been reduced to six
-CSR activities have been implemented in the host community
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”, this saying is a line from the play ‘King Henry the Fourth, Part Two’ by William Shakespeare. The saying probably summarizes Engr. Meyen Etukudo’s experience in the last four years as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Ibom Power Company Limited, a company grappling with technical, commercial and administrative challenges that, in recent past, put it in a moribund state.
When Governor Udom Emmanuel appointed Engr. Etukudo as the helmsman at Ibom Power Company Limited on August 01 2016, he probably did not envisage that barely three months into his new role, Ibom power plant would shut down.
This happened on October 21, 2016 when Accugas (now Savannah Energy), the sole source of gas used by Ibom power plant, cut gas supply to the plant under the guise of conducting a critical system upgrade and maintenance of its Ikot Abasi Gas Receiving Facility (IGRF). Maintenance previously scheduled for 45 days eventually spanned 114 torturous days that caused Ibom power plant to be inoperative for that period.
Apparently, prior to Engr. Etukudo’s appointment, Ibom power owed Accugas a backlog of debts for gas. Therefore, when Accugas completed the maintenance of their gas facility, they demanded that Ibom power should pay the gas debt as a precondition to restoring gas supply to Ibom power plant. After meetings and negotiations, Ibom power paid the gas debt and Accugas restored gas supply to Ibom power plant on February 12, 2017.
Probably not the sort of welcome Engr. Etukudo expected but this was the first in a series of vulnerable situations Ibom power has pulled through in the last four years under Engr. Etukudo’s leadership.
Not long after scaling that hurdle, the MD received a report that the lone running unit of Ibom power plant, the 115megawatts capacity unit 3, is overdue for Hot Gas Path Inspection (HGPI) and Combustion Inspection (CI), two critical maintenance that can adversely affect plant operations if neglected. Based on industry best practice, Ibom power’s unit 3 ought to have undergone HGPI after running for 26,000 hours but at the time Engr. Etukudo resumed as the MD, unit 3 already ran for 36,000 hours without maintenance due to paucity of funds.
To salvage the situation, the company pulled its resources together and provided the finance for General Electric (GE), the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), to carry out the HGPI and CI on Ibom power unit 3.
To the layman, these technical and commercial interventions may seem inconsequential but the corporate existence of Ibom power as a company hung in the balance for days until both interventions were carried out.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Ibom power plant has three Gas Turbine Generators, GTG 1 & 2 (38megawatts each) and GTG 3 (115megawatts) for a total installed capacity of 191megawatts. GTG 1 reportedly crashed after running for about 10,000 hours while the company never commissioned GTG 2.
Only GTG 3 has been operational for several years and this unit could have crashed if not for the timely intervention of Engr. Etukudo and his team. If GTG 3 crashed, the consequences would have been grave; Ibom power would cease to exist and more than 300 employees will be out of work.
In addition to the prevailing technical and commercial challenges, Ibom power owed crippling legacy debts to the tune of billions of Naira. The company owed Access Bank, Diamond Bank (now Access Bank) and Afrexim Bank. It also owed several contractors and there were 33 pending cases in different courts against Ibom power. This is in addition to issues with the host community and staff welfare. A company that, at inception, former Governor Victor Attah described as a dream come true was unexpectedly in a nightmare situation.
Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that in his first address to staff, Engr. Etukudo said he was on a rescue mission. As the first port of call, Engr. Etukudo and his team completely paid off the Access Bank loan, renegotiated and paid off a large portion of the Diamond Bank (now Access Bank) and Afrexim loans while the 33 pending cases against the company reduced to six.
Furthermore, the company-sponsored ten artisans from Ikpetim, the immediate host community, and gave them N150, 000 each to start businesses in their areas of training while the five clans in Ikot Abasi local government area and Ikpetim received N5million each for community development projects. This is in addition to several other CSR activities Ibom power has implemented in the last four years to sustain the peaceful coexistence with the host community.
Concerning Ibom power staff, Engr. Etukudo’s management made it compulsory for all staff of Ibom power, including drivers and cleaners, to embark on company-sponsored training in their areas of specialization while the company engaged HR consultants to look into better staff welfare.
There is no gainsaying that these interventions rapidly improved the fortunes of Ibom Power Company Limited and won the company numerous accolades. In 2017, Ibom power won the African Quality Award as the Most Innovative Power Generation Services Provider in Africa. In that same year, out of the 26 power companies in Nigeria, GE invited only Ibom power to present a Paper at the GE Frame 9E Users Conference in Dubai, UAE. In March 2018, Ibom power successfully hosted the 25th monthly power stakeholders meeting with the former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
The company currently maintains an impeccable safety record with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). Ultimately, the crowning achievement was when Engr. Etukudo was voted the best Chief Executive at the Global Executive Leadership Programme 2018 at Howard University, Washington DC, USA.
Even though the last four years have not all been smooth sailing, the focal point of Engr. Etukudo’s leadership has been the identification and mitigation of Ibom power’s challenges. Thus far, the efforts of Engr. Etukudo and his team have transformed Ibom Power Company Limited from its previously moribund state into a going concern.