By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu, Minister of Power, said recently that the federal government was working with state governors to address the problem of right-of-way, which has been delaying many power projects across the country. He added that government was making efforts to engage the governors through their Governors Forum, to address the problem for timely completion of power projects.
He stated that government was taking inventory of all the right-of-way challenges nationwide in order to engage state governors. Recall that in January 2020, it was widely reported that 14 states hiked R-o-W charges.
For record, the RoW charge is a kind of levy paid to state governments for laying of optic fibre cables on state roads.
In respect of how RoW affects power projects, the minister said the government is taking inventory of all the RoW challenges nationwide in order to discuss with state governors on possible resolutions.
Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, director of Entrepreneurship at Redeemers University said the federal government and the states need to resolve right of ways issue to ease the growth of infrastructure.
“The government must put in place a regulatory system for handling bottlenecks to infrastructure growth—chiefly, Right-of-way (ROW) issues”, he told BusinessHallmark, in respect of ongoing row between the FG and the states which has drastically affected power infrastructure.
Omoyele stated that “A ROW is a type of easement. An easement is the right to use another person’s land for a stated purpose; it may be a general or specific portion of the property. It is an easement that allows someone (or their property or other object belonging to them) the right to travel across property owned by another person. In the event that some one does anything on the land owned by another without obtaining the ROW, they will be regarded as a trespasser and treated as such.
“ROW is important because developing infrastructure like power lines, fibre optic cables, roads, bridges, waterways, etc. may sometimes require the need to take a part of, or the entire land of a landowner in which event compensation must be paid. Consequently, problems of fair valuation of the property may arise and the funds for compensation may be huge.
“For this reason, government must develop a fair, transparent and expeditious framework for handling ROW concerns or risk stymieing infrastructure growth as is illustrated with electricity transmission infrastructure in Nigeria.”
The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), is the entity that owns and operates the infrastructure for wheeling power from generating companies to distribution companies.
According to the Association of Power Generation Companies, installed capacity stands at 12,000 MW, regrettably on account of decrepit infrastructure only between 5,000 MW-7000 MW can be wheeled by the TCN .
It is on record that the resolve by government to channel funds for renovating and improving the transmission system has been met by the ROW challenge.
Only recently, the Managing Director of the TCN, Usman Gur stated that: “Right-of-way is a big issue in Nigeria and this is one of the problems why we have court cases. For in the TCN, about 80 per cent of our cases that are in court have to do with right-of-way issues. So it is a big problem and I can tell you why this is an issue in Nigeria in contrast to what is seen in other countries.”
Many analysts spoken to by Business Hallmark say with no resolution of the current ROW challenge, Nigeria can only make little progress in upgrading transmission infrastructure. The need to ramp up transmission infrastructure becomes even more important on the back of the recent delivery and imminent delivery of some independent power projects across the country.
Job Leke, a legal practitioner told BusinessHallmark that the ” Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly in Section 43 guarantees every citizen the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
According to him, Section 44 states that government may compulsorily acquire any land and that in the event that the landowner is aggrieved such landowner may apply to court for relief. It also goes on to provide in 44(2)(m) that compulsory acquisition does not vitiate the need to compensate landowners for economic trees, crops or buildings.
Under the Land Use Act (LUA), sections 28–30 provide quite elaborate proceedings for the process of expropriation of land for government purposes. Leke said in case of this law, as in many aspects of Nigerian law, there are lapses in addressing two major challenges namely; expeditious dispute resolution; and land grabbing.
In order to solve issues like the right of ways impeding the growth of infrastructure, Nigeria needs to enact a stand-alone legislation or a legislation subsidiary to the LUA, which should serve to supplement the extant laws. The new law should seek to limit the duration of litigation, limit the right of appeal for litigation, and apart from compensation, should also provide for resettlement (in such a manner that resettlement and monetary compensation can be used together or separately).
Many analysts conclude that the challenges of Nigeria’s transmission infrastructure include poorly planned existing infrastructure, substandard equipment, uncompleted contracts, etc. among others.
Omoyele stated that a legislative solution appears potent enough to curb the ROW bottleneck and drive progress not only in Nigeria’s power sector but in the entire infrastructure sector.