Dr Jamil Isyaku Gwamna, is the Managing Director of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO). In this interview, he speaks on how the firm has prioritised safety strategies across its Kano, Katsina and Jigawa franchise areas to protect customers and its employees while improving electricity supply services.
How has KEDCO fared this year with the COVID-19 pandemic?
KEDCO, like many other organisations, has had its severe impact of the pandemic on our operations but in the midst of the pandemic, we were able to steer our ship to ensure that we don’t compromise on our services to the public. In the midst of it all, interestingly, our customers witnessed an unprecedented peak in supply. This is as a result of our commitment to ensure that the pandemic didn’t affect our capacity to deliver on our mandate. We were very strategic and focused, leveraging information on the pandemic by relevant agencies to carry out our operation in the interest of the public while ensuring strict compliance with laid down protocols
The regulatory authorities in the power sector have harped on safety, what are the strategies at KEDCO?
We don’t joke when it comes to our proactive approach to issues of safety; KEDCO has rolled out some innovative strategies towards achieving the highest Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) standard anywhere in the world.
We brought some aggressive approaches towards hazard identification and resolution which we termed “Safety Mega Drive (SMD)”. SMD mandates every KEDCO staff to identify and report at least five hazards to the HSE Unit for quick rectification within a stipulated time frame.
The annual exercise was first observed in December 2018, where about 3, 300 hazards were identified and resolved within that year. The result has drastically reduced the number of third party accidents.
Not only third party safety but also, staff health and well-being are being given utmost priority through the timely provision of required training, personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical services.
All these measures we are taking are to lay a proper foundation to ensure that our 2021 is not only hazard-free but entirely safe for our staff and customers.
As concern for HSE continues to increase especially in the power sector, we believe that improving power distribution efficiencies in terms of HSE issues requires technologies which we as an organisation have also embraced. Recently, we developed a web-based hazard reporting software called kimetric. The application was designed to ease hazard reporting and escalation for both staff and the third party. Other options include WhatsApp and the HSE redline (telephones) and email services.
On staff training, what has KEDCO done about that?
As I have always maintained, my staff are my greatest asset and that is my position not only in words but also in action. One of the most dangerous things to do in any organisation is to have staff or employees that try to use the knowledge of the past to attempt solving today’s or even future challenges. KEDCO is no such organisation. We have our priority for the future and in order to realise that we have to brush up our staff to align them mentally to current ways of reasoning.
In 2020 alone, we have trained just to maintain but a few; 420 Line Managers, leadership development training for over 200 sales representatives to equip them with the capacity to lead in rapidly changing time. Also, we have given HSE training to equip over 700 technical staff with HSE skills to keep staff, customers, and the general public safe.
In the quest for a zero accident from 2021 onward to safeguard the lives and property of staff and esteemed customers, we approved the introduction of Regional Safety Coordinators (RSC) which focuses on safety and how to, as quickly as possible, address issues that could cause hazards and accidents.
What are some of the acts that are tagged unsafe in your franchise area?
In recent times, we have raised the alarm over the increasing acts of vandalism, illegal connection, meter by-pass, transformer oil theft and other kinds of sabotage. We have often sought partnership from the general public in reporting these issues to enable us to protect them better because the truth is that most of the activities of these saboteurs are exposing the members of the public to hazards and accidents of some sort and that’s why we are always prosecuting perpetrators of these illegal acts.
There are concerns of Right of Way violations of power lines, how does this affect KEDCO?
Right of Way (RoW) violations of power lines are highly rampant nationwide. However, KEDCO has made a milestone towards the resolution of RoW violations. For instance, in Shagari Quarters of Kano State, we shifted 120 poles from 650 households leaving under the RoW of the power lines. This has saved many lives from future unfortunate events.
Awareness is key in everything we do, so through a series of awareness on radio stations, community sensitisation and dialogue, we have recorded success in that regard. However, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) have given us clear directives to disconnect any customer that violates the RoW of power lines instantly and we are not failing at all in doing the needful when it comes to saving lives and removing any risks whatsoever on the members of the public and their property.
The electricity tariff increase recently caused reactions, how is KEDCO handling that?
KEDCO is well regulated and it’s a must we adhere to approved guidelines as it concerns the power distribution sub-sector which we have been doing over the past years. On the issue of the tariff, we have no problems; we are putting in all efforts to ensure that we adhere strictly to the service bands- A, B, C, D and E as approved by NERC in the interest of customers.
Still on safety, what is your advice to power users?
Issues relating to HSE should be everybody’s responsibility. In fact, there is a need for a collective effort by all staff, customers as well as stakeholders to achieve the highest HSE standard in the overall interest of staff and customers in the Kano franchise.
Safety maintenance is expensive and it is a must we invest to prevent accidents and hazards. This we cannot do alone; so we need customers’ cooperation in the payment of bills to help us serve them well