Kenechukwu Agu, an Electrical and Electronics Engineer is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), EvanPower Engineering Limited . In this interview, Engineer Agu spoke on how his blueprint to address power challenges in Nigeria which he referred to as his “intellectual property” was allegedly “stolen” by Nigerian Breweries with Heineken as major stakeholder. The invention which he developed some years ago was given approval by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission NERC and was to be deployed to solve power challenges in the country, especially the high tariff, energy theft among others. The development had since derailed the project whose pilot scheme was to begin with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, (EEDC).
Can you introduce yourself and give insight into an invention that you have been talking about.
My name is Kenechukwu Agu. I am the CEO, EvanPower Engineering Limited. Before that, I have worked with a number of companies. I have worked with Rainbownet. I set up the power infrastructure in the five states of the south-east for that company from transferring from the wireless access to a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
I have had a wide range of experience. We are one of the highly recommended contractors under Heineken via their company, Nigeria Breweries. I am the inventor of a technology, a solution that takes care and solve the power issue that is predominant in Nigeria.
This invention made its first public debut in May 2016 when the Nigerian Society of Engineers invited me to make a presentation. I was the Guest Speaker in that occasion.
It was a technical session that encompasses technocrats, Professors, Academics, Doctors, Artisans and also captains of industries in Electrical Electronics, Engineering, So, I made that presentation which received a standing ovation; which was further reviewed by the Institute of Electrical Electronics in Nigeria (IEEN),
After that review, it was now recommended to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, (NERC). Following this recommendation I made a presentation at their Abuja Headquarters and my innovation won a super standing ovation and I was asked to deploy this technology that would save Nigeria from the current mess it is as regards to the power industry.
Can you tell us why the invention has not been deployed several years after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) gave you approval to do same?
Our wonder and breakthrough design has been hampered by the callousness of Heineken via its Nigerian Brewery. Just about the time I got the approval from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to start the pilot scheme, the Nigerian Brewery came knocking on my door tha t they wanted me to revamp their Access Control System. They came knocking on my door because in 2014 when their access control system failed, none of their registered contractors throughout Nigeria could get it working. We are the only company that could get it working then. So based on that track record they came knocking on my door in 2017 just about the time we got the approval to deploy the pilot scheme project by NERC.
So, we saw it as opportunity to raise more funds to do our project. Unfortunately, in the course of executing the NIGERIAN BREWERY revamp of Access Control Project, they stole and hijacked my blueprint. My blueprint is my intellectual property and something that is very pertinent to the execution of the NERC project. We couldn’t go far so the project was stalled because of it. And when we now started requesting for payments, – and it is not just that I am saying it, it is on records, where they admitted pointblank that they have my blueprint; and refused to pay. The blueprint is vital to the execution of the NERC project, so it made us not to go further as it sabotaged the project. So, we now started making effort asking them to give us our money and harness, get over and still continue with our NERC project.
But in our quest to request payment for this blueprint, it now turned to another scheme, where the Heineken team now sent assassins against me and my kids. So in pursuit of our lives, I had to flee for safety. You might want to know how I know, it is them that sent these people. The assailants on the number of occasions they accosted me, they came with the company’s (Heineken’s) branded vehicles. That is one point. Then I had contacted the head of internal audit, Mr Uche Ndozi, because he had invited me for a meeting in Lagos over the issue of payment of my money. It was after that meeting in Lagos that these bravado assailants were now using the company’s vehicles to attack me and the kids. I contacted Uche Ndozi sometime in June 2016, I told him over the phone that I want to bring to his knowledge, officially and authoritatively that ever since I left the meeting at their Lagos office, assailants have been following me. Because, in the meeting they told me that they are going to escalate everything to Amsterdam, the Headquarters of Heineken and that they have been telling Heineken, everything that is going on and that they will give them response which they will pass on to me. I told Uche Edozie that his men are after my life, and that they want to slay me and my kids and there is no cover about it because they are using their company’s branded vehicles. To my greatest surprise, he said that these threats to my life will fizzle out when they send me the response letter from Heineken. I now figure out that he has control and knew when and how it will fizzled out. That means, the hierarchy of Heineken via their Nigerian Brewery planned and orchestrated to attack me and my family to cause us harm and probably death. Coupled with the fact that they seized our blueprint, they refused to make money available to us to harness a makeover and then the ensuing threats that followed when I started making request for my money, I had to flee for safety. These are the things that grounded the development of that project that would have saved Nigeria a lot of money.
If you go to NERC website, in 2018 as at December 31, the DISCOs through their publications, were able to decipher that the country was losing over 500 billion Naira to electricity theft. And electricity theft is what we have provided solution to; to quell it, to stamp it out. So, it would have saved Nigeria this kind of money and make the power sector more viable and more productive for investors and users. So, that is how the whole project is still stalled till today. It is because of Heineken and its clandestine activities in stealing and hijacking our blueprint and refusing to pay for it and the ensuing threat to life and property that followed.
Did you make any effort to draw the attention of the federal government through the Ministry of Power or even NERC when all these things were going on between you and Nigerian Breweries?
When it came out to the issue of threat to life, I wrote a petition to the Commissioner of Police, Enugu. Telling him what is happening and how these are stalling not only the project but how they are after my life. I wrote a petition to President Mohammadu Buhari, telling him issues of threat to life and telling him to use the full force of the federal government to investigate and bring these people to book because they were acting as if they are above the law. When you have people using their company vehicle to attack someone; the bravado is beyond imagination. We also advertised this issue in Guardian Newspaper in a full-page advertorial of September 14, 2019 where we appealed in an open letter to Buhari to use his position as the GCFR to bring these people to book.
When you laid this complaint, did you receive any response from the Federal Government?
Till today, we haven’t received any response yet from the Federal Republic. It also saddens our heart because the nation is losing a lot by not deploying this breakthrough technology. It would have quelled the issue of power theft because, the issue these DISCOS are having is that they are not able to recoup returns on investment due to electricity theft. Because, these cables go all the way to streets and these people do what the local people call tapping. They tap into these lines without paying for it. For each of the power sub-stations, these DISCOs are not able to account for the power delivered to each power sub-station. What they now do is to look for responsible client who don’t have prepaid meters and over billed them. It is a whole jungle of thing that is happening there. So our solution quells this electricity theft and would have brought a lot of money back into the hands of the DISCOs. And that is why you always have the issue of increase of electricity tariff that is always coming up now and then. So, they cannot make enough money unless you block the holes where these money are going out from; and our technology plug that hole so that they can now account for power delivered to each of the substations. It can be accounted for once registered with the company before they can make use of this power.
Our technology would have seen to making the power sector viable. And there would have been more investment coming from the Western world which would have transformed the power sector. But it is scary making any investment in the power sector, especially in the distribution because of this electricity theft. So it pains and we are surprised that at this moment we have not heard from the federal government, but still we are leaving our doors open believing that soon something will happen. Because we petition, and our counsel, Professor Gab Agu is up to the task and we are still hopeful we will get response but none yet.
What is Nigerian Brewery currently doing with the blueprint?
Thank you very much for that question. In their letter of admittance which I will ask my counsel to make available to you, they admitted that they have used our blueprint. Now I cannot speak for them what they are still doing with it. It is more or less their question to answer. They admitted custody and using it and now they refused to pay. It is because of our request for payment that is causing all these attacks on my life.
What is the next line of action? Where do you go from here or have you backed out?
Thank you. That is why this interview is important so I can get this information out to the world. I have visited New York to talk with some counsel over this matter. They were actually infuriated on how the Heineken Company could be so barbaric. They said this is only happening because it is a country like Nigeria. That they will not try it in their own country, neither will they try it in US. They had asked me to get this information in the public domain.
Why do you think Nigeria Brewery decided not to pay you and at the same confiscated your blueprint after a job you have done for them?
Because of the fact that they already have criminal intent of holding down our blueprint, so they decided not to pay at all for the work we have done during the time they stole our blueprint. We now understand the job was just a lure. So that job they had offered us was something to get us in. They were already eyeing our blueprint, they got us in, stole and hijacked it. So, I would say, first of all, they don’t want to pay for the job done. The blueprint, they don’t want to pay for it as well. Then for the blueprint, I think corruption plays a heavy role. Corruption in the system. I had petitioned their MD/CEO via their Lagos office, telling him there is corruption in the system. I think Heineken is willing to pay but because of corruption, they are telling them they can silence this guy, they don’t need to settle him; and then settle the mercenary they use to do the deal. So, it is corruption and criminality.
Talking about this blueprint, I am interested in knowing how long it took you to develop it; and how much local content you get into it?
Thank you for this question. Ten years have actually gone into it. Ten solid engineering practicing years and hands-on experience has gone into that blueprint, bringing it to the stage, it was. Then, as at the development of the project, at the time was about 55 %. Local content. We hoped to get it beyond that. It is our plan that it should get higher than that because Nigeria keeps evolving in technology and materials of technology.
Are you still hopeful that at the end of the day, you will get justice in this matter?
Because of my faith in the Almighty God, I am very confident that the Lord God whom I serve and his Son, Jesus Christ would see me through justice, because truth always prevails, truth always win. It might take some time, but you cannot hide the truth; especially when you have a barrage of documents. I have documents, I have phone calls recording. The network can provide discussions of where I wholeheartedly and pointblank reported this threat. So, proofs are over there. You can’t hide the truth. That is why the attack is to silence him, to kill him. I am confident of what God can do and I know I will get justice.
The issue of high tariff is still a problem in Nigeria. Even as I speak, some of the things that led to the recent protest we had in the country is aggregated as part of this problem, which is incessant hike in electricity tariff. Is there anything you think Nigerian can do to solve some of the challenges we have in the power sector, to be able to have constant power supply that is accessible and affordable by a common Nigerian?
The question you posed now is the exact solution proffered by our design. That was why it won a standing ovation at the NERC Headquarters. How does it do this? Look, our design is going to bring tariff down. Why is tariff up? The tariff keep going up. The DISCOs want to take it up every time. Why? Because not all electricity users are paying for their bill. Not all of them are registered on the network. Because these lines loop on the street. You can just put wire and get connected and tap current. Even when you have meters installed, people that lack the necessary decorum can connect just before the metering point and feed their apartment. If you connect before the metering point, it will not go through the meter. So these people are like Father Christmas. They are delivering power to people, some not even on the network and some on the network but are not paying. A minimum of 40 % of electricity users as study shows are not paying for it. You now see that, people that are paying are about 50 % and it keeps contrasting. As it is contrasting, the revenue in the bank account of the DISCOs is shrinking. Because of that, they now want to hike and pressurize the few that are responsible, the few that are making effort to pay their bills. They are now put under enormous economic pressure. Because the DISCOs want to make money and you can’t blame them because the DISCOs need to run their services.
Now the technology, what is it going to do? The technology takes care of corruption in the system. That is why you see sometimes they change supervisors. Some of them collude with all these people; instead of cutting off illegal lines they give them money. They tipped them in the field which is corruption. In our own case, our design eliminates the need for human appeals or negotiation, bribery or anything. Because with our technology installed, you cannot use the light even if you tap it or bypass it. You now see that all electricity users will be mandated to register on the network and not only register but to pay their bill, because if you don’t pay, you can’t use it. Because the technology would not allow you to use it. Just like you have special TV stations. If you don’t have the right decoder, you cannot watch it. So it is going to be like that. So our technology is going to be like a screener. To screen off people who are not registered on the network. So, when you have increase in the number of people paying bills, you now have influx of revenue coming in. Before, you heard of about 50 % or less of people paying for the 100 % using the power, but now you are going to have increase in the actual number that is using it. If it is 100 % that is using it, 100 % will pay their bills as opposed to 50 or 40 that was paying before. There is going to be a trickle-down effect. There would be an influx of money into the coffers of the DISCOs. When this money comes in, in that bulk, they have times four of what they have before. The natural follow up is a reduction in everyone’s bill. Now everyone is paying. Since everyone is paying electrical tariff will down. When everybody is paying, these people (the DISCOs) will have enough money to buy more Megawatts from the transmission company because they are seeing the returns on investment. If they buy more megawatts of power, that will solve the issue of power outages. It is all about funding. So, electricity theft is a cankerworm, is an opening- it is just like you have a tank and there is an opening in the tank. No matter how much water you poor into the tank, it will just be draining off. So, that is the problem the DISCOs find themselves in and that is why they keep asking for increase in tariff. With our technology installed, no more increase in tariff, you will now be talking about reduction in tariff. It is going to create a lot of employment, make the power sector viable. And then, it will make electricity supply stable. You will now have constant electricity and have it at a reduced rate because everyone is sharing in the payment of megawatts bought. Before, it was few people paying.
What is the difference between your invention and the current prepaid meters being used by Electricity Distribution Companies in the country?
Our invention incorporates metering. What metering does is to check how much you used for billing. What our unit is going to do; it is going to have metering inside it, so that when you finish whatever is accrued to you based on payment made to the power providers, it will no longer allow you to have light. But for prepaid meters, if your units finish, you can go before the prepaid meters, cut the cable and still tap power. But with our equipment installed – because one will be installed at the sub-stations and there would be complementary part in your home. With our equipment installed, once you exhaust the units that you paid for, even if you tap power, you can’t use it.
The difference is that with the prepaid meter, once your units finish, you can go beyond the meter and put you wire and light will still be in your apartment. You will be using it unless someone sees you. If no one sees you, you can use that power. That is electricity theft. But our unit will stamp out electricity theft. You cannot tap power unless it is paid for.
The invention you have, the blueprint you are talking about, is it in document form, a hardware or a software, such that you can’t do anything at all if it is not in your possession?
The blueprint has a hardware aspect, it is an integration; it is an intellectual property. And it is very vital for this project we are going into. And these guys, they know; that is why they hijacked it. They have applied it, they are using it. They admitted in paper, I am not just saying it. They are not lying about it. So the blueprint is very important to this our project- deployment of the pilot scheme as approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission. But unfortunately here is where we are with our blueprint stolen by Heineken. They hijacked it, admitted in a letter to using it. But still, pay so that we can harness another one, they refused. It is only in Nigeria that this bullcrap can happen. It is so surprising.
Your final word while you pursue justice and what you think as to how government can encourage people who have a kind of invention and innovations that can bring about development and solving problems in our country?
You can see, just like the recent crisis that erupted in Nigeria, power is one of the issues. Had it been my technology has been installed since, power issues in Nigeria would have been forgotten. It would have been like a nightmare that Nigeria has gotten over by now, and maybe, innocent people may not have died. So, I am pursuing this because, I am seeing the suffering that the masses are going through. Where you have businesses, they can’t function effectively because of power supply. You have all these toy generators all over the place making a lot of noise, polluting the whole environment. The amount of CO2 being poured into the environment is mind-boggling. But no one is checking that. So, our solution would have solved this things and really help Nigeria to get over its power crisis. Power crisis is putting Nigeria behind technologically and so many ways. We would have been able to quell this power issue.
One of the things driving me is, I want to see these people enjoy steady power supply, affordable power supply, lowered electricity tariff. Because the economy is poor, you see families suffering and they are getting high bills. So, these are the things that concern me. I have soft feeling for this kind of situations. So, this is one the reasons that I tried to get this innovation working so that people can pay less and enjoy electricity more. And enjoy it in a stable way. I am also fighting because of injustice done to me. How could you steal my blueprint and put it in paper; agreeing, attest that you have it and refused to pay for it? It is bullying. You just hijacked someone’s intellectual property, and you don’t want to pay for it. Now that he is asking for it, what did you do? You started sending hired assassins to slay him with kindergarten children who are in his car. The fact that my intellectual property was stolen and hijacked from me and I am being bullied for it. Someone is using to enrich himself.