Opinion

Addressing Nigeria’s lingering electricity quagmire

It’s not anymore news that no establishment can flourish without enjoying steady electricity supply. This is so, because power has proven to be the engine room of such venture. If the gospel truth must be told to our faces, then no one ought to mince his or her words while appraising that epileptic power supply has hitherto remained the bane of Nigeria’s economic stride.

 

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari re-echoed without equivocations that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo – under his watch as Nigeria’s president – expended about $16 billion on the power project “without anything to show for it”.

 

It would be recalled that the said allegation had ab initio been in the public sphere for over a decade, though was strongly refuted by the accused person.

 

Piqued by the epileptic power situation, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, on assumption of office in 2007, lamented that the government under Obasanjo squandered about $10 billion on the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) “with little or no effect”.

 

He alleged that, on power sector alone, the administration of the erstwhile leader spent a total of $16 billion. However, it was gathered that the Yar’Adua’s administration expended $5.375 billion on power, whilst his immediate successor Dr. Goodluck Jonathan spent $8.26 billion.

 

In a nutshell, the country, within the years in review, reportedly spent about $29.635 billion solely on a quest for steady power supply. The bitter truth remains that Nigeria has expended funds amounting to several trillions of naira on the power sector within the last 20 years.

 

But rather than dwelling on our failure, or apportioning blames, it’s imperative for the country to henceforth concentrate on the way forward by sticking to the needful.

 

The Nigeria’s power sector is presently yearning for rescue that if drastic measure isn’t taken, soonest the country won’t only reckoned to be synonymous with blackout but a place invariably used as a case-study whenever non-electricity supply is discussed.

 

It’s worrisome to acknowledge that in spite of the intimidating size of the acclaimed giant of Africa, both in landmass and population, she’s currently struggling toward boasting of steady 7,000MW of electricity supply, whereas nations like Ghana, South Africa, Iran, and South Korea, among others alike, that aren’t up to 60 million people on the average, presently boast of over  50,000MW. Such a shocking phenomenon calls for thorough and candid examination in the said sector.

 

During the past administrations, Obasanjo’s particularly, the Power Reform Act was introduced, which was aimed at boosting electricity supply. In addition, the then existing National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was changed to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) via concession. In furtherance of the motive, the NIPP was equally initiated.

 

We may recall that during Jonathan’s reign, the distribution section/phase of the power sector was totally deregulated, thereby leading to Public-Private Partnership (PPP); a measure that Nigerians thought would salvage the power industry for eternity.

 

It’s worth noting that the power sector comprises three major sections (phases) namely: the generation, transmission, and distribution sections. These three phases collectively contribute to the production of the 220 Alternating-Current Voltage (AC220V) required by electricity consumers within the shores of Nigeria.

 

Despite all these measures, rather than improving, the country’s power sector remains in a comatose state, or even deteriorates on a daily basis. The various distribution firms, instead of concentrating on how to serve the teeming consumers, end up compounding the already existing plight. This is indeed a paradox and shame for a country like ours that’s well revered on the African continent.

 

Currently, an electricity consumer in Nigeria regardless of locality is, on a monthly basis, faced with a bogus utility bill even though he never enjoyed any power supply in the previous month. One might then wonder where such bill was fabricated.

 

The problem with the Nigerian power sector remains lack of technical know-how cum initiative as well as decay in maintenance culture. Most times, the personnel at the generation phase would inform Nigerians that the supply of gasoline has depreciated due to pipeline vandalism. Suchlike report, as stated above, is ridiculous and laughable in a country like ours that can boast of so many sources of electricity generation in abundance.

 

Frankly, over-dependence on mono source is really telling on the Nigerian economy at large, not just in the power sector. A few of the country’s mineral resources alone, such as coal and what have you, can generate enormous electricity required by the overall Nigerians. In the same vein, biomass and windpower, which are renewable and reliable energy sources – if properly harnessed – can generate electricity that can serve the entire Nigerian population.

 

Biomass can either be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel. Its conversion to biofuel can be accomplished via different patterns broadly classified into chemical, thermal, and biochemical methods.

 

Besides, why is solar energy in abeyance? Most western countries such as Germany that cannot boast of a steady 15 degree Celsius (15C) depend mainly on solar energy as regards power supply let alone Nigeria that can steadily boast of over 30C.

 

The country abounds with the four energy sources mentioned so far. But pathetically, the resources are lying fallow.

 

The government needs to create an industry that would produce the required facilities; the proposed approach cannot be actualized without lifting embargo on PPP. Above all, considering the ongoing power generation via turbine or hydro-plants, there’s compelling need for the government to decentralize the transmission grid.

 

Rather than sustaining the national grid, since it’s obvious that such sustenance is cumbersome, each region or zone ought to be entitled to its own transmission grid, thereby easing the maintenance cost. The aforementioned approach won’t only reduce cost, but will equally boost adequate and uninterruptible power supply across the federation.

 

The government must, therefore, do the needful with extreme political will and without any element of bias. It’s on this premise I suggest that the private sector ought to be given a room to key in. Hence, any established private transmission grid that’s presently relegated needs to be effectively given the required support headlong.

 

Such gesture would enable other interested investors to follow suit. As we have been well intimated that the lingering electricity quagmire cannot be holistically tackled without involving the cognoscenti, it’s also imperative to note that there should be a holistic probe into the epileptic power sector. Think about it!

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