Friday, February 3, 2017

Overcoming The Power Sector Challenge

By Robert Obioha
The recent drop in electricity generation from 4,959 to 2,662 megawatts in January this year is an indication that the power sector challenge is seemingly intractable. It also shows that more work should be done to revamp the power sector and give Nigerians stable power supply. The 2,662 megawatts currently being supplied pale into insignificance when compared to our energy need of over 30,000 megawatts. We should emulate South Africa’s power generation capacity. South Africa, with lesser population than Nigeria, generates over 40,000 megawatts of electricity.Related image
The development also shows that the power sector reforms have not been able to meet the aspirations of Nigerians. In fact, the power sector reforms so far have not significantly affected the generation and supply of electricity. It points out that the privatization programme still needs to be fine-tuned and the grey areas revisited.
Perhaps, the current power outage is the worst we have had so far in the last couple of years. The absence of steady power supply in the country is affecting manufacturing of goods and general business. Most business concerns in the country depend on generators for their power needs. This leads to high cost of production and invariably higher prices of finished products.
Poor power supply has also exacerbated the level of the nation’s underdevelopment. This situation is not helping cottage industries and small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) that depend on power for their effective operations. Companies that depend on their own source of power supply are likely to downsize when the business is not booming as in this period of economic recession.
This can possibly explain why the nation’s unemployment figure has, as at last count, risen to 13.3 percent while inflation is 19 percent. The power outage is so bad that Eko and Ikeja Discos in Lagos now receive about 200 and 206 megawatts of electricity respectively instead of former supply of 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts.  The current power outage, according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, is caused by liquidity problem, gas pipelines vandalism and inadequate transmission infrastructure.

We recall that former ministers in the sector had given similar reasons whenever there was severe power outage in the country. Nigerians usually experience improved power supply during the rainy season when water level at Kainji dam and other hydro plants is at its peak. With the onset of dry season and less water, the power supply drops.
Since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation came on board, all administrations had sunk large chunk of our national budget to ensure that Nigerians enjoy stable electricity supply. It is reported that about N5 trillion had been injected into the sector from 1999 till date. Despite their spirited efforts to revamp the sector, the “witches and wizards” operating in the sector had literally thwarted such efforts.  This is one sector that has defied all solutions to get power supply right. Since 1999, promise of steady power supply had become a cardinal campaign issue of most presidential candidates during general elections. Nigerians will look forward to the day steady power supply will cease to be a campaign issue.
They will look forward to the day water, road, house and other basic life needs will cease to be campaign issues in the country. During the 2015 political campaigns, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, made so much enticing promises to Nigerians, including fighting insecurity, corruption, revamping the economy and rebuilding broken down infrastructure and provision of stable power supply among others.
In May 29 this year, it will be two years in the life of this administration and most Nigerians believe that not much has been done by the APC administration to fulfill most of its campaign promises. But the counter discourse of those in APC is that they met so much rot in the system that it will take time to put things right. They also argue that this is a journey of four years.
They have only done one year and eight months. They still have two years and four months to go. Since the last year of the tenure is reserved for elections with little room for governance, the present administration has virtually one full year to prove that it can deliver on its promises to Nigerians, including steady power supply. Therefore, those in charge of the power sector will be given up to the end of this year and early next year to improve the power supply.
The questions Nigerians have started asking are: Can Fashola provide stable power supply to Nigerians? Can he lead us to an era of uninterrupted power supply? Without preempting the minister’s response to these questions, I think that they can be achieved. They are desirable and doable. But more importantly, I think that Fashola needs some ample time to prove his capability to meet our electricity needs.
And if his stewardship as the governor of Lagos State is anything to go by, I believe strongly that Nigerians should expect something better from him in the power sector. The problem on the ground requires adequate time and planning to see the sector through. Our usual fire brigade approach to solving problems has not worked and will not work now if applied to the sector.
With power generation from hydro, thermal and renewable energy sources being aggressively pursued by the government, the power generation and supply will definitely improve soon. While this is being awaited, government should address the issue of tariff, crazy bills, inability of Discos to provide pre-paid metres to electricity consumers and other problems hampering the development of the sector. They should address the grievances of those that blow up the gas pipelines and other acts of vandalism.
The government can emulate the power sector reforms that have worked in some countries in Europe, America and Asia. We can invite some of these experts and even companies that have delivered on steady power supply in these countries to assist us. The sector should be made attractive to foreign investors that have the capacity to fast-track its development. Steady power supply is not a rocket science.
With much political and economic will, Nigerian can attain stable power supply in no distant time. The Federal, State and local governments should see power generation and supply as very vital to our overall development and invest massively to revamp the sector without further delay.
If there are laws hampering state and local governments’ participation in the power sector, such laws should be reviewed urgently by the National Assembly.

 *Robert Obioha is a commentator on public issues (robobioha@yahoo.com)

1 comment:

  1. As our population grows, we are also using more power than ever before because of devices like smartphones and big screen

    ReplyDelete


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