POWER SECTOR: Why Nigerian cities, towns, villages are still in darkness

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BY CHARLES KUMOLU

Power generation and distribution are still a challenge as most cities, towns, and villages are in darkness in spite of the privatization of the power sector.

The highest generation so far recorded was 5074.7 Megawatts,MW, on February 2, 2016, while the highest maximum daily energy wheeled nationwide was 109,372MW on the same day.

Unfortunately, that achievement meant nothing till date as the generation level has continued to hoover between 3,730.5 MW as of February 9, 2017, and 2,662MW (the amount recorded on January 2, 2017.

Since then, power generation and distribution had continued to plummet to the extent that the National Grid collapsed at different times in May, June, July, September, October, November and December last year.

Irked by the situation, the Good Governance Initiative, which had been in the forefront of advocacy for a functional power sector, commissioned a research which revealed how the huge amount expended on fixing the sector, ended up worsening the energy crisis.

File photo: Blackout

It specifically stated that Nigeria had expended N5 trillion ($31.45 billion) from 1999 till date.

The initiator of the research, and President of CGI, Mr. Festus Mbisiogu in a chat with Saturday Vanguard, said: “Electricity is fast becoming a scarce commodity in Nigeria that even with your money you cannot see it to buy. Nigeria is currently gloating in darkness. Everywhere you go, you are confronted by shades of darkness and shadows. In the day, you will hope electricity   powers your homes, offices, and industries. But it doesn’t happen. .

“The truth is that the power situation in the country has worsened. According to reports in May 2016, the National Grid collapsed five times. In June, it collapsed four times. In July, September, and October, each witnessed one collapse, while November and December witnessed three collapses each. The transmission network was said to have recorded over 26 system collapses in 2016. In 2017, this has continued.

“This fear was confirmed by the statement by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) which said that the nation’s power generation capacity dropped from 3,959 megawatts on January 4 to 2,662 megawatts on January 22. For a country of over 250 million whose energy demand is over 30,000 megawatts, 2,662 megawatts is nothing to write home about. The following background provides us with information as to the seriousness of the problem this country is currently passing through in the energy sector.

“Today, Nigeria has 26 power plants (including the AES plant). Three of the plants are powered by water. They are the hydro power plants in Jebba, Kainji, and Shiroro. This is far below the energy infrastructure this country requires.

‘’In terms of funding, Nigeria has expended N5 trillion ($31.45 billion) from 1999 till date with only 2,500 Megawatts to show for the humongous amount.

“In the Nigerian manufacturing sector, poor electricity supply remains one of the formidable challenges investors are facing with the attendant negative implications for the sector’s contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

‘’This gives us an insight into the enormous problems we have and why all hands must be on deck to rescue this country from the impending plunge lack of constant power may drive all of us into.

Solutions

“The major solution to the current crisis we are facing in the power sector is for the government to declare a state of emergency in the sector.   For too long, we have paid lip service to solving the power sector problems. But now is the time to do it if we must move this country forward. Declaring an emergency in the Power sector will mean that all tiers of governments will be provided with the powers necessary to coordinate and implement plans aimed at sustainable electricity supply in Nigeria.

It will also help to secure the necessary funds and financial aids that would be required for this purpose without legal bottlenecks and restrictions. The National Assembly should be in the forefront of this. The envisaged emergency should take the form of opening our power sector doors for foreign investors. Recently foreign investors from United States, China, Korea, United Kingdom, Germany and other countries from Europe, shunned investments in the power sector, citing Nigeria as an investment risk.

‘’This fear was also expressed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which said it was ready to assist Nigeria   develop its power sector if necessary challenges in the sector were settled. The Federal Government must evolve workable measures at ensuring energy access and energy efficiency in Nigeria if we must attract foreign investors and drive our country forward economically.

Settling outstanding debts

“It is gathered that the power companies are battling with a debt of over N400 billion. While GENCOs’ debt is put at over N300 billion, DISCOs are being owed over N100 billion by customers. I am aware that the federal government is intending to grant investors in the power sector further tax holidays in this regard. But instead of doing this, the declaration of emergency would ensure an extension of a financial bailout to the sector. The government must explore alternative power source options such as such as coal, solar, water, and fuel flexible technology to power the manufacturing sector.

“The blame game among GENCOs, DISCOs and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) must stop. All the stakeholders in the power sector must come together to rescue Nigeria from this economic quagmire we have found ourselves because of inertia and arrested development in the power sector.’’

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