Much ado about POWER – PART I

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In this week and next week column, I will be engaging ‘we’ the people of this country on a topic that has been on our lips for over fifty years. For the two part engagement, Part 1 and Part 2, I will be discussing the damage, the fracture, the injury and the near collapse of our nation over the issue of power or the lack of it. In preparing the synopsis for these two part series, I had solicited the support of my son, Chukwuemeka who is 40 years younger and Bunmi Obanawu, my General Manager who is 50 years younger. Two of them have been with me on many journeys within the country and outside the country and I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t engaging only my generation. Part 1 therefore will be on electrical power which has been to this country like a mirage. In the past few days, I stumbled across the news in a national newspaper that total electricity generation in the country has remained below 4,000 megawatts in recent months.  Even more mind boggling is the fact that despite the inadequate megawatts being generated, consumption is even lower because we lack the capacity for efficient distribution.

Many countries of lesser resources have been able to provide constant electricity to their citizens as against the politics of shame that we have.  Any President or Leader of this great Nation Nigeria that is able to give affordable electricity known as POWER to every Nigerian will be asked by almost 200 million Nigerians to remain President or Leader for Life! Although this could not happen without amending the constitution as the will of the people alone cannot override the constitution.

In discussing POWER generation in Nigeria, I can go back as far as Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo era of the mid to late 70s, then POWER generation was the priority of those governments outside fighting corruption. ECN (Electricity Corporation of Nigeria) was established by an act of Parliament in 1951 with the singular role of powering the nation. In 1962, the Niger Dams Authority (NDA) was also established for the development of Hydro Electric Power. However, a merger of the two was made in 1972 to form the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), which as a result of unbundling and the power reform process, was renamed Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). From that regime till date nobody has been able to tell Nigerians the amount of money we have spent trying to solve this power problem. We currently generate below 7000MW for 200 million Nigerians over a period of 40 years. Even by changing the name of the corporation a number of times as mentioned above – which is a Nigerian thing to do when a body or organization is failing, as there is this superstition that when you change the name it will bring a new direction – we are yet to see any difference.

Between Buhari and Obasanjo as Heads of State and Obasanjo and Buhari as Presidents, we have generated 6000MW then down to 3000MW then up to 7000MW without a proper explanation to the people for the up and down movement of POWER generation. How is it possible that billions of dollars, most of the amount borrowed from international funding agencies, go down the drain without anyone being held accountable and we the people have not demanded it?

The fight against corruption cannot be won in darkness because light everywhere will take people away from poverty and once again Nigeria will become a member of the League of Nations.

Nigerians have become so passive and if we continue this way more billions will go through us or past us without the POWER that we so much desire. It is important to note that when money is borrowed from both international and local funding agencies they usually protect their loan by hiring consultants who handle repayments of the loan and oversee whatever the loan was meant for. Why is it in Nigeria these funding agencies seem to either abandon or not bother protecting their loans, leaving us to frequently opt for debt relief and debt forgiveness?

In these 40 years of epileptic POWER supply to our nation, I can tell you of a few setbacks that have befallen the nation because of the POWER situation. Many genuine and reputable investors will not come to Nigeria because they see the few remaining multi nationals struggling with some of them having to replace 4-5 giant generators every few years. There are also many multi nationals coming from countries which have signed onto the Paris Climate Change Protocol and see the generator ‘wahala’ as unsustainable because they know the damage these generators do to the environment and general health of the people as a result of air population. The health implications, the breathing problem, the eye sight and the hearing especially for those above fifty contribute to the short life span expectancy we have in this country.

The few striving institutions like telecommunications, financial bodies and the oil and gas sector pay huge taxes to the federal government coffers every year. All of them will rather pay double the tax burden if they did not have to buy generators and fuel ever so often. The hundreds of Universities across the country, secondary, primary and nursery schools all have to have generators and also have to pay so much for fuel that it has pushed the cost of a good education and learning beyond the reach of the low-middle class. The same goes for all the hospitals, which has affected the way we address our health care. I can only begin to imagine the waste that has become a cancer in the body of this nation and may kill us if nothing is done quickly. The winners are the manufacturers of these generators and the importers of fuel, as they do not wish for a change from the present situation.

With the problems of distribution of POWER and transmission of POWER even the 7000MW claimed to be generated cannot be adequately supplied to the nation. The transmission system in Nigeria does not cover every part of the country. It currently has the capacity to transmit between 3000MW- 4000MW and it is technically weak thus very sensitive to major disturbances. Let’s compare our situation with two other nations of varied population size and Power generation output. South Africa is a nation that has achieved constant power with a population of almost 60 million people and they currently generate 100,000MW. Brazil on the other hand has a population of about 200 million and they currently generate between 120,000MW-130,000MW and although they have achieved stable power in most areas there are still certain areas that power outages are regular. With these examples you can draw your own conclusion on what Nigeria needs to achieve constant POWER. However Generation of POWER is one thing while Transmission of POWER is another. Even if we were able to generate 100,000MW, our present capacity for distribution could not adequately transmit it, so I think before we continue asking for an increase to Power generation we look into the ability to adequately transmit that POWER.

In my next week’s column, I will be discussing POWER change, a change that is needed both in our political system and electrical one. We Nigerians must begin to ask when will POWER change in Nigeria. Could the reason behind this epileptic power supply and all the other problems our Nation faces be due to the fact that the same people have been allowed to be at the helm of POWER for the past 40 years???

Join me next week as I continue this discussion. In the meantime, connect with me on twitter at @fadeafrica or via email:

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