Home Editorial Cue for Buhari on Electricity Crisis

Cue for Buhari on Electricity Crisis


May 29th, 2015 has come and gone. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is now a former president, and Nigeria’s prevalent electricity crisis is no longer his headache. The problem is now wholly owned by Muhammadu Buhari, the new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. Thus far, Buhari has started on a good note, declaring in his inaugural speech that “Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.”

Clearly, President Buhari is inheriting dizzying catalogues of crises on all fronts. However, considering the importance of electricity in national development as well as human life, the new government cannot afford the luxury of an extended study or any level of presidential honeymoon in the area of the current energy crisis. There is an urgent need for immediate solution.

Truth be told, while it can be very apt to equate the past Jonathan government with every failure to proffer practical solutions in many areas, the team can hardly be faulted for the failure to identify and echo the problems. Thus, the last official press conference granted by the former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, on the electricity crisis is very instructive. In his words, “Energy security must be addressed in a holistic manner…The first phase of the war has to do with the issue of gas pipeline vandalism and it may interest you to know that millions of dollars are spent fixing these gas pipelines on a monthly basis.”

The point is that, even as the existing energy policy is fraught with various challenges, the situation no longer requires a rocket scientist to discern that the most immediate is that gas pipelines to Nigeria’s main feed to the National Power Grid are constantly being vandalised particularly along the Trans Forcardos and Escravos-Lagos axis.

A corpus of research has pegged the main cause of pipeline vandalism to restless youths who are agitated because of a long history of neglect of host communities. The area is replete with high unemployment, abject poverty, inadequate social amenities, and environmental hazards. Various governments responded by establishing agencies, such as Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Niger Delta Ministry. However, despite billions of dollars in annual budget, the programs are mired in all manners of controversy, including massive corruption, phantom projects, and gross neglect of the intended beneficiaries.

Unlike in the past, the issue of pipeline vandalism requires every sense of urgency and decisiveness. It is time to view the matter with similar lens as in an act of war. Not only has the current electricity crisis cost thousands of lives directly or indirectly, it has also resulted to billions of dollars more of incalculable loss to the national economy. Further, depending on the index of measurement, several studies have cited the linear cost of the sabotage anywhere from $7 to $24 billion per annum. Moreover, the pattern of vandalism and attendant epileptic power supply has historically discouraged both local and foreign investment in Nigeria. The objective fact is that the incessant vandalism of energy assets is a serious threat to national security and potentially as grave as the Boko Haram menace terrorizing the country.

Accordingly, President Buhari should without any delay isolate the problem and inaugurate a presidential task force on Pipeline Vandalism. Such task force should include but not limited to some influential representatives from Niger Delta and other host communities. With new faces expected soon at the helm of the Niger Delta Ministry, the host communities can be reassured by also effecting necessary changes to the leaderships of both NDBDA and NDDC commonly associated with corruption and ineptitude.

In the process, the president should demonstrate the common sense leadership that has eluded Nigeria for ages. Buhari’s unique pedigree, the manner of his second coming, and charming political goodwill have combined to position him better than anyone in the national history to effectively influence followers towards the desired change. Influence! Now is the time to lead by influencing the people of the host communities with a clear message that crystallizes the impact of pipeline vandalism, sincerity of purpose, and the implications for the greater good.

The measures above should go in tandem with practical solutions. Of course, a permanent solution to pipeline vandalism ought to include 100% digital surveillance systems, but such approach requires longer time to install. Thus, the “quickest, safest and most cost-effective way” to curb the problem, at the interim, is to deploy with immediate effect Nigeria’s armed forces to fully safeguard every pole in the breadth and depth of the problematic areas along the Trans Forcardos and Escravos-Lagos axis of the pipelines. The phalanx can be augmented with ever-ready labour from the National Youth Service Corps or the other teeming unemployed graduates who are eager to work. The recurring costs of fixing the pipelines, current security, and other contingencies are well adequate to fund this proposal. The ancient idea of entrusting recreant militants with the nation’s oil and gas pipelines was never a solution in the first place.

Next, unlike the case of oil pipelines, there are no visible benefits to the perpetrators of gas pipeline vandalism themselves. The most likely justification is a possible conspiracy within the electric generator industry whose businesses thrive upon any drop on power supply. The other scheme resides within the maintenance structure that gulps about N1.5 billion per year for fixing vandalised pipelines. But these conspiracy theories have lingered for far too long. The cabals are well known. Their activities are traceable. It is time to unmask and mete them with commensurate punishment once and for all.

Also important, similar to other countries of the world, Nigeria has in place specific anti-sabotage laws that address punishment for vandalism and conspiracy in the oil and gas sector. But a major Nigerian problem had been the absence of a leader with the will power to enforce the laws. This was exactly one of the major areas where and why Nigerian masses beckoned Muhammadu Buhari back to power. The president must seize the moment and work with relevant agencies to ensure that culprits face the full wrath of the law.

Yet, we pity Muhammadu Buhari here. True. Given his background, any mention of war or mere emphasis on punishment in relation to his presidency is sure to awaken critics who are anxious to castigate such notion as a perpetual vestige of the man’s military regime, serially discredited during the past elections.

But Mr. President should not waver. Buhari does not need to be reminded that his impeccable track record against indiscipline remains the prime seal of his contract with the Nigerian masses. Moreover, not only is leadership contingent upon the prevailing environment, effective democracies are consistent with accountability, checks and balances and, of course, consequences. A mere tampering of electric meter in the State of Texas, USA, for instance, is treated as a felony let alone any threat to national security like the endemic sabotage of oil and gas pipelines. Where there are no serious consequences for bad behaviours, the bad behaviours usually worsen. And that has been the Nigeria’s Achilles’ heel for the longest time.


  1. Chief Joe Mmeh
    Buhari´s quest to tackle Power Sector deficit: Now that the Elections have been won and lost, the time for rhetoric is over, it is time for the winners to get into the serious business of governing and uniting Nigerians. It is gratifying to note that the President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in his acceptance speech, hit the right tone by saying “You are all my people, I will treat you all as mine…..I pledge myself and our in-coming administration to just and principled governance. There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status”. He also promised to ensure “equity, fairness and justice for all Nigerians”. These are encouraging words and statements meant to heal the wounds caused during the electioneering Campaigns. Power Sector Challenges: The energy crisis in Nigeria is real and for Gen. Buhari to be successful, he has to tackle the problem of power deficits seriously and transparently. He needs to make policies that shall encourage private sector participation in the entire power sector and attract foreign Investors. States and Cities in Nigeria shall be allowed to generate and distribute electricity in their areas, if they can. Reliable and uninterrupted Electricity supply is the key to Industrialisation and sustainable development of any Nation. It is the engine that drives all other segments. Increasing access to electricity in Nigeria’s urban and rural areas shall jump-start our economy, helps in Job creation and improve the living conditions of the Nigerian people. Let Gen. Buhari declare State of Emergency on Power Sector, organise Workshops both on national and zonal levels, invite Stakeholders and prospective Investors, lay down his Plans and Policies and provide enabling environment as well as Incentives. Coal to Energy: There are large Coal deposits at Enugu which are untapped and can be used to generate Electricity. Some Nigerian Companies have been granted Licences to mine and use Coal for Power but until now, nothing has been be done by these Companies. I assume that their delay in taking off, may have to do with their inability to source the huge Funds needed to build modern Coal fired power plants and getting capable Technical Partners with the necessary Know-How and Technologies. Gen. Buhari shall invite and ask these Companies to team up among themselves, form Partnerships / Consortia, and bring their resources together as to enable immediate take off and implementation of the Projects. In today’s business world and in such capital intensive Project like Power, small companies have little chances of funding or access to credit facilities and in order to be successful and sustainable, they are merging and forming partnerships, therefore all those that obtained Licences to build and operate Power Plants in different Zones in Nigeria but have challenges shall be made to pull their resources together as to build bigger and modern Power Plants. In the case of Enugu Coal, a modern 1000 MW capacity coal fired power plant shall cost about €1,2 billion Euros. The Coal Power Consortium shall also be given Licence to reactivate Oji-River Thermal Power Plant or build a new one. The Federal Government shall grant them licence too, to tap the unexploited natural Gas Reserve in Anambra / Enugu axis and using same for a 1000 MW Gas fired Power Plant, the cost shall be about €1, 1 billion Euros. Project Financing and German Consortium: The proposed Coal and/or Gas Power Plants are critical and essential infrastructures, which Gen. Buhari´s Administration needs to show serious commitment to as project financing shall not pose much problems. A German Consortium is ready to partner the Federal Government and/or Nigerian Consortium /Investors in this area and act as both co-financing and technical partners. The German Consortium shall require at least 25% Counterpart funding from the Federal Government and/or Nigerian Investors, while they shall provide the rest 75% of the Project Budget in form of Equity and Loan with 2% Interest rate. The 25% Counterpart funding to come from the Federal Government and/or Nigerian Consortium shall be confirmed through Bank Confirmation Letter (BCL) from any AAA-rated Bank or through cash-backed Bank guarantee. The German technical Partners shall do the feasibility Studies and Analyses required, starting with determining the overall Coal reserve at Enugu Minefields and confirming its Quality & Quantity, then undertaking the Environmental Impact Assessment studies, presenting Business Plan, Plant Designs and the Cost Estimation of the whole Project. The plant shall be designed to deliver the solutions with optimal results (high efficiency). It shall be constructed using the latest German green technologies, thereby avoiding the negative impacts on human health and the environment such as air pollution, fine dust, smog and high CO² emission usually associated with Coal power Plants. The plant shall meet the German environmental and safety standards, which are the highest in the World. The Germans do not make promises, they give assurances. The Consortium shall within 48 Months complete and start generating Electricity that shall be fed into the national Grid. Our Support: The job before President Buhari is enormous and challenging, therefore there is no gain-saying the fact that he needs the support of all Nigerians both home and abroad as well as the meaningful contributions of all those who can help him fulfil his Campaign promises. He needs technocrats as well as people who are practically oriented and can produce immediate results. May God give him and his Team the Wisdom and Strength to discharge their Duties and take Nigeria to a new Height. Chief Joe Mmeh is a Business Consultant based in Germany Text: +49 1520 744 94 22 Email: joemmeh@gmail.com