POWER SECTOR: WHY THE GOVERNMENT CAN’T ESCAPE

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Electricity is undoubtedly one of the basic infrastructural requirements of the society, especially those societies that have attained some level of development and can therefore be referred to as ‘advanced’.

As important as electricity is, however, and with the level of development Nigeria has seemingly attained, the present generation of Nigerians can best be described as those cutting their teeth on bush lamps, rechargeable lamps and even candle lights. The situation is so very bad that many have come to the inescapable conclusion that the expectation of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week electric power supply is a mere mirage at least in their lifetime.

Our hope as Nigerians was raised in February 2013, when soon after the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, executed the share sale agreements and the Federal Government, with a fixed eye on propaganda, proclaimed the year 2013 as the “year of power.” This was followed by the historic hand over of the 14 of the successor companies carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

Nigerians expected that the take-over of the generation, transmission and distribution successor companies by private investors will see the new owners revamping the sector and impacting positively on the nation’s power supply. Instead, what Nigerians have experienced since the new owners of the power companies took over, is a mere slip-up, as nothing has actually come the way of the consumers apart from the introduction of quite a few faces.

Now that the weather is extremely hot with temperatures hovering above 30 degrees Celsius in a majority of cities, and to 40 degrees Celsius and above in the fringe cities of the North, this is a period when there is usually an increase in the demand for power for cooling the environment as well as for storage. Unfortunately, an increase in the demand for power and declining supply make for a very bad combination.

Indeed, Nigerians have no business contending with the deteriorating power supply for many years, because with a population of nearly 170 million, Nigeria requires an average of 40,000 megawatts of electricity as against the less than 4,000 megawatts that is now available for both industrial and domestic consumption.

So after surrendering to the deteriorating situation for many years, those Nigerians who believed the government that things would improve and delayed such investment decisions as the purchase of generating sets are now the wiser. They are now coughing out money from their savings to buy their own units. For those who can’t afford to do that, there is a booming electricity supply underground by retailers who wire up shops and houses in neighbourhoods, selling electricity per minute per hour. Without this, women can no longer prepare soup and store food in their refrigerators.  Similarly, Government offices that cannot power the whole establishment now buy 2-5 KVA generators exclusively to power the offices of the Permanent Secretaries or even Ministers.

As widely reported, pundits alleged that the federal government has only hurriedly sold and handed over the disbanded PHCN to its new owners so as to absolve itself from blames of inefficiency.

But in truth, government can’t run away from the public. With 80 percent of power plants which are gas-fired deprived of regular gas supply amidst increasing sabotage of gas and oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region as illustrated by the recent bombing of the gas supply pipelines between Escravos and Warri, it is hard for the government to play ostrich on this matter even if that is their wish. They can’t run away from responsibility by abandoning consumers to the antics of the ‘new owners’ exploiting the ordinary citizens to their marrow.

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