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Tahiru Sherriff: Five Watts Per Citizen Or Six People Per Bulb, The Power Crisis

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If you divide the 940MWs of electricity that Nigeria currently generates, by its population of around 170million, what you get is 5watts per person or more precisely six people per bulb. This perhaps is Nigeria’s reality barely five days before the transition of power from one President to another and one political party to another.

This reality is made possible because the Nigerian government long before President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan began promising 4000MWs of electricity in his first tenure has remained closed to the endless possibilities available to its energy sector.

This reality is made possible because the age-old, inefficient and corrupt officials who plagued Nigeria’s energy sector as directors of NEPA, PHCN and TCN long before it’s privatization became the major shareholders in the generation and distribution companies after the privatization of the sector.

This reality is also made possible because successive governments have approached the power problem with the same mind-set: give them more money. But isn’t it clear that the more money every government has spent on the power sector, the more unsatisfactory the services to Nigeria has been?

The recent decision by MOMAN to restrict the distribution of petroleum products due to misunderstandings in their agreement with the Nigerian government has left Commercial banks, Airlines, and other services completely grounded due to their reliance on the petroleum sector, a sector which the energy sector has largely remained an extension. This doesn’t only show how powerful Nigerias oil sector is, it equally shows how weak it’s energy sector has become.

More clearly it show how very thoughtless the approach of each government has been towards addressing Nigerias power problem over the years. By privatizing the energy sector, the Goodluck Jonathan administration sought to elevate itself from the endless problems of waste and corruption that has crippled the Nigerian economy, but if this plan was well orchestrated would we be where we are currently? At five persons per bulb?

Less than six months ago, a government led team, comprising the Ministers of Petroleum, Power, the CBN as well as the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), signed the formal agreement with major stakeholders in the sector in the tune of 213billion naira in its bid to cure the countries epileptic power problem. The result is apparent, all power dependent service providers are sending bulk SMS to their customers of their decision to shut down due to fuel shortages. Where most people are concerned with questioning where the money has gone, i believe the more important question is what went wrong?

What is wrong is that these almost formidable alliances fail to realistically capture the problems and thus create solutions that are more likely to put money into the pockets of stakeholders as against solving the problems themselves.

But more disturbing is that the answers to Nigerias power problem is right before the government’s eyes. The Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, has maintained since his appointment that part of the solution to the cyclical problems of power in Nigeria, epecially at the hydro stations was to increase gas supply to the gas-fired power stations to compensate for the expected fall in generation from the hydro stations. Why wasn’t this recommendation followed?

Today, South Africa, generates over 40,000 megawatts of electricity, while Nigeria has struggled hopeless to generate it’s stated mandate of less than 5,000 megawatts.

Current configurations hint at one thing, most approaches by successive governments are not often well thought out. This is why generating companies are unable to meet with setting up required infrastructure to light up the country. This is why distribution companies are consistently raising the cost of electricity to repay the huge debts incurred during acquisition, and this is most obviously the reason why perhaps before i finish writing this piece, my computer is likely to shut-down from a lack of power.

The country cannot continue like this. Nigerias energy sector underperformance is in a way connected to the nation’s underdevelopment. The incoming government must flesh out realistic approaches to rid the country of such a terrible position. It must work to ensure that every Nigerian is proud to pay his/her light bill, and most importantly it must ensure that never again should be brought as low as this. As low as one electric bulb per every six Nigerian citizen.

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Article written by Tahiru Sherriff, in-house freelance reporter with NewsWireNGR in Abuja

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