Nigeria: Electricity Supply – Give Nigerians Light, Not Excuses

In the aftermath of the ongoing energy crisis in the country which has lasted for weeks, caused by the deterioration of electricity supply from the public grid, the Minister of Energy, Abubakar Aliyu, during a press conference, said blamed the embarrassing situation on low water levels in the country’s hydroelectric dams. The snag in energy supply is not helped by the growing fuel shortage which is inflicting maximum discomfort on Nigerians.

During the presentation, he listed a number of actions that his department, in conjunction with other government agencies, is taking to bring the deficit under control. In his own words, “the challenges have been identified and we have short term solutions as well as long term solutions”.

What the minister revealed at the press conference is not new to Nigerians. Electricity shortage is an ongoing problem in the country that has defied any solution for the simple reason that officials hardly think proactively. It is common knowledge that during the dry season there is always a challenge with hydroelectric dams. So, in our view, that shouldn’t be a reason not to come up with an alternative in anticipation of this challenge.

The tendency of those in charge is to let it go, deliberately, dare we say, to engage in firefighting measures at enormous costs. The concern is that, even with the cost, the measures are barely sufficient to prevent the problem from recurring. All these sermons about wind turbines and gas-fired electricity are aspects of the incompetence that has always denied Nigerians the benefits of a steady power supply.

The challenge, in our view, is that in government circles, especially in the electricity sector, no one is under pressure to fulfill their mandate. The only discourse is that for electricity to be supplied on a stable basis, the cost must be in line with economic realities, that investors must be incentivized to invest more and have a comfortable return on investment. This has always been the argument that the unit cost of electricity is neither economical nor favorable to investors.

This is the argument that led to the unbundling of the public power structure and the involvement of private sector operators. The result is a descent into the abyss of inefficiency that inflicts more hardship on the average consumer.

The energy deficit is one of the major infrastructure challenges facing Nigeria with its concomitant consequence of stifling the growth of most small and medium enterprises that are highly dependent on electricity.

A report released by the World Bank not so long ago stated that almost 90 million Nigerians were without power, further underscoring the fact that the country is mired in a severe power deficit.

Years after the World Bank report, it is apparent to the uninitiated that there has been no appreciable progress suggesting the nation is on the verge of solving the challenges associated with providing electricity stable for all, especially residents of rural areas and urban slums.

Unfortunately, in our view, the history of electricity supply in Nigeria is riddled with corruption, as colossal sums supposed to be voted for the betterment of the sector are either mismanaged or outright stolen.

We recall that the need to increase the supply of electricity in the country motivated the government’s decision to consider the idea of ​​the Mambilla hydroelectric power project, located in the current state of Taraba, more 30 years old. However, like most of these gigantic projects in Nigeria, the Mambilla, despite its huge potentials, has been overlooked by successive administrations.

In 1972, a preliminary report recommended the construction of a hydroelectric project with a nominal capacity of 3,960 MW. When the project was finally conceived in 1982, construction was expected to take six years. However, years after its conception, due solely to the negligence of successive governments, the project was abandoned.

However, in 2011, years after the project was first raised, the government approved the award of a consultancy services contract for the detailed design and project management and supervision of a revised power generation of 2,600 Mambila hydroelectric power projects for $37,220,068.72.

Since then, nothing tangible happened until 2017 when the government approved the contract. However, even at that, progress on this very important project has been extremely slow, with litigation further aggravating the situation.

We believe, like most Nigerians, that the project has the potential to transform the socio-economic development of Nigeria when completed. Experts believe that the project, arguably the largest single energy project in the country, will undoubtedly chart a new path to prosperity across the country.

In our view, a somewhat more serious approach to the issue of power supply in the country is what Nigerians are looking for as a solution to the problem. Certainly not the kind of talk and dejection that emanates from official circles. Enough excuses.

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