Less than 50 percent of the Nigerian population currently have access to electricity, according to Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo.
The minister, who disclosed this at the 15th Herbert Macaulay biennial lecture organised by the Engineering Faculty of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, yesterday, said the federal government was, however, working hard to increase access to 75 percent by 2020.
According to him, government was also looking at the possibility of exploiting the country’s untapped coal resource, currently estimated to be in excess of three billion tons in reserve, to power electricity in the country.
Nebo explained that coal production declined in Nigeria due mainly to the discovery of oil and the perception that coal was a dirty energy, adding that a large quality of coal deposits was wasting away in such states as Enugu, Benue, Kogi and Gombe.
The minister noted that with the current shortages of gas, the federal government was pursuing coal development as new frontier in the country.
According to him, government has decided to pilot projects of Operation Light Up Rural Nigeria which President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to execute in each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to solve the electricity shortage Nigeria faced for decades.
Prof. Nebo said that Operation Light Up Rural Nigeria remained a project to give off-grid access to communities far flung from the national grid, nothing that the President had commissioned the pilot projects at Durumi, Sape and Waru in Abuja.
The minister urged civil society organizations to join the advocacy crusade against sabotage to the electricity sector, such as energy theft, vandalization of gas transmission and distribution infrastructure.
He noted also that criminals vandalize transmission and distribution lines, melt and use them as cloth hangers, which results in the under-utilization of generation capacities.
“A significant number of countries across the globe faced the challenges of assuring secure, reliable disaster, lack of fossil fuel and lack of funds to meet the infrastructure need of her citizenry, as almost all countries in Africa have experienced interruption of energy supply in recent years.
“Tension in oil and gas markets, changing rainfall patterns, expanding demand, as well as internal technical, managerial and financial problems have caused crises in the availability of fuel and electricity. The challenges facing the energy industry are complex and will continue to get more difficult daily,” he said.
Prof. Nebo also said that African continent had the largest untapped energy resources, per capita, energy use, noting that the globe average of an estimated 600 million people lacked access to electricity.
“There is a deliberate plan by government to diversify the energy mix through the exploitation of renewable energy resources of solar, wind, small hydro and biomas. 70 percent remaining were through large hydros of Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro hydro power plants,” he said.
In his keynote speech at the lecture delivered by Engr. John Chukwu, the permanent secretary, Federal Capital Territory noted that Nigeria had too many mundane sentiments militating against its development, explaining that there were too many nations within the Nigeria nation.
“Governance failure in Africa continent manifests in under-development, poor attendant to quality of life, high material mortality rate rise in inequality, unemployment and school drop out ratios, these manifests in high rate of insecurity terrorism and other vices in Nigeria,” he explained.
Engr. Chukwu noted that inadequate and unreliable access to modern energy were constraints to industrial activities, agricultural productivity and basic services, adding that increased access to energy fueled economic growth and reduced poverty.
He explained that the transformation agenda were being hampered by terrorism, abduction and other social vices.
In his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor University of Nigeria Nsukka Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, said over the years, Nigeria had struggled to put an end to the challenges of power outages.
Prof. Ozumba noted that the dream had been elusive noted that the inauguration of the power road map by the federal government had raised hopes of a change for the better. [Vanguard]