The World Bank penultimate week published a damning report that Nigeria now ranks 171 out of 190 surveyed countries in the access of its citizens to public power supply. According to the Bank, with 85 million or 47 per cent of the citizens lacking access to power supply, the Nigerian economy loses $28 billion or N10.1 trillion or two per cent of its GDP.
According to the group, “Nigeria now has the largest number of unelectrified people globally and the trend is worsening.
“The supply is very unreliable with widespread blackouts.
“The power sector is operationally inefficient with unreliable supply exacerbated by high losses and lack of payment discipline.
“Businesses in Nigeria lose about $29 billion annually because of unreliable electricity while Nigerian utilities get paid for only a half of electricity they receive.”
The collapse of several power plants in the country have irked the frustrations of many Nigerians, and this has worsened the existing hardship in the country. Saleh Mamman, Minister of Power, had announced the collapse of 18 plants as major reason for power outage in many states in the country. The minister said 18 plants accounting for most of the electricity the country generates had faced operational problems.
According to the Minister, eight plants suffered a breakdown while one underwent annual maintenance. Seven other integrated power plants were experiencing gas constraints while one hydroelectric power plant has water management issue. These are some of the reasons businesses are not thriving, increasing rate of unemployment and crime. The problem, however, did not start yesterday.
The Buhari campaign team in 2015 had promised regular power supply within months of attaining power. Six years after holding power, the President Buhari-led administration is yet to deliver on its campaign promise. It appears the government only is not going to do anything about the epileptic power supply.
Irregular power supply has had negative effects on industrial productivity, worsened unemployment, and total collapse of industries that rely on power supply for the production of goods and services. Usually, cost of production increases when firms depend on generating machine. This automatically affects price of the goods when they arrive at the market.
Domestically, many Nigerians are deprived of basic utilities such as fridges, fans, air conditioners and even catching up with the news on television. More annoying is that most Nigerians pay heavily for the epileptic power supply because the companies in charge have refused or failed to provide them with pre-paid meters that would relate their bills to services rendered.
Successive governments in Nigeria have failed to treat the seriousness it deserves the lack of sustainable electricity in Nigeria and it is so sad that even after the supposed privatization of the power sector, not much has changed. Consumers still pay for darkness, as not much has been done in streamlining generation, transmission and distribution.
The Nigerian government needs to act fast on the provision of a stable power supply to the citizenry. It is, however, time for Nigerians to hold political office holders to account for the colossal failure of power supply. Furthermore, the federal government should encourage alternative energy sources to complement electricity supply. Solar power, wind energy and hydro-power generation should be given the necessary attention and integrated into the country’s power strategic plan.
Importantly, there should be energy democracy. Electricity should not be on the exclusive list. Let those who can provide power, be it states, corporate bodies or individuals, be allowed to produce power and sell to consumers. Decades of dependence on one omnibus, centralised power behemoth has failed and should be discarded. Improving access to reliable power supply is the key to reducing poverty and unlocking economic growth in the country.
Most Nigerians believe that a stable electricity supply is one basic need that can help the ailing economy spring back to productivity. Information Nigeria believes so too.