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Electricity, Not Excuses

IT is a long time since President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua said a word about Nigeria’s low electricity supply, or even his electoral promise to declare an emergency on electricity within months of being in office.

Electricity is central to the existence of the modern society. Decades ago, it was one of the strongest factors that promoted the rural-urban drift as electricity epitomised the good life. Electricity remains the life wire of any economy and countries that have realised  this, have sustainable energy policies that are religiously implemented.

Nigeria’s electricity supply is getting worse by the day and cannot support efforts at joining the information communication technology, ICT, which drives the world.

Attempts in the past 10 years to address the situation were just sloganeering. Government’s excuses were either the gas pipelines that supply feedstock to a thermal power station were vandalised, or the power transmission lines had been stolen. Sometimes water levels are too low for hydro power stations or systems collapse occurs. Excuses cannot improve anyone’s electricity supply.

Government’s response is sometimes comical. In 2000, the Federal Government announced the end of blackouts at a party to thank the Technical Committee on Power Supply on the great work it has done. Then, government regaled Nigerians with stories of increase in electricity generation and said the next areas for attention were transmission and distribution.

The situation today is bad enough to prompt the emergency on electricity that President Yar’Adua promised in 2007 as presidential candidate of the PDP.

Hundreds of billions of Naira has been spent on improving power supply, yet, it remains elusive. The National Integrated Power Project, NIPP, that would lead to the establishment of 10 new power stations across the country, is under way, but the bickering continues.

The Obasanjo administration commissioned the 480mw NNPC/Nigeria Agip Oil Company Okpai IPP in Delta State, in 2006, raising expectations that the addition to the national grid would improve power supply. It did not.

Egbin Thermal Power station, with 1320 mw capacity, is poorly maintained, ageing, and still has the challenges of gas supply. It performs way below capacity. The standard story from PHCN is that the pipelines supplying gas feedstock to the plant have been vandalised.

Cost of epileptic power supply to the economy can never be adequately summed up. Other consequences like noise pollution and poisonous fumes from generators and attendant health hazards are never considered. We hope the power project are completed soon.

The ambitions in Nigeria’s vision documents cannot be achieved without adequate electricity supply.  Poor power supply causes poverty, debilitates the people’s potentials and creates extra costs for the implementation of social, economic and political programmes.

The challenges ahead are intimidating, but they have to be tackled. Nigeria has struggled for years to attain 6,000 megawatts of electricity. The Vision 2020 document states that Nigeria requires 60,000 megawatts of electricity to be among the world’s 20 top nations. It has less than 11 years to hit the target!


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