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Lack of power adversely affecting the economy

Ebele ORAKPO
Some people have argued that Nigerians are the easiest people to govern on earth. According to them, once they are provided with the basic infrastructure like electricity, motorable roads, potable water, shelter and an enabling environment in which to operate, they would go about their businesses quietly without bothering whether the leaders are stealing the country blind.

Power Station

Investigations have shown that many companies have relocated to neighbouring countries where operating cost is much lower due to adequate and functional infrastructure. Lack of power supply has been seen as the bane of manufacturing in Nigeria.

Thus, despite the Federal Government’s campaign, asking Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods, people still prefer imported goods from the Asian Tigers when compared with their Nigerian counterparts. As these companies are closing shops and relocating to other countries, so many able-bodied men and women are thrown into the unemployment market simply because the government has not been able to get it right in the Power sector.

It would be recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, realising the place of power in national development, had told Nigerians in year 2000 that his government would ensure that Nigerians would begin to enjoy regular, uninterrupted power supply by the end of 2001. Of course, that did not materialise and then when President Musa Yar’Adua came on board, he said: “We must solve this problem because until we do that, we cannot address the fundamental problems of our economy like poverty and unemployment. Even while the circumstances may be different, we may need to follow the telecommunication formula in order to solve the nation’s power and energy problems.

Our ultimate goal is to achieve what we did with the GSM or I declare a state of emergency in the sector…Power is a key priority of this administration and we all agreed that our efforts at developing the nation cannot succeed unless we solve the power problem.” It then stands to reason that this government should not expect a pass mark from Nigerians until they meet the power needs of the people.

Nigerians are no longer strangers to inadequate power supply which is affecting the economy adversely. Efforts by the government to adequately generate and distribute power have not yielded positive results.  Sweet crude spoke to some small scale business operators in some parts of Lagos who shared their frustrations on the power situation.

“We don’t have regular power supply. It’s only in the night, from about 10pm to 7.00am and then for the next two or three days, we won’t see light at all. Most times, some people would have light while others would not; some would have full current while some would have half or even quarter current so we are not enjoying power at all. It is frustrating. I am appealing to the authorities to see how they can make life better for the people. Right now, I am not happy because there are certain things I would have done with light but it is not possible,” said Mr. Mark Onyedikachi who lives in Igando area of Lagos.

Also sharing her experience with Sweet crude, Mrs. Charity Nnadi who sells soft drinks in Ijesha stated that business has almost come to a halt because of lack of power supply. “The Power Holding Company of Nigeria gives us light once in three days which does not even last for up to 20 minutes when it comes. It is seriously affecting my business and everything. I can’t sell because nobody will come to buy soft drinks that are not cold.”

“Lack of power is affecting our business and that is why we are praying and appealing to government to urgently do something about it or else, many small businesses will go under. If there is regular power supply, some of these goods would be cheaper but they are expensive because we run the business on generator and spend a lot of money on fuel which now goes for between N85 and N100 per litre as against N65.00. Every business person is there to make profit so the higher the cost, the higher the price the final consumer would have to pay,” said Mrs. Oladipupo in Iju-Ishaga.

Mr. Korode who sells frozen fish, chicken and turkey in Iju-Ishaga has this to say: “PHCN has not been good to us because we spend almost N5,000 – N7,000 on diesel weekly but if there is regular power supply, our goods would be cheaper and our customers would be happy. For instance, a kilo of turkey is N550.00 here while others sell for between N600 and N620.00 per kilo.

Ours is a bit cheap despite using generator because we go directly to buy from Cotonou. I believe that if we don’t buy diesel at all, the price would be less than that and our customers would be happier. If government can give us light regularly, prices of goods would definitely come down and people would buy more. At times, people may want to buy one or two kilos but when they look at the price and their pocket, they go for one half kilo.”

In the Masha/Kilo area of the mega city, some residents noted that power supply has improved tremendously, saying that sometimes they have uninterrupted power supply for upwards of 12 hours in a day though at times, they go without light for a day or two.

In an exclusive chat with Sweet crude, Dr. Mark Verstraten, CEO of Rimas, Netherlands advised the Nigerian government to explore all power sources including solar “which could be smaller projects, bringing power to houses and smaller businesses to improve the quality of life. Much of this can be off- grid, allowing private initiatives to support this and relieving the government of its heavy duty to bring electricity to all,” adding that “the next step could be to build large solar power plants or other renewable possibilities such as wind by setting up solar parks near communities and businesses which would also reduce the load on the national grid and costs of generating electricity through traditional sources.”

When compared with countries like South Africa which generates 40,000 MW for 50 million people; Brazil with 100,000 MW for 192 million people and the United States with 700,000 MW for 308 million people, Nigeria still have a long way to go. Hopefully, with the N156.8 billion allocated to the power sector in the 2010 budget, things would turn around for the better.


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