The report that the country’s electricity grid collapsed fourteen times this year should alarm all of us and serve as a wake-up call to governments at all levels. Furthermore, the fact that the entire nation can be adversely affected by any one such incident is one more reason the calls for restructuring or true federalism should be treated as urgent.
Certainly, restructuring the power sector can no longer be delayed because the National Grid approach to power management has not only serially failed, it has proved irredeemable. Fourteen times in six months or twenty-eight times per annum is an unenviable record.
There are also reports of many roads and bridges collapsing around the country. Prominent among them are the Aba to Port Harcourt section of the Port Harcourt – Enugu Federal Highway, an important link bridge between the South-West and North-West parts of the country which collapsed at Mokwa in Niger State, the Benin-Auchi-Okene road; the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Road, among others. These important highways that have collapsed make commerce difficult around the country, especially since the railway system has not been fully resuscitated. This is chiefly responsible for the high cost of food items.
The truth is, there is progressive deterioration of our national infrastructure and the lack of adequate maintenance for most of them. In spite of the billions the Federal Government has set aside for Power, Works and Housing as part of a strategy of massive investment in infrastructure to help the economy escape from recession, little impact is being made. Even before this administration, billions had been spent to revamp national power and transport infrastructure with little to show for it.
It is time we asked ourselves whether a government sitting in Abuja can actually be expected to maintain facilities stretching across this vast country. Perhaps, we should really start thinking about decentralising the management of our power system, road network and other infrastructure to make it easier to maintain them. The Federal government has already taken a step in that direction by granting Lagos State the approval to re-construct the road leading to the Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos. There is no reason why it cannot do the same with portions of the East-West Road or the Ilorin-Jebba road where one long-neglected bridge has now collapsed leaving millions of people and tonnes of foodstuff stranded.
The Federal Government should hand over its roads to states to maintain, while the National power grid system should abolished to allow people at the localities generate and use their own power.
Unless we give up our unfounded fears about restructuring and devolve power to the people, we may never overcome our power and infrastructural deficits.