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More lies about power and development exposed

“Power generation drops to 2,684MW” – August 14, 2018

By Dele Sobowale

The report further explained that “the nation’s power generation plunged by 777.9 megawatts on Monday as output from the hydropower plants and some gas-fired stations including Egbin in Lagos, suffered declines.”

Power generation
Power

In the days leading to the third anniversary of Buhari’s Presidency, the Federal Government through its “Ministry of Lies” sent out a report stating that the “Buhari administration found power generation at 2450MW in May 2015 and has increased it to 5000MW”. The Ministry managed to pack two demonstrable lies into one sentence at the same time. Jonathan’s administration might have done very little to improve power supply, but it managed to reach 4257MW in one day in 2014 and the nation occasionally experienced power supply of close to 4000MW before 2015. But, Buhari’s liars don’t have good memories. They were just hell-bent on claiming credit for achievements not made.

The report cited above raises several questions. The first is: how much improvement has been made since May 29, 2015 to the power delivered to consumers? The emphasis on “delivered to consumers” is deliberate. Every adult is familiar with the old adage about “a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush.” Minister Fashola and the other spokesmen of the Buhari administration keep on telling us they have increased power generation to 10,000MW (Never mind what they claim to have met in 2015). But, the 10,000MW represents the “birds in the bush”. Nigerian power consumers have never been served that much power at any time. So, we cannot verify that claim.

The second is just as obvious. What sort of organization delivers 26 per cent of its installed capacity, not once, but frequently? The grid collapse which brought only 2684MW to our factories, offices and homes is not a one-off event. We have experienced it many times before this year. Given present management of our power sector we will experience it again, perhaps more than once, before this year ends. Obviously, despite the propaganda about great leaps forward, we are only a few steps removed from whatever Jonathan left behind.

The third question is: how did we arrive at this sorry situation in which the entire nation of Nigeria is distributing less power than the seventh largest power station in South Africa? Part of the answer lies in that report. Our two hydro-power plants established during the regimes of Gowon/Murtala/Obasanjo in the 1970s and Shagari government in the early 1980s are as old as Methuselah and have limited capacities for power generation.

Meanwhile the national need for power had grown astronomically since they were built. Ideally, by now, they should no longer constitute the backbone of our power generation. But they remain central to the power generating equation. Successive Military Heads of State and Presidents have simply failed to grasp the fact that power supply to consumers must increase as the nation’s economy and population grows because next to water and food, power is life. Right now the Buhari administration is demonstrating a deficit of ideas about how to increase power supply to the nation.

There is no need to delve into the numerous reasons why the current level of power distribution, even at 5000MW, is inadequate for our needs as a nation. But, one would be sufficient. Even at that rate, uninterrupted power supply cannot be guaranteed. Consumers are still called upon to provide more expensive power on their own.

The final question is the most troubling. Compared to other large nations, is this where we should be? The obvious answer is “definitely NO!” One of the reasons Nigeria cannot sign the African Free Trade Agreement is because we are aware of our inability to compete. There are several industries whose major cost of production is power. Expensive power renders them uncompetitive globally. Even those that are not subject to international competition still need to keep their costs down in order to survive and be profitable. Nigerian enterprises suffer from high cost of power inputs and are largely at a competitive disadvantage compared to other African countries.

For instance, South Africa has at least ten power plants each of which can generate 3000MW of power. That is a lot more than all our power installations were able to deliver on the day in reference. Given the diversity of power generating sources (hydro, coal, gas, solar) and the share size of most of their plants, there is no way that nation can go as low as 30,000MW of power at any time. At the rate Nigeria is adding to its power supply, it might take forever for us to reach 30,000MW. Certainly, nobody alive today will live to see this country reach 45,000MW which was the level attained by our biggest economic rival ten years ago.

Finally, nobody steals funds meant for power generation and supply in South Africa. To begin with, the sector is highly privatized.

 


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