March 17, 2020

Laughable Bill to ban generators


IT used to be a subject discussed partly as a joke and partly as an indictment of the failure of successive regimes (military and civilian) to provide Nigerians with adequate power supply in spite of the huge amounts sunk in the effort.

A senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Bima Enagi, has taken it upon himself to sponsor a legislation entitled: “A Bill For An Act to Prohibit/Ban the Importation And Sale of Generating Sets to Curb the Menace of Environmental (Air) Pollution and to Facilitate the Development of the Power Sector”.

The Bill provides that anyone who “knowingly” sells generators in Nigeria should be jailed for 10 years. It commands “all persons to stop the use of electricity generating sets which run on diesel/petrol/kerosene of all capacities with immediate effect”.

Curiously, the same Senate had in November 2019 rejected by resolution a suggestion sponsored by Senator Francis Fadahunsi that a five-year temporary ban should be imposed on the importation of generators as a means of fast-tracking the development of our power sector.

Senator Enagi’s Bill, however, provides exemptions for the use of generators for medical purposes, airports, railway stations, elevators, research institutions and facilities that require 24-hour power supply.

An indicator of the unrealistic nature of this Bill is the question as to whether anyone can “unknowingly” import, sell or use a generator.

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Again, this Bill, if passed will mean that governance will for most periods grind to a halt. This includes activities in the Presidency, Government Houses, the National Assembly, the Judiciary; the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs; the various offices, industries, markets and homes of both the high and low.

In which part of the world has this strategy been used to solve this problem?

There is no part of the world where generators are not used, at least as emergency measures in case of sudden power system collapses. We cannot even speak of Nigeria where public power supply is epileptic with 3,000 megawatts of power (at peak supply) provided for over 200 million people.

This law cannot be implemented anywhere in the world, let alone in Nigeria. Senator Enagi obviously believes that a law can be used to kill a problem. It does not work that way. Governance is more sophisticated than that.

It is the job of government to identify in what ways generator importers sabotage our public power supply efforts and deal with them accordingly. Give Nigerians power supply and they will abandon the generators which are, in any case, more expensive and dangerous to use.

People resort to the use of generators because of government failure to provide them with power. Our overfed senators should stop patronising Nigerians with these comical and ill-conceived efforts at law-making.