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Nigeria in handcuffs: The DISCOs and the spirit of NEPA

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By Dr Ugboji Egbujo

It’s 2020 but the ghost of NEPA lives on. Sometimes light sneaks in after two days and leaves before the DSTV  decoder has finished booting up.

I had been in a small meeting with the vice president in  January 2015. At that meeting, he said many wonderful things his government would do to give the people 24-hour power.

It’s been five years since I haven’t seen any of the things he said could easily be done to make Lekki and Festac town recipients of 24-hour power supply.

It might not be his fault. Sometimes the devil is in the small print which can’t be read from afar.

The real problem, however, is that this government has either forgotten some of its campaign promises or feels it doesn’t have to explain its difficulties to the people.

Fortunately, after the tales and dashed hopes,  we now know the truth.

We sold killed NEPA but we didn’t banish its ghost.

ALSO READ: Buhari only President not to have asked NDDC for favours — ED Projects

We can generate 13,000 Megawatts. That would be enough to retire 5 million generators in the country and save our babies from noise and hearing difficulties, and from fumes and respiratory diseases.

Unfortunately, today, we can only transmit 7000 Megawatts. Our transmission lines are decrepit. Like tattered baskets, they lose quite a bit of what is put in them before the journey is over. And we haven’t taken pains to build transmission lines that will meet our needs.

We had aimed to have 30,000 megawatts by 2020, but 7000 megawatts in our homes would have made us forget how to pray for electricity.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we can transmit 7000MW, the distribution companies only manage to distribute about 3000 MW. They deliver this 3000MW when we are lucky to have the grid up and running. In the last couple of months, the grid has been an old man walking on a wet floor.

We must be consoled by the fact that we now know the truth.

We were once naive. We believed all those  Megawatt tales. The truth is the DISCOs are anaemic scavengers. They have neither the resources nor the attitude needed to solve the power problem of this country.

So why can’t we just chase them and their appetite for darkness away?

We lack the guts. We are fearful of the consequences. They have handcuffed the country. They and their friends in the previous government shackled us with barbed contracts that would leave us bleeding if we tried to pull away.

The country is stuck in the rut, aspiring to great things, dreaming of being an industrial powerhouse.  That is our situation.

The Jonathan government in the name of privatisation sold distribution licenses to cronies. Many of these cronies were briefcase companies and ‘multi hustling outfits’  that had never had anything to do with electricity business. And in the typical Nigerian fashion of ‘egbu..abo’ that government handed the DISCOs legal knives to slaughter and disembowel any attempt to retrieve the licenses from them.

ALSO READ: Poor state of Power Sector: DISCOs should recapitalise, expand capacities —TCN

Early in the life of the Buhari government, the possibility of revoking the licenses was broached. But the government prioritized the sanctity of contracts. So rather than apply the stick to indolence, the government through the CBN fed the DISCOs with carrots of intervention funds in the name of motivation.

It didn’t work. The DISCOs are small kerosene stoves. They lack the fire and size to cook our industrialization of the biggest nation in Africa.

The government has only one sane option. The retention of the  DISCOs, the status quo,  is insane.  Our power ailment needs radical surgery. The government must take the bull of darkness by the horn.

There is a flicker of light in that hopeless tunnel.

President Buhari has reached an agreement with Siemens. We should have been more ambitious.

Siemens will lift power generation to 25,000MW by 2025. Siemens will build up transmission capacity to 11,000MW by 2023.

We should be thinking 100,000 MW with Siemens.

But we must pray! We must pray that corruption which electrocuted all previous attempts at power reforms will not come near the Siemens plan.

Siemens is a positive move. But there is something we must do urgently.

We must look  the DISCOs in the eye and shred their licenses. With these DISCOs the Siemens plan, even if it works, will not light up our homes and hopes. With these DISCOs,  the ghost of NEPA will continue to haunt our lives.

Vanguard

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