Power, Benin Disco

By Dele Sobowale

It (power supply) has improved 200 times. We have the capacity to generate more than 13,000 MW of power. The uptake is up to 5,000 MW as we speak now. That is not the best, but it is an improvement on the 2,500 megawatts that we inherited.”

— Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Buhari, January 7, 2022 in a television interview in Lagos.

This article is based on one universally accepted assumption; that every spokesman for the President of a modern nation speaks for the President and the government. In fact, even if he had previously declared that his utterances are his own personal opinion, the government is collaterally held commendable or condemnable on account of the statement. Garba Shehu’s declaration quoted above will be treated as FG’s position on the matter.

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The article was also  actually provoked by the globally recognised primary role of cheap and efficient generation and distribution of power in economic and social development. It is not a mere coincidence that the world’s twenty leading economies also generate and distribute nationally among the largest megawatts of power per day.

In fact, of all the continents on Earth, Africa, still the Dark Continent, is the only one in which the disputable largest economy, Nigeria, generates less power than at least four others — South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and Ethiopia. Nigerians have allowed several irresponsible governments, including the present one, to pass over to us the buck of the responsibility for power generation by docilely purchasing millions of generators for our use, as well as spending billions of naira and dollars to procure generators for those who perpetually keep us in darkness. In return for our “generosity”, we are frequently insulted by statements such as the one Garba Shehu released.

Incidentally, I was with a few people in a Lagos Club House when the  TV  programme started. The mere mention of Shehu’s name, as a guest, elicited so many unprintable expletives before  a word was uttered. I was in the same Club in April 2015, after Shehu had been announced as Buhari’s choice for his current position. I cannot recollect who was the first member to order the  Club  steward to “serve round”. Soon, others followed. Everyone was of the opinion that Buhari’s spokesman would perform better than Jonathan’s — on whom the maledictions were bestowed at the time. A CHANGE has occurred evidently.

Let me state, upfront,  that every government which has failed miserably to make any significant impact on power generation and supply has adopted the same false narrative as we notice in Garba Shehu’s statement. They assign a lower daily power generation to the former government in order to make their own dismal failure look good. They bank on the fact that most Nigerians would not recollect what they actually inherited. Unfortunately for Shehu, a few of us have figures from the past which expose the lies in what he said publicly.

The 2,500MW per day falsehood

President Buhari’s May 29, 2015 inaugural address included a statement about power generation and supply. He said “4,000MW per day (inherited) is unacceptable”. So, when exactly did 4,000MW inherited in 2015 become 2,500MW in January 2022?That discrepancy in the FG’s narratives is however only a part of the tissue of lies contained in the statement released by Garba Shehu. Readers will soon discover that not a single  figure mentioned by the former editor was factual. None.

President Jonathan appointed two professors as Minister of Power between 2011 and 2015. One of them was Barth Nnaji, a power entrepreneur. During Nnaji’s tenure, the FG launched the Power Agenda, which was supposed to take Nigeria from the 2,500MW inherited from Obasanjo’s government  to 13,000MW by 2015. The country was already generating close to 4,000MW per day and would reach 5,000MW before the end of 2013.

 Nothing like that happened. Another minister stepped in and in 2014 promised improvement from 4,000MW to 7,000MW by end of 2014. It didn’t happen. But, one thing was achieved. A record 4,357MW was achieved in one day; and only one day. When during the campaigns in 2014, Jonathan’s spokesmen announced that they improved power supply from 2,000MW to over 4,000MW, I wrote an article titled Powerful Lies About Power to correct the falsehood.

For some reason, officials of the FG in every administration find it convenient to reduce the power generation per day achieved by their predecessors in other to make their own failures appear like outstanding successes. Garba Shehu was not even original when he made his declaration. He was a copy cat.

Fact-check on claimed improvement

One of the first assignments for Dr. Doyin Salami, the newly appointed Chief Economic Adviser, CEA, might be to organise a retreat in order to teach top government spokesmen some basic arithmetic.

  They need to be taught that their statements are analysed by millions of people worldwide for accuracy and integrity. The global economic space is mostly a quantitative environment. Every adult and most kids over the age of ten can multiply any figure by 200 and arrive at the correct answer.

So, even if one accepts Garba Shehu’s claim that the Buhari administration inherited 2,500MW of power distributed per day, can the current power supply be described as 200 times what was inherited? The matter was referred to a primary three girl in Lagos, who was asked to multiply 2,500 by 200. Without consulting a calculator; without asking for paper and pen she announced the result – 500,000.

Was Garba Shehu saying that Nigeria is now generating 500,000MW of power per day? One of those watching with me, an accountant threw his soft slippers at the television set in disgust. We all expected the interviewer to do a quick mental arithmetic and to ask Garba a follow-up question: Are you saying that Nigeria now generates 500,000MW?

The true situation

“2,248MW of power stranded monthly in 2021despite blackouts – Gencos”.— News Report, January 12, 2022.

Before, I have got in touch with one senior engineer in a Disco whose office monitors our power generation on a daily basis and asked about the claimed capacity to generate 13,000MW. His answer was illuminating. “Even if all our generating plants are operating at full capacity, we cannot generate more than 9,000MW right now. And, as you know, they all never operate at full capacity.”

The news report, cited above, informs us as follows.

“It was gathered on Tuesday [January 11, 2022] that while the average available power generation capacity for the 12-month period in 2021 was 6,336.52MW, the average generation placed on the national grid for utilisation during the period was 4,118.98MW.”  

Clearly, real facts, not only are more reflective of what Nigerians experience daily, they expose the lies which the FG and its officials attempt to peddle. It is because the people in Aso Rock cannot understand simple arithmetic that a spokesman for government would imply that the FG has improved power generation to the extent that we now generate more power than the whole of Africa combined!!! And all these from a former editor who spent years saying “Facts are sacred”.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.