Editor's note: Engineer AY Muhammad, a resident of Abuja, Nigeria's capital, is as frustrated as many other citizens of the country over the continuous challenge of inadequate and irregular power supply across the country.
At a time the national grid has reportedly faced series of collapses, Muhammad wants the Nigerian power sector declared a national disaster.
Generally speaking, energy is the basic necessity for the economic development of any country. Electricity does everything for our comfort and convenience with utmost efficiency such that our lives will come to a standstill without it. Nearly all the sophisticated medical equipment require electricity to function. The importance of electricity does not need mentioning because almost everything the soul requires for its healthier existence depends on electricity supply.
The history of electricity power generation and supply started in Nigeria in 1897 although the first utility company, known as Nigerian Electricity Supply Company, NESC, was established in 1929. From NESC, ECN, NEPA to PHCN, the changes never brought any significant improvement in the power sector. In year 2005, power sector reforms started with the signing of the EPSR Act and by 2013 the sector was fully privatized with three providers having the responsibility of providing power.
Expectedly, the groups are finding it near impossible to generate, transmit and distribute power to the end users since their take over due to numerous problems ranging from the incompetence of the operators, vandalism of equipment, poor maintenance culture, poorly motivated staff, eagerness to recoup their capital, etc. The reform has not brought about the much expected results with power generation still below 7000MW and the distribution sector doing the worst among them.
There is no support the government has not given out to this rashly entered into privatization contract to make it workable, but to no avail, as their performance has remained worst than when they took over from PHCN more than five years ago. No amount of slush fund would make the sector productive, because they intrinsically lack every capacity to perform.
The main and intractable problem area in this power supply privatization is the distribution sector. The discos are very incompetent and lack the knowledge of the business and hence no amount of support will make them change for good. They are not ready to provide pre-paid meters to serve their customers with transparency or upgrade the infrastructure in their franchise areas for steady and reliable power supply.
They are too weak technically to render any meaningful service to their customers, but are ever greedy to reap where they have not sown by charging their direct customers as high as N14,000/= using a fake consumption of 580 kwh per month , where a similar customer with a pre-paid meter would not spend more than N4,000/= for energy usage of 170kwh at actual supply. So, why this very wide difference for the same R2A customers, if not downright cheating?
The government should take the bull by the horn and sanitize this haphazardly signed contract with select operators who clearly have neither the experience, knowledge nor willingness to deliver service as expected. In the light of the above, any intervention fund released to the power sector will not do the magic, as the operators are not competent to learn the magic to perform.
In this situation, the government is clearly in between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is however, left for it to either choose dashing these service providers money for doing next to nothing or take the bull by the horn and do all the needful to ensure that Nigeria realizes the expected power supply in the next four years. Nigeria must not remain in perpetual darkness arising from the incompetence and greediness of unqualified service providers!
A state of emergency should be declared to culminate in the formation of a group of scrupulously competent, selflessly upright technocrats with the zeal to work to superintend this task within the next four years . No ministerial bureaucracy should be allowed to bog down this all important and serious power sector overhauling task!
Power supply under this current contract has never been encouraging as one keeps on hearing daily of generation drops, transmission line constraints and rejection of supply by the discos and these are the realities on ground, but the regulatory agencies would never allow the government to know and take the required corrective measures.
They only appeal to the government to bail the operators’ operations out of the woods. But, then, for how long will the government keep doling out money to a course that bears no fruit? Bail out, intervention fund, performance-based loan or whatever assistance advanced to these weak partners will make no difference.
To be candid, nothing tangible has been achieved in the more than five years of this contract. Most of the discos could not even achieve a steady and reliable supply of 12 hours daily for three consecutive days. My area has not had a single uninterrupted 24 hour supply in the last five and a half years! The power sector issue is akin to a national disaster and requires an iron fist to tackle it.
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