A nation in darkness – Part 2 — Opinion — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News – Guardian Nigeria

A general view of a shop with dozens of phones of clients without electricity being charged with multiple chargers at night at Ojodu district of Lagos on March 22, 2022. – Blackouts are common in Africa’s top petroleum producer, where dilapidated infrastructure often fails to distribute even insufficient electricity supplies.<br />But extended collapses of the power grid over the last several weeks have combined with a global hike in diesel prices to create one of the country’s worst recent energy crises.<br />Many businesses rely on diesel generators to keep the lights on when power is out, and since Ukraine’s crisis doubled fuel prices in Nigeria, operating costs are sky-high. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)
Continued from yesterday
To get electricity to the consumer, there has to be a transformer, to which power will be transmitted and thereafter distributed to individual consumers. These transformers are in most cases archaic, old, dysfunctional and unable to bear the load of the electricity consumers. So, what happens in most cases is that the fuses plugged into these transformers get blown up due to excess load, whilst some get stolen outrightly, leading to blackout.
In some other cases when the fuses don’t work optimally, there is then the problem of low or high voltage, which impacts upon and at times damage valuables, at times leading to fire incidents resulting in several deaths. The law regulating the power sector grants absolute immunity to the players.
To survive these frustrations, you have to develop an alternative means of power supply on your own, the commonest of which is the generator. The generator has to be powered through fuel or diesel and it has to be maintained constantly, to serve you. The generator comes with its own health hazards, such as noise pollution, and dangerous fumes, which have led to the death of several persons. The sum total of the Nigerian experience then is that the generator has become the main source of power supply, whilst public supply is more of the standby option. The generator is all over the country, in small units of “I better pass my neighbor” or the bigger diesel units. You need a huge financial capacity to maintain the generators. Nigeria being a tropical region with a very hot temperature, you will most probably need an air conditioner to survive in our climate, which takes a fortune to sustain through the generator.
The absence of basic infrastructure fuels corruption and is a disincentive for selfless service, as our leaders in office, having tasted the allure of stable power supply through generators funded by the commonwealth, would want to perpetuate their lives of luxury when out of office, and so they use this as an excuse to dip into the public treasury to amass enough resources to help them secure and sustain basic infrastructure when out of office, all of which are out of the reach of the common man. Stable power supply is critical to life and existence, it is vital to economic growth and development and it is the foundation upon which all other development initiatives can blossom. We just cannot survive without power.
It was this terrible scenario that the APC promised to change when it was canvassing for votes in 2015, but now, seven years in office, all we get is one story or the other, leading to the usual blame game of failure of past regimes. From the manifesto of the APC, the federal government was to generate at least 5,000 MW of electricity yearly, with equal capacity to transmit and distribute it. Whilst commissioning traffic lights in Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos on November 12, 2014, Fashola as governor of Lagos State then, had asserted that any serious government will fix the power problem in six months. In clearly a matter of fate, Fashola was subsequently appointed minister in charge of power, after the 2015 elections. He could not fix it in four years. He had power but could not deliver power. And those who took over from him have not fared any better.
Egypt, an African country not as endowed as Nigeria, commissioned Siemens in 2016, to build a power plant that could generate 14.4 gigawatts of electricity and this was completed and commissioned in July 2018. The cost was a paltry $7.2b, less than half the money purportedly spent on electricity in Nigeria for eight years. Nigeria had engaged the same Siemens to transform the power sector but nothing has changed.
From all the foregoing, therefore, I have reason now to believe that our leaders use epileptic power supply as an instrument of oppression, to frustrate many Nigerians, halt their development initiatives, to collapse their industries and investments, to the extent that they would have no other alternative than to surrender to the programmes and policies of the ruling government, however wicked and obnoxious they may be and thereby weaken the base of any possible opposition, invariably leading to dictatorship, totalitarianism and despotism.
Part of the solution to the power problems is to decongest the exclusive list of the Constitution and allow States, Local Governments, corporate entities and other players to intervene in the power sector chain. This is part of the restructuring that Nigerians yearn for and it is certainly not rocket science at all. Government should divest itself from active involvement in the power sector beyond regulation. This should be the major focus of this administration, in the light of the manifold benefits accruing from a stable power supply. Beyond this however, consumers should embrace the reality of the economic implications of stable power. We cannot do the same thing and expect different results. The amount we all spend on diesel or fuel far outweighs the tariff increase that we are so scared of. In some estates in Lagos for instance, it has been the case of a willing buyer willing supplier, by which arrangement some homes and offices do enjoy about 22 hours supply on a daily basis. So, we need to find some balance between a stable power supply and a realistic tariff regime.
In addition to this is the need for the power distribution companies to brace up for some revolutionary methods, such as massive investment in infrastructure, especially transformers. There has to be a change somehow, which translates such investment into substantial improvement in the power distribution chain. All that the average Nigerian wants is a stable and efficient power supply. If Nigeria is supplying power to the Niger Republic, then there can be no excuse whatsoever for failure at home, other than the fact that it may be a conspiracy against the masses of our people. Let there be light!
Concluded
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

 
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