Power Words and Power Woes

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

In Nigeria, there are many power words with just as many power woes. Lengthened conversations about electricity abound even as darkness deepens; electric excitement by politicians about an improved power sector is followed by pitifully poor results. As charade has replaced charade in the circus of failed promises, many small businesses have packed up as the Giant of Africa has borne witness to how sixteen billion US dollars were once sunk into the power sector with embarrassingly little to show for it.

It has become a banter among Nigerians that while neighboring countries which get their power supply from Nigeria can boast of steady power supply, the supplier remains like the physician that cannot heal himself.

Nigerian citizens born in other countries relocate to the country or visit after having lived elsewhere all their lives only to find Nigeria`s epileptic power supply amusing at first, bemusing as the experience continues, then utterly unbearable with the passage of time.

In a country embarrassed with riches but burdened with grave challenges, Nigerians, Nigerian policy makers and the Nigerian elite find common ground in the indubitable conclusion that unless Nigeria acts decisively to fix its power woes, the foundation of the Giant of Africa will remain creaky and leaky with devastating consequences.

With the Electricity Bill 2022 recently considered at a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Power at the National Assembly, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) together with other critical stakeholders in Nigeria recently rejected the continued stranglehold of the federal government on electricity matters in the country.

The governors were unequivocal that it would do a great disservice to Nigeria`s federalism for the Senate to consider and pass a bill that would continue to treat the federation as one single electricity jurisdiction. The governors said a situation where the maturity of states in electricity matters continues to be overlooked is no longer viable with the current realities on ground.

Leading the stance against the Electricity Bill 2022 was the Chairman of the NGF and the Ekiti State Governor Mr. Kayode Fayemi who was armed with some particularly scathing statistics. He said, “After 71 years of sole and unchallenged central control of the electricity sector, we live with an electricity sector divided into two parts. One part is the FG-controlled and regulated national electricity market that today is insolvent, bankrupt and delivers no more than approximately 4,000MW/96,000MWh daily to 220 million Nigerians, or an average of 18w/432watt-hours daily, barely enough to power two (2) 10-watt light bulbs a day.

“The other part of Nigeria`s electricity sector is the alternative/back-up market whose estimated capacity is approximately 40,000MW so much so that Nigerian citizens are their own electricity providers in their homes, factories, schools, hospitals and places of worship.”

As usual, it appears that the federation is the problem along with the bureaucracy which has all the time and the space to be as brutal as it can be. The core of the conversation many be electricity but it is not difficult to see the struggles and even outright failure of Nigerias federal structure where it should guarantee steady power supply as opposed to the current epileptic supply. And as with the conversation about state police, questions about Nigerias single electricity market is more than valid.

The saying goes that the only constant thing in life is change. It is out of the necessity of constancy that change brings that wisdom is found in changing what does not work and trying out new things until a winning formula is found. Why then is it that the federal government has continued to enjoy monopoly over the Nigerian electricity market in spite of the presence of 35 other states that should provide stiff but healthy competition if Nigeria`s federal democracy is to work seamlessly? The validity of this question is accentuated by the cataclysmic failure of the federal government to bequeath to Nigerians a power sector that is resilient and reliable.

If the federal government has been continuously failing at it, why has it continued to tenaciously hang on to its grip, and why is the National Assembly prepared to pass another law that will see that its death-grip on the power sector is only strengthened in spite of the dead wood it brings in?

The answer to these questions may just be the difference between light and darkness, life and death for millions of Nigerians and Nigerian businesses.

Kene Obiezu,





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