Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges have been caused mainly by the distortion, hitches and glitches in the power sector. Over the years, both the military and civilian administrations have embarked on various reforms and executed projects to stop the drift in this critical sector without significant gains.
In the last days of the military regime that ruled the country till 1999, the situation had deteriorated to the extent that the country’s hydro-electricity dams, which were then the major sources of electricity generation, had become moribund. With their obsolete equipment, underfunding and poor management, they could hardly operate at their installed capacities. The situation was further compounded by climate change which affected the water levels of most of the dams.
The citizens grappled with total darkness for days, weeks and months, without any hope of the situation improving. Social and economic activities were grounded with millions of Nigerians on self-employment, especially artisans, closing their shops to pick up menial jobs such as commercial cycling popularly known as Okada, to earn a living.
The bigger industries were worse hit. Many of them packed up due to huge cost of production occasioned by epileptic power supply. Others relocated to neighbouring countries where electricity supply was relatively stable.
It was this rot in the power sector that the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo inherited when it assumed office on May 29, 1999. It aggressively articulated the National Electric Power Policy of 2001 and the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 to transform the industry.
Due to the huge funds required to fix the sector, that administration mobilised the 36 states of the federation to diversify the electricity industry from water-to-gas for power generation. Under a symbolic and enduring partnership, the federal government and the states jointly raised the funds and set up the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NHPDC) with a mandate to build independent gas plants to generate electricity.
This partnership led to the establishment of 10 gas-powered plants and thousands of transmission installations across the country.
To get value for the huge investment, the government set up the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as the industry regulator and unbundled the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), later renamed Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into generation and distribution companies. This ended monopoly in the sector.
In spite of the addition of these power plants to the national grid under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), electricity supply to industry and households has not improved in the last 20 years. Regular outages and huge bills for unavailable electricity have persisted.
Amidst this rot is the disturbing report that the 10 gas-fired power plants with installed capacity of over 5,000 megawatts have been abandoned.
The plants are the Alaoji power plant in Abia State; Ihovbor, Edo State, Calabar, Cross River State, and Egbema, Imo State. The rest are Gbarain, Bayelsa State; Geregu II, Kogi State; Sapele II, Delta State; Olorunsogo II, Ogun State; Omotosho II, Ondo State, and Omoku II, Rivers State.
Of these 10 plants, eight have been fully completed but not put to use due to alleged gas supply constraints
The report put Nigeria’s power output at about 12,000MW with 5,500MW at transmission level and about 5,000MW distributed.
As a newspaper, we are pained to learn that at a time when Nigerians are groaning in darkness and exploitation by the distribution companies for electricity that is scantily supplied, the authorities have allowed these national assets built with billions of naira of tax payers’ monies to waste away.
To us, there are no justifiable reasons why these plants should not be put to maximum use for the benefit of the citizens, who are yearning for the commodity. We are the more worried that this monumental waste is happening under an administration that places premium on prudent management of resources and accountability.
We are convinced that Nigeria and her people are not poor because of the absence of resourcefulness on the part of the citizens and dearth of resources in the country. Nigerians are poor because the power sector has refused to work to provide the electricity needed for higher productivity.
Until the country gets the power sector right, it should not expect any magic or miracle in its quest for industrialisation and national prosperity. The path to the country’s dream or drive for a prosperous nation is the revival and sustenance of an efficient power sector.
The excuse of constraints in gas supply to these plants for their present state of disuse is not acceptable considering the alarming rate of gas flare in the country. It is embarrassing that a major gas and oil-producing country like Nigeria cannot efficiently run these gas-powered plants while the commodity is allowed to waste through flaring.
We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in this matter and end the abandonment of these plants when the country goes about seeking foreign investors to bail out the sector.
We suggest also that more drastic steps ought to be taken such as the declaration of a state of emergency in the power sector for all the hitches to steady power generation and distribution supply to Nigerians in both the rural and urban areas are addressed.
The government should also look into the activities of the distribution companies, which are mere fronts for foreign investors, especially from lesser-endowed African countries to exploit Nigerians.
Until the power sector is fixed, Nigeria’s indistrialisation quest will remain a mirage.