Electricity for Nigeria of our dream
THE challenge of energy generation, distribution and utilisation has, of recent, become a serious pandemic that the Nigerian society is struggling to grapple with.
This is because there seems to be a reduction in the quantity of electric power generated and supplied to consumers, especially in recent times.
Though the energy problem in Nigeria has existed from a little after independence, the current state of what is available and supplied to the end users has left many to wonder if the amount of money that has been pushed into the sector by successive administrations is commensurate with the quantity of energy generated.
With the privatisation of the sector, many a consumer had breathed a sigh of relief that reprieve had finally come his way but alas, the reverse seems to be the case.
The amount of megawatts generated per day seems to be on the decline especially when put at par with the growing rate of our population.
A chronicle of the energy challenge of this present dispensation, that is, from the inception of the Fourth Republic till date has left much to be desired.
In this country, despite major programmes by successive governments to increase the quantity of energy generated and available, demand still outstrips the supply to a large extent. This is due in part to mismanagement by the government agencies overseeing energy production.
The maximum electric power that Nigeria, a country of no fewer than 170 million people, has been able to generate and supply for consumption still stands at a meagre 4,000 megawatts. This is, of course, inconsequential for a country that seeks to be industrialised and become one of the first 20 economies of the world by the year 2020.
With the launch of the official plan for Nigeria’s industrial revolution by the Presidency, it is obvious that a major challenge to the actualisation of the industrial revolution plan is the energy crisis; this is because the energy sector is inimical to a country becoming industrialised.
At present, despite all efforts, energy generated per day still hovers between 0-3000 megawatts and this is not even close to the amount of energy needed for residential use alone as it is estimated that Nigeria needs at least 40,000 megawatts if she is to drive her industrial sector positively and propel herself towards attaining self-sufficiency in almost all facets of human endeavour.
Even though the Minister of Power has continued to tell Nigerians that power generation has increased, the effect of the increase is yet to be felt by the ordinary citizens who have been made to pay increased bills to a sector that can best be described as moribund.
In most cases, rather than an increase in power supply, there is a sharp decrease.
Moreover, with a fixed metre maintenance fee of N750 monthly, many consumers are wondering if they would not be better off using generators and disconnecting PHCN wires from their homes and businesses completely until there is a noticeable improvement in power supply so as to conserve their scare economic resources.
On the global index, in terms of available power, Nigeria is ranked 187 out of 189 countries in the world. We generate less than 4,000 megawatts for 170 million people, while South Africa, with barely 50 million people, generates about 40, 000 megawatts and the UK 83,000MW for a population of 62 million.
If a country like Nigeria with abundant natural resources and among the top producers of oil globally cannot afford to generate 1/10th of the energy needed daily by its population, then there is more to it in the sector than the mere vandalisation of gas pipelines which has been the sinsong for failure in recent times.
Privatisation was said to be the needed saviour that could revamp our energy sector but this has not been the case. Since the November 1, 2013, when PHCN was officially handed over to its new owners, what the ordinary Nigerians have experienced is an increase in tariff rather than an increase in electricity supply.
Perhaps, there are many factors that have militated against the increased energy generated over the years. One is possibly the fear of over trading which may result in the end in poor sales.
The various companies, it can be surmised, are concentrating their machinery in ensuring that energy generation continues to hover around the current rate to ensure a continuous patronage of their wares.
These set of people would not mind vandalising power equipment and greasing the hands of those in positions of authority at different levels to ensure that all the efforts at increasing energy generation is thwarted.
Secondly, the virus, called corruption may also have accounted for under performance. Corruption is a virus which has continued to eat deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society to the extent that the giving and acceptance of gratification is no longer seen as an inducement to suspend due process to favour some concerned parties.
It will not be out of place to state that the persistent power problem in Nigeria is as a result of the menace of corruption. At the expense of true nationalism and patriotism, many a Nigerian has soiled his conscience and chosen rather to enjoy affluence with his kin and kiths only.
They amass inconsequential wealth even for their generations yet unborn instead of seeing to the liberation of their people from the shackles of poverty, thus helping to place the country at par with her contemporaries at the global level.
Of course, we cannot ignore the vandalisation of gas pipelines. It is, perhaps, the biggest challenge to increased energy generation at present.
The increased vandalisation of the pipelines is carried out by hoodlums who see the destruction of public utility equipment as a means of venting their anger on the government on the one hand and making ends meet on the other.
Indeed, vandalisation has become a lucrative business in some parts of our land.
Those behind it are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate (which is put at 23 per cent), luring youths who are physically endowed and mentally agile to carry out their nefarious acts.
The power crisis has led many manufacturing industries to flee the country to places where they have to spend little or nothing on diesel engines.
This is, indeed, a major challenge to our industrialisation efforts. In the production of goods and rendering of services, the cost of buying fossil fuel to power generators often leads to high prices higher than the prices the same goods go for in other places where power is stable and other variables are constant.
It follows, as is generally known that Nigeria is one of the most expensive countries in which to live, work and do business in the whole world.
Is there any remedy to this? Is it still possible for Nigeria and indeed Nigerians to have their dream country where power supply is available every second of every day? The answer lies in our hands
Electricity for the Nigeria of our dream is not beyond us. However, painful as it might sound, in the quest for improved power, Nigerians have sacrificed a lot.
Nonetheless, until we are close to the generation of our required energy level, the prices that we pay for electricity may continue to increase. Of course, it can be argued that the increase in tariff currently is not commensurate with the supply of electrical energy to its consumers.
Perhaps that is one of the sacrifices that this generation of Nigerians has to pay for future generations. It is no gainsaying the fact that the cost of energy generation, transmission and distribution to the country’s vast areas is huge. That is why more patience is needed on our part, the citizenry.
There is also the need for value reorientation. This present generation of youths has been told many lies by the older generation.
These have beclouded our judgment in many ways. Yes, it is a fact that successive governments have failed to provide jobs for the teeming youths and many a graduate is left to roam the streets years after graduation.
It is also a fact that most government jobs are secured these days after bribes have been given in one form or the other. For those who do not have bribes to give, they could have other things to trade either in cash or in kind.
It is also an established fact that these days, one can hardly get to the peak of his/her profession unless somebody fixes him or her up.
These and many more have been sold to us by the older generations. Because the older generation thrives in it and would like the status quo to continue, the younger generation is made to buy into what they feed us with. This has contributed to the problem in the energy sector.
Quacks continue to find their way into the industry while those who have the physical, educational and mental capacity and wellbeing to work are kept away. This of course pushes them to find alternative sources of employment.
Many drift into the hands of cartels who own bunkering businesses, especially in the Niger Delta.
Nigeria can become industrialised even though 2020 may be far from the realistic, considering our slow movement in that direction. This is not to say that it is impossible.
With a change of mentality and orientation and a commensurate change in our attitude about the realisation of Nigeria of our dream where electricity supply is available to all, then our desire to be categorised as a developed and not developing in no distant future time would undoubtedly be a sweet possibility.
• Okorodud is a Youth Corps member serving in Taraba State. 08033234970 Profphilip2004@gmail.com