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Buhari and the energy crisis

By Luke Onyekakeyah
12 May 2015   |   4:06 am
THE virtual unavailability of fuel and electricity especially in the last three months paints an ugly picture of Nigeria as she transits from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).


THE virtual unavailability of fuel and electricity especially in the last three months paints an ugly picture of Nigeria as she transits from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

The embarrassing scarcity, the longest and perhaps most expensive in recent times, paints a sad picture of a country in dire straits.

The impression is that governance stopped after the March 28 presidential election in which the incumbent President Jonathan lost while Buhari of the opposition party won. Could that be the reason there is no fuel?

The fuel scarcity has taken a toll on the aviation sector. Several scheduled flights are canceled on daily basis due to scarcity of aviation fuel. Arik Air alone reportedly has lost about N200 million since the fuel scarcity started.

All the domestic carriers are facing a crushing revenue loss. Addressing the energy crisis on a permanent basis is one tough issue the in-coming Buhari administration must face squarely. The problem must be tackled from a different perspective.

One thing that rubbishes whatever perceivable achievement recorded by the out-going PDP administration in the last 16 years is its failure to address the energy burden in Nigeria.

It is disheartening, indeed, embarrassing, that since 1999 when the PDP took the reins of power and promised to make electricity available in a matter of months, the situation as it exits seems to be worse than what it was in 1999. This is an irony of fate that has befallen Nigeria.

Despite all the lofty power transform programmes embarked upon by the PDP over 16 years, the power supply situation across the country is nothing to write home about.

The country is in a bigger mess; consumers now pay huge monthly electricity bills for energy not supplied. The privatization of power has not worked because the companies are contending with the same handicaps that confronted the institution over the years.

Nothing has changed except who collects tariff and the amount collected.

Working under the same decrepit power supply infrastructure and expecting to have improved electricity supply is delusionary. Besides, the gas-fired power plants remain a headache. There is yet no solid arrangement that guarantees steady and uninterrupted gas supply to the power plants. That is the bane of the Independent Power Project (IPP) option in the country.

It is one thing to embark on IPP and build scores of gas-based power plants. Yet, it is another thing to ensure that the gas input needed for the plants to function is available and guaranteed.

If that is not done, the entire effort would be a waste and the country would remain in darkness. That is where we are at the moment.

The case of kerosene, diesel and petrol, is even worse. Since three months running, fuel scarcity across the country has taken toll on the economy. Over the weekend in Lagos, a litre of petrol sold for N200 as against N87 official price.

Only the black market has fuel while the petrol stations are under lock and key. The situation is worse in the hinterland where petrol has hardly sold for N87 even in normal times.

The price of diesel has for long gone beyond the reach of Nigerians at over N160/litre. In 1999, diesel was cheaper than petrol and I remember being tempted to buy a diesel engine car in 2000. Today, it amounts to financial suicide to buy a diesel engine car.

For a long time, kerosene disappeared from filling stations across the country. Occasionally, when it is available, long queue of consumers, with different sizes of jerry cans struggles to get some at the official price of N50/litre. The Kero-Direct Initiative, through which consumers in parts of the country got kerosene at the official price was merely an ad-hoc and short-lived intervention.

No ad-hoc measure would settle the energy crisis. Only a well-articulated and carefully implemented strategic plan will do. The solution is not as far-fetched and complex as it has been made to look.

A committed and sincere administration can make a dramatic change in four years. The situation remains dire because there has been no honesty and sincerity in the programmes.

Right now, the energy situation is a colossal national embarrassment that confronts the in-coming government under Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.

How is Buhari going to tackle the problem? I would like to stress at this juncture that it is not that the Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations did not want to fix power.

The PDP, beginning with the Obasanjo administration in 1999 down to Jonathan in 2015, desired to fix the energy problem but failed because too many greedy elements involved in the various programmes were more concerned with their selfish than national interest.

Those unpatriotic elements frustrated the efforts. The story would have been different if the PDP had at least succeeded in fixing power alone or addressed the fuel importation quagmire, which is the root of corruption and fuel scarcity.

Given PDP’s failure in the energy sector, the Buhari administration must make hard choices to succeed. I don’t believe that the PDP and APC are the same as some people loosely tease.

I don’t believe that Buhari’s thinking about Nigeria is the same as that of Obasanjo or Jonathan. I don’t believe that Bola Tinubu (APC) thinks the same way about Nigeria as Tony Anenih or Ahmadu Ali (PDP). I don’t believe that if you get five key leaders of PDP and another five key leaders of APC and put them in different rooms with the same assignment about how to deal with the power crisis in the country, they would come up with the same idea. The two will come up with two completely different ideas.

It is on that basis that I have confidence that Buhari and his APC administration will tackle the energy crisis from a different angle.

That is not to say that if there is any good thing that could be extracted from the PDP’s power reform programme, it should not be left out. The bottom line is CHANGE, which Nigerians voted for.




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