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Energy scarcity grounds Nigeria

By Luke Onyekakeyah
26 May 2015   |   1:52 am
THE crippling energy scarcity that has practically grounded Nigeria has exposed the futility of all the efforts purported to have been made since 1999 to retune the sector and boost the economy.


THE crippling energy scarcity that has practically grounded Nigeria has exposed the futility of all the efforts purported to have been made since 1999 to retune the sector and boost the economy. This is the worst the country has ever had. There is no stable framework for managing Nigeria’s energy sector.

Nigerians and indeed, foreigners in the country, are overwhelmed by the ugly turn of events. The end, they say, justifies the means.

If the end of the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) power reform programme in 16 years brought us to this messy end, then, the means was seriously flawed.

It didn’t work. The plan, or call it framework failed woefully. This is a big lesson for the in-coming administration to change the framework.

Everyone is questioning what sort of decisions and actions were taken or channeled into the energy sector for 16 years that cannot show the slightest improvement after huge funds were expended.

Rather than see improvement, the energy sector nosedived, leaving the entire economy practically grounded. The economy is in a virtual lockdown. Businesses and institutions are shutting down due to fuel scarcity. The economy runs on generators.

Without doubt, the situation in the past three weeks has been traumatic. For the first time in recent years, fuel scarcity has lingered for nearly three months and there is no end in sight.

The entire country is affected but the worst hit include Lagos, Ogun, Sokoto, Kebbi, Bayelsa, Kogi and Kwara State, according to reports. Abuja FCT has been in the throes of the fuel scarcity for long. As supplies dry up, in Lagos, petrol reportedly is selling at N600/litre as against N87 official price. Diesel and kerosene are elusive.

This is outrageous. Government appears helpless. Reports indicate there is no state where petrol is sold below N120/litre. Black marketers dominate.

It is survival of the fittest. The situation is critical and has gone out of hand. Airlines have cancelled scheduled flights due to lack of aviation fuel.

Over the weekend, I passed through the airport and saw the usually bus/taxi park at Hajj Camp empty.

With one bus at a time, the fare was doubled. The telecommunication giant, MTN, has alerted millions of its customers of imminent shutdown of service. Hospitals are in limbo and can’t perform.

The universities are at standstill. Normal academic work is stranded, as laboratories and studios can’t function due to lack of power. Stranded motorists and hapless Nigerians, who need petrol to operate generators, slug it out wherever petrol is found.

People bear different sizes of jerry cans roaming the streets in search of fuel. The queues at filling stations are long and winding. There is commotion at any filling station selling fuel. Traffic has reduced on the roads. Vehicles are packed.

Fares have tripled and prices of stuff in the markets have risen astronomically. Hawking of petrol at street corners has resurrected after it was outlawed many years ago.

The scarcity has made hawking of petrol very lucrative such that a lot of artisans have abandoned their trades to hawk fuel not minding the potential danger of fire.

Nigerians are groaning under the weight of the scarcity, which has worsened the endemic epileptic power supply. The country is on its knees and in darkness.

The only hope now is that a new government is taking over by this weekend, which may come up with fresh ideas on how to deal with the intractable problem. Amid the fuel crisis, over the weekend, reports indicate that power supply has dropped to all time low.

According to the Ministry of Power, “Nigeria’s overall electricity generation has dropped to an unprecedented low of 1,327 megawatts a week before the transfer of power from President Goodluck Jonathan to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari”.

The Ministry, which rarely tells the truth, disclosed that as at 12 noon Friday (May 22), “most key power plants in the country, including those located at Utorogu, Chevron Oredo, Oben gas-fired power plants, were all shut down, while Ughelli and Chevron Escravos power plant were all isolated already.

It said power output had dropped from a recent peak of 4,500MW on April 3, to 2,800 as of March 30, noting that the eastern axis, Shell Gas, Alakiri plants were shut down.

This is shocking, indeed; unbelievable, to say the least. Nigeria’s power generation is largely dependent on gas transported through exposed pipelines that are easily vandalised in the restive Niger Delta region.

But not even at the height of militancy in 2008/2009, when militants were blowing up oil facilities, did power drop to the present level.

So, what is happening? Could this be sabotage? Why is this happening at the critical point of handing over of government from the ruling PDP to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), that won the election?

While the contention between the Federal Government and the major oil marketers over subsidy payment was at the root of the fuel scarcity, the strike embarked upon by petroleum products transporters over debts owed to them by the oil marketers compounded the scarcity.

It was like the oil marketers couldn’t pay the transporters because they were owed by the Federal Government. It is a chain reaction whose fallout has brought untold hardship and grounded the economy.

Oil marketers say the Federal government owes them N159 billion but the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minster of the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said it was a fraudulent claim.

Nigerians don’t know who is saying the truth. In the case of power, usually, any drop in electricity supply is blamed on unavailability of gas for the power plants.

Nigeria put all her eggs in one basket and has no alternative to fall back on. Given the restiveness in the Niger Delta, there is no time gas supply would be guaranteed for the power plants. The IPP programme may have been a waste.

Vandalisation of gas pipelines in the Niger Delta is a lucrative business that can’t easily stop.  Government should build refineries and stop the huge scam called subsidy. Also, government should switch over to alternative energy sources.

Hydropower, coal and solar power are dependable energy sources Nigeria has in abundance and should exploit.

The in-coming Buhari administration should explore these alternative energy sources and de-emphasise gas. The world is scandalised that Nigeria, one of the leading producers and exporters of crude oil dwells in darkness.