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Penny wise, pound foolish

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Electricity workers. PHOTO: Amos Kobor


These are indeed difficult and dangerous times for Nigerians. It would be out of place for anyone to envy Nigerians for whatever reason in these perilious times. For over a decade, Nigerians found themselves saddled with myriad of problems they had not sought and certainly are not enjoying. It is no longer news that most Nigerians pay electricity bills for darkness as the country is plagued by epileptic electricity supply. While the people across the country are constantly greeted with petals of blood and agony as a result of killings by Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, ritualists name it.

In the face of transmitting between six and ten hours of electricity daily, the electricity generating companies (GenCos) are planning to export more electricity to neighbouring West African countries, among them are Benin Republic, Togo and Burkina Faso. As if that is not enough trouble to contend with, the nation’s health sector that is supposed to care for the sick and injured patients from the above mentioned bloodletting monsters has dragged itself into further jeopardy as Nigerian doctors in their thousands continue to migrate yearly to Europe and America in search of greener pastures. Of course, it is shocking to learn that, there is sadly little or nothing the ruling government can do to stop these chains of ugly events.

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Expectedly, being sorry or the need to accept the responsibility or blame is not what you see often in politics especially in this part of the world. Over here, it is usual to see politicians opt for character assassination and indictment as they look for who and what to direct the blame at. In the past six years, nothing resembles the desperation with which the blame game syndrome has become the most selling point of President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Therefore, the nation’s economy, whopping in the shadow of the greatest financial distress does not bother the ruling government to revamp it, so long as the current government points a finger at previous administration. Of course, the above is chiefly the reason behind the GenCos audacity to transmit poor electricity to Nigerians at very high cost. Instead of being a pathway to development by electrifying the nation for 24 hours, the GenCos are finalising agreement to export more electricity to neighbouring countries. Yes, as usual, they put the blame on surplus energy in the country as reason for their action.

According to the acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, (TCN) who also is, Chairman, Executive Board of the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz who said: “The power we will be selling is the power that is not needed in Nigeria”. It will surprise you to learn that, electricity supply to homes and factories have become a worrisome headache to Nigerians and businesses in recent times. The idea that about 2,000 megawatts of electricity is unutilised daily in Nigeria is a cheap excuse to export power in exchange for revenue in hard currency. This of course, is not only harmful and injurious to Nigerian businesses, it has made the cost of doing business to rise very sharply while many companies have reduced their staff strength as electricity supply hardly last for 10 hours daily and very expensive too.

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The GenCos’ measure for revenue by exporting energy bore a stamp of panic and pain to well meaning Nigerians. Hence, the nation’s largest private sector group, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) warned that high energy cost would have a negative impact on businesses that are already grapping with high exchange rate due to the Naira depreciation. However, in justifying their intensions Mr Abdulaziz maintained that, “Nigeria has the greatest advantage among these countries (the buyers) because the electricity is going to be exported from Nigerian GenCos….revenue is going to be enhanced and a lot of people will be employed in Nigeria”. If not for greed for revenue in dollars, what else could be driving such a reckless and unpatriotic initiative? The GenCos and TCN should be reminded that this is not just a matter of revenue. It is about national development of the country that allows opportunities to spread evenly as well as tackle inequalities in the provision of public services like healthcare and education. No doubt, sufficient and affordable electricity in Nigeria would encourage entrepreneurship in the country and generate more revenue for the GenCos as well as create more job opportunities for Nigerians.

The simple truth is that, many Nigerian businesses and citizens are relocating to other countries not only because of the poor power situation, harsh economic and austerity measures or the killings by the Boko Haram insurgents and its sundry blood thirsty brothers. But, because of the ruling government insensitivity to the plight of the people, it is therefore, easy to understand why many Nigerian doctors are determined to embark on the greener pasture voyage abroad. This raises a serious concern about the healthcare sector that has been roundly ignored and starved of fund by virtually every administration. For an institution considered so vital to national life and development yet lip-service best describes its funding. Until now, it has not been easy to shrug off the exodus drift of Nigerian doctors abroad.

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Hence, the President of Nigerian doctors in United Kingdom Seun Yusuf said: “The doctors….after eight years of medical school, one year of housemanship during NYSC, someone pays you N80,000 when you can earn better with that certificate in another country”. It is ironic that at a time when other countries seek the help of our medical doctors to confront the problem of healthcare, our government and its officials are less bordered. Sometime in April, 2019 Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment said that Nigeria has surplus doctors and when they go abroad, they earn money and send back home here. Therefore, we have foreign exchange earnings from them.

So far, one might say that Nigeria’s current leaders lack the requisite sagacity to pilot the affairs of the nation due to leadership poverty. As a country whose fortunes hinge on the continued willingness to borrow to fund its infrastructure projects, the ruling government should start acknowledging reality and think outside the box. This would help to improve lives and renew its pattern of politics.

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