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When will our national greed collapse?

By Martins Oloja
20 March 2022   |   3:55 am
A great deal of political doublespeak has been going on about our national grid, the network of power stations, power-lines and electricity infrastructure that allows electricity to be generated, transported and used across the country.

The Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu

A great deal of political doublespeak has been going on about our national grid, the network of power stations, power-lines and electricity infrastructure that allows electricity to be generated, transported and used across the country. In Nigeria, we are condemned to a national grid system in which generating stations and major consumer centres are integrated as employed by the national electric power authority in generating and distributing electricity in the country. In simple terms, power grid is a network of electrical transmission lines connecting a number of generating stations to loads over a wide area. The national power system has been unbundled and most of the power systems are mainly in the hands of not-so-organised private sector. Gas turbines constitute more than half of the generating sets.

My people, it is a time to talk about how national greed has crippled our national grid and one major consequence remains a migration from darkness to darkness unless we (the people) are determined to use the 2023 recruitment opportunity to (s)elect leaders who are ready to develop a creed and culture for national development. And here is why: The recent collapse of the national grid has since raised more concerns about the trajectory of the country’s power sector and, by extension, the survival of businesses.

Ordinarily, this should engage the attention of all our local, sub-national and national leaders, especially in the executive and legislative arms. But this is not the case because of this malaise called national greed that we are not linking to the national grid collapse.

On February 14, 2022, the national electricity grid suffered a system collapse and caused power outages nationwide. Nigerians have been experiencing power cuts for weeks amid a surge in fuel and diesel prices. The situation is taking a significant toll on businesses.

Regrettably, our leaders who have been bogged down by the power that national greed can give have been speaking in tongues about the roots of the rampaging and debilitating energy crisis in Africa’s most significant nation. Even the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), a very, very federal agency blamed the abysmal power supply experienced nationwide on low power generation by the generation companies (GenCos). But the electricity generating company blamed a more than one trillion worth of federal government debt on the collapse. What else other than national greed would have prevented the same federal powers in Abuja from paying their debt they have budgeted for?

Nigeria’s national grid is known for experiencing disruptions. It collapsed in February, May, July, and August 2021. There have been reliable reports that the grid experienced 206 collapses between 2010 and 2019. A breakdown of the data showed that Nigeria witnessed 146 total collapses of the national grid and 73 partial collapses within the period. According to Nigerian Electricity System Operator (NESO), a total system collapse means total blackout nationwide, while partial system collapse is a failure of a section of the grid.

The end product of both system failures is that it leads to poor or erratic power supply, negatively affecting other performance of businesses and causing economic woes for citizens. These collapses occurred frequently and the consequences can lead to security breaches as risk analysts have been saying, yet a leadership nurtured by the power of national greed that drives politics, economics, epidemics and leadership recruitment can’t be bothered even by the national security implications of an energy crisis.

Abubakar Aliyu, Minister of Power, held an emergency meeting with stakeholders in the power sector. The meeting had in attendance delegation from power generation companies, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET), Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Shell, and other stakeholders in the power value chain.

“This meeting was summoned to address the current electricity situation in the country which we are not happy about,” the minister said. “We must find a solution so that Nigerians will have electricity. I want us to have the patience to talk to each other, not blaming each other.”  He also cited the vandalism of pipelines, disputes around the availability of gas as well as payment for gas contracts between gas companies and GenCos.

He clarified the issue of the quantity of generated electricity in the country, insisting that Nigeria had a capacity of 8,000 megawatts. Aliyu reiterated that the current power crisis was not only due to the drop in the level of water.

“The more reason we’re facing this situation now is as a result of the shortage of gas and some of the generators have to go to maintenance. “It’s scheduled maintenance and it’s supposed to be scheduled outage, but we’ve not envisaged that we’ll have issues around vandalisation of pipelines which the NNPC has addressed as you can see evidently everywhere, aviation fuel and queue for petrol in the filling stations. “It’s a combination of many factors that compounded the problem we’re having on the grid.  The generators cannot supply because of lack of gas.”

Behold, from the stale responses and crisis meetings of the authorities to the emergency of the collapse of national grid, which has complicated a not so-unexpected energy crisis, we don’t require any oracle to tell us that what national greed has destroyed, only a new set of leaders with a classic creed can resolve. I mean that only a collapse of local, sub-national and national greed can resolve Nigeria’s multifaceted challenges. You can see from the explanation of the executive officers of our brand new oil corporation, now limited by shares (the sole importer of petroleum products) to the big shots in the powerful power ministry that there is no glimmer of hope that our perennial energy palaver will end soon.

Let’s not get it twisted, unless there is a collapse, yes collapse of this public enemy number one, called national greed, we will not be able to sing any redemption songs in the energy sector comprising electricity and oil and gas resources. It is bad enough for our country that now about 23 years of unbroken democratisation and politicking (29 May, 1999-29 May 2022) couldn’t lead to revival of our oil refineries. What is worse, our power (electricity) sector too hasn’t raised what Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls, “Hope of a better tomorrow as the only comfort you can give to a weeping child”. So, instead of praying for restructuring and revival of our accident-prone national grid, we should pray fervently for the collapse of national greed at all levels of leadership and followership here.

I have looked again into the seeds of time and found that nations that have taken care of national greed have had to begin with a national creed. And ‘America, their America’ as the iconic J.P Clark calls them, is a classic example of what we need to study about how a national development have to begin with a creed, which sadly we do not have beyond our not-so enlightened self(ish) interest, which is the root of all greed.

Greed is an uncontrolled longing for increase in the acquisition or use of material gain; or social value, such as status, or power. Greed has been identified as undesirable throughout known human history because it creates behaviour-conflict between personal and social goals… An example of greed is when you are obsessed with getting more and more money. A selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions. It sometimes drives inordinate ambition and so that is where we find people’s greed for power.

This is the cause of near absence of common good in Nigeria. Most people who seek power in Nigeria are driven by this uncontrolled longing for increase in the acquisition or use of material gain, or social value or power, not for the purpose of service delivery or public good. The powers, I mean the business elite that acquired the electricity power stations from former President Goodluck Jonathan were largely driven by this same common disease called national greed, because they were just obsessed with getting more and more money than is needed or deserved. They artfully bamboozled the nation for what they thought were lucrative power stations. They didn’t intend to invest more to get our national grid working. They were supported and shielded by the very federally greedy power elite in Jonathan’s government.

I mean it is national greed that could drive a power cabal to rush to London to hold a political party strategy meeting with a country’ s leader who was resting from medical examination in a foreign land when the country’s collapsed national grid had compounded a critical fuel crisis. Why didn’t the same Nigeria’s leader receive the petroleum resources and power ministers in the same vein because there was an energy fire on the mountain?

The national greed in all of them is the reason our electricity national grid will continue to collapse. So, until the national greed in all of the business and power elite in Nigeria is made to collapse through a national creed and revolutionary movement to make the world’s most populous black nation an entrepreneurial nation, we will continue to read from the book of lamentation called constant collapse of national grid. Oh yes, it is the national greed of our leaders and their business elite collaborators that should be made to collapse, lest we should be the last as the legendary Kwesi Brew warns.

***Let’s continue this discussion point next week on how we can develop a national creed to deal a blow on this enemy called national greed, whose effects continue to destroy our national grid for development.