Sunday, 4th June 2023

Perennial outages, blackout make living unbearable

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Gbenga Akinfenwa, Kingsley Jeremiah, Geraldine Akutu and Kehinde Olatunji
19 May 2019   |   4:26 am
In many parts of the country, electricity consumers are united in their submissions that as far as delivering on its promise of improved power supply is concerned, they have been left in the lurch by the Federal Government.

• Nigeria Has 0.0225 Kilowatts Of Electricity Daily Available To Every Citizen
• Blackout Plunges Consumers, Small Businesses Into Losses

In many parts of the country, electricity consumers are united in their submissions that as far as delivering on its promise of improved power supply is concerned, they have been left in the lurch by the Federal Government.In their bewilderment, they insist that if there was any marginal improvement in electricity supply recorded since the current President Muhammadu Buhari-led government mounted the saddle, such has been swiftly eroded with only days remaining for the administration to succeed itself in office for a second term.

Categorically speaking, the last two, three weeks rank as a new low, as the collapse of the national grid twice in 18 hours penultimate week plunged the country into darkness. Till now, Nigerians have continued to grope in the dark.The national electricity grid collapse, which happened at about 5:30am, on Thursday May 9, was preceded by another on Wednesday afternoon.

While the collapse lasted, the entire franchise of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), which comprises Nasarawa, Niger, Kogi states and Abuja had zero megawatts, in other words, no electricity supply.That collapse also affected Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Kano states, all of which are serviced by the Kaduna Electric Distribution Company and Kano Electric Distribution Company.

Consumers of electricity in Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and Yobe states were also thrown into darkness following the loss of supply from the national grid with zero allocation to the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC). This was equally occasioned by the collapse of the national grid. “We are currently experiencing loss of supply from the national grid with zero allocation to YEDC coverage area,” the firm explained to consumers, adding that the power outage was beyond its control.

DATA from the Nigeria Electricity System Operator, an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), showed that power generation has dropped by 1, 682 megawatts from 4,129.2MW. As at 6.00 am last Monday, the data showed that generation stood at 2, 441MW.

Speaking in the wake of the latest collapse, which has worsened electricity supply in many parts of the country, the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Usman Mohammed, described it as the worst system collapse in recent times. The national grid has continued to suffer series of system collapse over the years as the country continues to flounder in the absence of a spinning reserve, which if in place would forestall such occurrences. Usman, who spoke at a news conference in Abuja penultimate Friday said, “What happened a day before yesterday at 14:32 hours was a case of system collapse. We had tripping.

“The reason for the grid collapse was that there was multiple tripping around Onitsha substation. We are also suspecting that one of the generators went out. We have sent our team of engineers to go and investigate, we normally investigate this kind of disturbances,’’ he said. Usman claimed that in spite of the fragile nature of the nation’s power grid, TCN has achieved some level of stability on the national grid.

“Although, we have achieved some level of stability on the grid through the massive investment that we have done in the last two years, it does not mean that our grid has become disturbance free, because our grid is still very fragile. It is a journey that we are in that will take us to have a modern and stabilised grid,” he said.

MANY are deeply worried that the worsening power situation is coming at a time when heat wave continues to soar sometimes to over 43 degrees Celsius, thus making life very uncomfortable for Nigerians, while a lot of small-scale businesses are heavily impacted by the attendant power outages.

Clearly, the reality on ground is not in sync with, neither does it support claims by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who recently alleged that he has delivered on the promises he made to Nigerians in the areas of power, works and housing.

While briefing the press in his office, in Abuja, Fashola said feedback from the public indicates that the public is enjoying a better deal compared to what was the case in 2015.Consequently, he concluded that he has fulfilled his promise of incremental power, better journey experience on the roads, affordable housing, as well as economic opportunities for Nigerians.

“In the power sector, well-meaning Nigerians acknowledge our efforts by saying clearly that their power supply experience has improved compared­­ to 2015, and we acknowledge that the work has not finished.“The task going forward is to solve the outstanding issues of estimated billing, supply of meters, add more power and make the supply steady, which I stated will be our medium-term goal,” Fashola stated.

WHILE Nigeria is faced with low access to electricity, as well as low consumption, low reliability, high per kilowatt cost and utilities running at a loss averaging 4, 500megawatt (4,500,000kilowatts) of electricity distributed, only about 0.0225 kilowatts of electricity is currently available to every Nigerian.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), around 625 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. Nigeria is not listed as one of the top 10 in many rankings that focus on access to electricity on the continent. In fact, a global research company, CEIC Data noted that Nigeria’s average electricity consumption per hour data stood at 2, 490.000 MWh in December 2018. This records a decrease from the previous number of 3, 098. 000 MWh for September 2018.

The country’s electricity consumption average per hour data, which is updated quarterly, averages 2, 688. 780 MWh from March 2005 to December 2018, with 54 observations. The data reached an all-time high of 4, 456. 000 MWh in September 2015 and a record low of 1, 300. 000 Also, an international organisation, Power for All, which is campaigning for the provision of electricity in many African countries recently said that over 93 million Nigerians still lack access to electricity. Countries like South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and others have better percentage energy access across board when compared to Nigeria.

To most stakeholders, the significant gap between demand and supply of electricity in the country has led to recurrent power shortcuts as the challenges were complicated by heavy reliance on gas, limited technical/technological know-how, lack of energy efficient practices and infrastructure maintenance, inadequate regulations and attacks on energy infrastructure, all of which contribute to challenges that the sector faces.

Speaking on worsening power situation as well as the dwindling access to power, Country Director of Power for All and Managing Director of Clean Technology, Mrs. Ifeoma Malu said: “Nigeria’s energy access challenge has continued to be a source of frustration for majority of the population, limiting the country’s prospects for economic growth, and improvement in the well-being of its population, particularly underserved rural communities.

“Over 60 per cent of Nigerians are without access to electricity, while the grid-connected population faces extensive power outages. Bedeviled by various technical, financial, operational and regulatory challenges and a widening generation gap of approximately 175, 000MW, the conventional power grid supply is inadequate to meet the needs of Nigeria’s growing population.”

The country’s national transmission grid, which has a record of persistent breakdown currently has an installed capacity of around 5, 758 MW, but its effective wheeling capacity stands at about 4, 500 MW.Managed by the TCN, the transmission network reportedly has a total length of 12, 300 km (330 kV 5,650 km, 132 kV 6.687 km) and connects 32, 330 kV and 105 132 kV sub-stations.

The distribution network has a length of 224,838 km (taking into consideration 33KV, 11KV and LV lines overhead and cables. As part of the power sector reform, the network was split into 11 distribution zones, each of them now owned and managed by a different electricity distribution company (DisCo) with the exception of the KEDC, whose privatisation process is still ongoing.The Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company is the one with the longest grid (36, 585 km), while the Kano Electricity Distribution Company is the one with the shortest (7, 404 km), and also the highest losses (40 per cent).

The Ibadan network is the one with the highest capacity (878 MW) and highest number of customers (812,000 customers), while the Ikeja network is the one with the highest peak demand (1,400 MW) due to the high concentration of economic activities in Lagos State.

With industries closing down daily and harsh operating environment that continues to push many small-scale businesses out of operation, the country’s growing population could continue to feel the impact of the failing power sector.With other critical challenges like mounting debts; closure of automotive industries and others have been cited as evidence of the effect of de-industrialisation caused by unstable power supply and network, there is surely an urgency to go beyond rhetoric.The Council for Renewable Energy of Nigeria (CREN) had estimated that power outage was responsible for an annual loss of about N126b.

Evidently, the energy poverty in the country poses an endemic and crippling problem. With the development access to safer and healthier electric cooking and heating, powered health centers and refrigerated medicines, light to study at night, or electricity to run a business remained challenging.

AS in the past, the recent total blackout experienced in many states has dealt a deadly blow on households and small businesses.
For instance, for over five days, Lagos State residents serviced by the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) and Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) were without light.
Consequently, throughout the Easter holiday, households and business owners in Abule-Egba, Ekoro, Agbele, Captain, Command, Meiran, Abule Taylor, Kollington, Agbado Station, Ile-Epo, pleasure, Super, Oke-Abiye and others all relied solely on power generating sets for electricity supply. Areas like Mushin, Isolo, Daleko, Surulere, Oshodi, Ladipo, Palm Avenue, Ilasamaja, Idi-Araba also serviced by EKEDC equally had a raw deal.
The situation in areas under the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) was reasonably harsh as some consumers were left without supply for over 10 days. Areas like Ifo, Arigbajo, Ejio, Itori, Papalanto, Ajegunle, Owode, Sango-Ota, Wasinmi, Abese, Coker, Ibogun, Ewekoro, Ilepa, Iyana-Ilogbo, and others, all in Ogun State, were forced to adapt to the unpalatable situation that they found themselves.
While Ifo and some areas got their electricity supply restored after 10 days, areas like Arigbajo, Abese and beyond were still in darkness for well over 10 days.Some small business owners, including frozen food sellers, incurred debts, or had their gains eroded for these periods despite resorting to the use of power generating sets. One of such frozen food dealers in Ekoro, popularly known as Mama Chris lamented that she stocked her freezers anticipating a boom during the Easter period, only for the stock to get spoilt as a result of insufficient electricity supply.
In Arigbajo, Ewekoro Local Council of Ogun State, a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Akanke Ibironke, who supplies water in the area told The Guardian that she had to resort to pumping water with her power generating set when the situation persisted for many days. “Pumping water with fuel is not profitable, but I was forced to do that in order to sustain the business. Obviously, I ran at a loss. That is the situation that we have found ourselves in this country.”

A fashion designer, Odunlami Sunday, who did not see the wisdom in spending money on petrol abandoned his shop and deployed his motorbike for commercial purposes.“During festive seasons, I know what I usually make from designing for my customers. But sensing that the electricity situation may not improve all through the period, I decided not to accept fabrics from my customers because I knew that I would not meet up with their demands on time.

“So, I decided to use my motorcycle to convey passengers during the period. Of course, it paid me better. But the unfortunate thing is that officials of the DisCo would soon move out with their ladders to demand for bills, irrespective of the losses we have incurred during the period. It’s unfortunate that our government is silent about all these, and we need to do something quickly before it is too late. Enough is enough.”

Also commenting on the power situation in his area, a legal practitioner Arinze Odiari, who resides in the Surulere area of Lagos State said: “I can tell you that the power situation in my area, as well as the state is currently bad. Some months ago, we used to have about 12 hours of electricity supply, but at the moment, I am sure it’s not more than six hours in a 24-hour cycle. “My office is at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi and there is no difference in the power supplied there as both areas are being serviced by EKEDC. Unfortunately, we have no option than to continue paying heavy service charge as the complex, which my office is located provides power to its tenants,” the legal practitioner said.
He continued; “While I am not a medical doctor or an environmentalist, strictly speaking, I can tell you that the health hazard posed by the massive use of power generating sets in my neighbourhood is immense. The fume and noise from these generating sets combined with the recent heat wave expose all of us to poor health. I am not able to work at home at night, which I used to do before now because the noise pollution from different types of generating sets does not constitute good orchestra. I require tranquility to enable me achieve a lot mentally. When this is missing, I may not be at my optimal best, therefore my productivity is reduced. I am sure this happens to a lot of people also.”Odiari called on the Federal Government to end the excuses and tackle headlong, the issue of poor electricity supply in the country.

“We have had excuses from one government to another and if am really honest, Nigerians right now will be happy to get this handled irrespective of the cost because they are already paying so high for what is not available. I expect this government, having received the peoples mandate for the next four years to do all it can to fix this problem. The generating, transmitting and distributing agencies and companies should be made to now get down to work and any of them that is incapable should be removed or licence revoked.”

For a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Debo Ayobade, the power situation in Akoka-Yaba is as bad as in other parts of the country. “I power my generator all-day, all-night when I am around. It gets so bad that sometimes there might not be up to two hours of power supply in two days. In the last four weeks, the situation has not changed and I understand that this is happening in most parts of the country. It is so sad that we have to fuel our generating sets every time, just in a bid to stay a bit comfortable. Sustaining this is a very expensive venture.

“Artisans, including welders have abandoned their jobs and are now operating as commercial motorcyclists because there is no electricity to run their business. So many businesses that are electric-dependent cannot continue to operate because of this epileptic power supply, yet these people have to feed their families, pay house rent, and take care of other personal needs. “I urge the government to stop giving excuses, but to move fast and fix the power sector. It should ban the importation of power generating sets because in my opinion, this is contributing to the problem. If not, how can Togo, Cotonou, Chad and other small countries have uninterrupted power supply and we don’t. If power is fixed, the economy will improve tremendously,” says Ayobade.

Dr. Raliat Akerele, a psychiatrist who lives in the Anthony area of Lagos State is bothered about the effect of epileptic power supply on individuals and the negative impact this has on the society.“Over the while, outages, which last for varying length of time have become the norm. Suffice it to say the periods of power supply have become few and far in between. To make matters worse, the heat wave in different parts of the country affects productivity on a personal, occupational and social level. I constantly feel I am about to die of heat stroke with the rate at which I perspire, soaking my outfits through and through; I have zero tolerance for frustration and seem to tire easily. As for the heat rash, as some are disappearing others are replacing them,” Akerele said.

She continued: “I work at the Child and Adolescents Unit of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Oshodi Annex. On my first day of resumption, I found out that I couldn’t consult due to the heat, and even the patients (children were cranky). Though I have acclimatised, I still find myself rushing to get off work so I can come home and take a shower but alas there is no rest for the weary because the situation is much the same at home. The inverter I have managed to purchase is not big enough to power the air conditioner and using the generator to power the air conditioner is a luxury I can ill afford as there are other pressing demands like ensuring the things in the freezer do not get spoilt.

“To the government, I would like to suggest that it understudy African countries like Ghana and Kenya, which have had steady electricity supply over the years. And in case the issue is that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing is overwhelmed with the portfolio handed him, it should be divided among capable hands. The hardship suffered by citizens just keeps increasing and Nigerians are no longer smiling,” Akerele said. Tochukwu Michael Tochukwu, an entrepreneur is totally distraught that the power situation is his Satellite Town has gone from bad to worse.

“I am a resident of Alaba Okiri Street, Satelite Town, and I can tell you reliably that the light situation there is now worse and all the residents are really suffering. We rarely have power supply and whenever it is restored it goes off at regular intervals. There is no gain saying that the government has really failed us in this area, where there are no good roads, no presence of government. The light situation in this area has been the same for the past eight years, which means that there has been no difference since the present government came into office. While we are never sure of having light, the only thing that we are sure of is that the power distribution office will bring outrageous bills for those that are without prepaid metres and they will be mandated to pay despite the epileptic supply.
“I have a show room at 402 Link Road, 23 Road Market, Festac Town. You won’t believe that since January when they took off our supply in questionable circumstances not even a bulb has blinked. I can’t explain just how it hurts leaving us to run our businesses with power generating sets since January,” Tochukwu stated. He added: “After we have suffered all these in the day, we return home in the evening to another round of suffering occasioned by noise pollution from generators. The whole place is so uncomfortable to live in. Apart from the noise pollution, the fumes inhaled is also poisonous to our bodies, and capable of leading to constant ill health.

“However, my biggest problem is that nothing has changed over the years as every new government keeps on talking about what it has done with nothing on ground to support these claims. Something needs to be changed. We can’t continue like this. The government needs to come up with concrete ideas and feasible policies that will put an end to incessant power failure. Whoever is in charge needs to do something different,” he stressed.
Lead Consultant, 3Dimension Edibiz & Associates, Abuja, Akin Benjamin agrees that the power situation in Nigeria is as epileptic as ever. According to him, “The same story of epileptic power supply is being told across all six geopolitical zones of the country, even Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory is almost becoming an oven. No thanks to the heat caused by the late arrival of rainfall coupled with near zero power supply. All one hears at night is the sound of the “I better pass my neighbour power generating set” blaring from house-to-house, emitting pollutants into the air everywhere.
“In areas like the Games Village, Gudu, Durumi, Lugbe and so on, power supply has become non-existent. We lose plenty man-hour at work, especially if the power generating set is also down. Even if there is power, it goes off at the slightest drop of rain as if we are putting out fire from firewood with water. So, the government should realise quickly that the solution to power problem is not rocket science, it could be simply tackled at the geo-political basis, local government basis or even through restructuring the country and letting the zones, states and local government areas be free to generate, store and distribute power to their residents. The case in which whatever is generated in Lagos must first be pushed into the national grid before distribution has paralysed such initiatives by the other levels of government. We must solve our problem or remain a powerless nation,” Benjamin advised.

Mrs. Lilian Eboli, an obviously angry businesswoman, who resides at Ilasa Road, Iyesi-Otta, Ogun State is still wondering where the country is heading to with the persistent epileptic power supply. “The electricity situation in my area is pathetic. We only have power supply between 1am and 5am and it is not even regular. This condition has caused many businesses to run at a loss and this does not stop IBEDC team from bringing the usual fixed electricity bill. It is simply too bad.”

“I was in Cotonou, Benin Republic and Lome, Togo three weeks ago. I spent three days there and I tell you, there was electricity throughout my stay there. Not for one minute was the light turned off. May the Lord deliver us from corrupt leaders, who have turned this country to what it is now,” said Eboli. She said she and other residents of the area pay an average of N3, 000 to N4, 000 monthly for electricity, which is not served, but would not mind paying more if there would be constant power supply.

For Mr. Paul Amos, a resident of Iyana Cele, along the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway, the area only enjoys power supply for once within a period of five days. “But we have not had light in my area for over two weeks now and there is no information about what has gone wrong. Everyone in the neighbourhood is depending on generators as their source of power and yet the IBEDC keep bringing their outrageous bills for electricity that we do not enjoy. In a nutshell, electricity supply in my area is very annoying, irritating, vexatious, unpleasant and nothing to write about.”

Adewuyi Taiwo and his co-residents in the Ikeja area of Lagos State have not had up to 48 hours of electricity supply in two weeks
Also, Ayodele Alademehin who resides at Ikeja Military Cantonment noted that the area only has power supply for three hours daily. “Light comes up by 8pm and goes off by 11pm every day.”

Olurotimi Iluyomade, who lives at Akowonjo road, Egbeda, Lagos State considers himself lucky to have eight hours of power supply in his area daily. “Sometimes it’s even up to 11-13 hours. I can’t really say much about billing because I use prepaid metre, which I recharge about N2, 000 every month, and I have not paid any service charge on the meter since I started using it.”Olayinka, who resides in Ilaje Bariga regrets that the rate at which power supply is interrupted was unreasonably high.

“An average home gets electricity less than 8 hours in a week, with high rate of charges. The need for prepaid metres around Ilaje Bariga is therefore high. Right now, very few people have it, and exploitation and electricity theft is at its peak here. So, we need help; we need prepaid metres

At Oke Odan, Ishashi Community in Ojo Local Council of Lagos State, it is “two days epileptic supply and two days off.” Recounting their plight, a resident, Edosa Aighobahi, said: “The bill is an estimated bill that is really crazy. Most times we pay N14, 000 monthly in a three-bedroom apartment and parlor apartment, and one self-contained. Nobody uses Air condition or electric cooker. Neither do we have deep freezing system.”

A resident of Ijegun Road, Ikotun, Mr. Stephen said: “It is just some weeks back that we started having power supply for up to 15 to 20 hours a week. But sometimes we are without light for a week or more. Three weeks ago, from Wednesday to Saturday there was no power supply. But since penultimate Sunday supply was restored and we now boast three to four hours supply per day now.”For Mr. Falansa Abayomi, who resides around Captain Godo, at Iju Ishaga, there has not had power supply in the neighborhood for close to six months.

“The transformer got damaged and the EKEDC is insisting that the CDA must pay over N1m that the community owes it before anything can be done. This N1m debt is not true.” He lamented that the situation has rendered many businesses in the area useless as they eventually close down after running at a loss for sometime. “It’s been bad even for petty traders. I cannot cope anymore and have started making arrangements to leave the area.”

Interestingly, for Mrs. Jenifer Balogun, a resident of Akobo, Ibadan, power supply in the area has been commendable. “Though the duration of supply varies due to reasons best known to the distribution company. For instance we might have electricity from morning till 5pm or 6pm. It would go away, but restored later at about 9 or 12pm. Even though the power supply keeps fluctuating, I can say that we somehow enjoy power supply.”