Nigerians moan Incessant Power Outage

Fashola

Nigerians moan incessant power outage in the country where many people are living in darkness despite efforts by the federal government to revitalise the electricity sector

By Anayo Ezugwu

NIGERIANS are becoming increasingly exasperated because of the incessant power outage in the country. Whereever you go, from east to west, north to south, tales of woe resulting from poor power supply resonates. From Anambra to Lagos, from satellite cities in Abuja to other states in the North, residents are living in darkness, some for more than four months, others for about a year and there appears no respite in sight. The worst is the losses occasioned by power surge which damages millions worth of electrical gadgets and installations whenever a flicker of light flashes and peters out instantly. The sad situation persists despite the glib assurances from the federal ministry of power, works and housing that power generation has grown to about 7000 megawatts recently.

One of the communities which encapsulate the ugly experience of Nigerians, especially the masses with regards to power outage is the Olorunlogbon Community in Ikotun area of Lagos State. In the last four months, life has been unbearable to residents as a result of power outage, businesses are closing down in the area all because of faulty transformer that could be easily repaired.

Many of the residents are impoverished because they spend more money trying to purchase fuel on a daily basis to power their homes. This is why they are appealing to Ikeja Electric, IE, to come to their rescue.

Electric power plantTajudeen Kareem, chairman, Olorunlogbon Community Development Association, CDA, said:  “For over 120 days, our community has been in darkness. We reported the case at IE head office in Alausa, and an official of the company came to take away the equipment. Since then, they have not brought it back to the community or replaced it. Members of the association have also visited the company, imploring the IE officials to repair the transformer and restore electricity. We are appealing to the company to save the community from darkness, because many tenants are now relocating from the area due to the power outage.

It is not only that the community is in darkness, hoodlums are taking advantage of it in the night to attack residents and steal their property. Denrele Oduwole, a resident of the community, said: “Residents are living in fear of being attacked by these hoodlums who are taking the advantage of darkness in the area to snatch bags from innocent residents. IE should replace the transformer and restore electricity supply to our community because we have been paying our monthly electricity bills promptly,” she said.

Another resident, Fatai Hammed, said the outage had affected his shoe making business, adding that the scarcity of fuel also compounded the problem.

Similarly, Nkiruka Diugwu, a business woman who sells frozen foods at Ojo area of Lagos, said epileptic  power supply in the neighbourhood was affecting her business as she spends most of her profits to refuel her generator set. Her experiece is made worse by the perennial fuel scarcity in the country which makes it difficult to get fuel to power her generator.

“During the recent Christmas celebration we didn’t have light. We depended on generator to power our refrigerators and make sales. My children didn’t enjoy the holiday because they are always on the move looking for where to buy fuel. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for me and my family. Yet, they bring estimated bills at the end of the month. If you ask of the prepaid meter they will tell you to forget it that they don’t have the meters now,” Diugwu said.

Similarly, electricity consumers in Awka, Anambra State and its environs have also been living in total darkness for more than one month because of a faulty transmission station. The Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, on Tuesday, February 6, acknowledged that the transmission station in Agu-Awka, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra, was being repaired to restore power supply to the state capital.

Abdulkareem Labaran, assistant general manager (Operations) in Enugu office of TCN, appealed to electricity consumers in the areas affected by the blackout for more time, assuring that engineers were working round the clock to restore the station to normalcy.

Notwithstanding the faulty transmission station in Awka,  power supply in 2018 has been at its lowest ebb as a result of breakdown of transmission systems. In two months the national transmission stations collapsed seven times. The latest was February 1.

Documents obtained from the Nigeria Electricity System Operator, NESO, an organ of the TCN on Sunday February 4, showed that the national electricity grid crashed from a high of 4,699.9 megawatts on January 31, to 219MW on February 1. Last month the generation statistics of NESO showed that the country’s power grid collapsed six times in the first eight days of this year.

The collapse was attributed to disruptions to gas production as well as constraints to the supply of the commodity.  A further analysis of the latest documents from NESO showed that power generation moved up to 3,663.3MW on February 2, after recovering from the first collapse of the month. The system performance chart also showed that the quantum of power generation on the grid on February 3, was 3,904.3MW, which was the most recent date as released by NESO on Sunday, February 4.

An analysis of the statistics showed that the national grid collapsed six times between January 1, and January 8. The report stated that the country’s power generation crashed from 3,667.5 megawatts on January 1, 2018, to 5.0MW on January 2, which was the first system collapse in the year. The second grid collapse occurred on January 3, as power generation on that day was 51MW. This moved up to 2,660.1MW the following day.

On January 5, the grid collapsed for the third time to 107MW. Three other grid collapses were recorded on January 6, 7 and 8, as the country’s power generation dropped to 173MW, 164.2MW and 72MW, respectively.

Findings showed that peak power generation during the eight-day period hovered between 3,707.2MW and 4,982.7MW, but these figures were not sustained as the grid kept collapsing. It was observed that 2,596.2MW of electricity was generated on January 27, due to gas constraint, which prevented the production of over 2,321.8MW of electricity.

Official statistics from the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, stated that 100 million Nigerians have no access to grid electricity. According to a report by Maria Yetano Roche supported by Nnanna Ude and Ikenna Donald Ofoegbu, the figure represents 60 percent of the country’s population.

One hundred million means that less than half of the Nigerian population has access to electricity. It is estimated that per capita electricity consumption in Nigeria currently at 151kWh per year should be four to five times higher than the current level when considering latent and suppressed demand.

As at December 2017, World Bank estimated that over 80 million Nigerians had no access to electricity. The figure was five million over its 75 million estimates as at February last year.

Today’s on-grid power generation capacity in Nigeria is dominated by natural gas power stations (86 percent of capacity) and three large hydropower plants (14 percent of capacity). On the other hand, off-grid generation occurs almost exclusively through expensive and polluting diesel and petrol generators, of which there are an estimated 60 million in the country, according to National Data Corporation 2016.

Admittedly, the federal government is aware of the predicament of Nigerians even though it provides lame excuses for power outage considering the billion of naira that has been pumped into the sector already. In January, Usman Mohammed, chief executive officer, TCN, said: “There are certain things that need to be put in place for us to have grid stability and one of them is that we need to put in adequate investments. One of the key investments that we need to do quickly is that we need to build another line between Benin and Omotosho.

“When we do that we think that we will be able to stabilise the grid because 70 percent of the instability we have is between Lagos and Benin. This, of course, is because we have so many generation stations located on that axis.”

Over the past decades successive governments have endeavoured to tackle Nigeria’s energy deficit problem by maintaining a monopoly in power provision and pumping money into the sector. Since 1999, governments have spent on average about $2 billion annually on electricity provision, but with little service improvements to show for it.

Privatisation of the sector may have freed the sector from the state bureaucracy that previously hamstrung operations, but these utilities still encounter a myriad of structural problems that continue to hamper growth in the power sector. These include shortage of gas supply to thermal plants, high levels of unpaid electricity bills and the country’s outdated and poorly maintained transmission network, which the government still owns but put under private management.

Indeed, the transmission network cannot handle much more load than current peak electricity production. Unsurprisingly, many of the Discos have struggled to make progress, especially as they have had to contend with ageing facilities requiring substantial amounts of investments to upgrade and expand.

Acknowledging the legacy issues in the sector, Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing, insisted that the federal government was working hard to fix the power sector, stressing that despite the country’s electricity challenges, Nigeria was still exporting power to Republics of Benin, Niger and Togo.

In a statement, the minister noted that in terms of population as a function of energy need of a country, “Niger is running on 80MW; Republic of Togo, 200MW, less than Abuja; Ghana is about 3,000MW installed capacity and they are not producing all of that. Lagos alone is getting 1,200MW; one state, half of another country. So we must understand the dynamics of electricity use.”

The minister called for collective effort to resolve the nation’s challenges rather than putting the country down. He also reiterated the federal government’s commitment to the full implementation of the Power Sector Recovery Programme as a means of solving the seeming intractable challenges in the nation’s power sector.

In order to address the issues in the power sector, federal government is planning to use portions of its 40 percent shares in the 11 electricity distribution companies, Discos, to raise funds for the expansion of the distribution networks. Fashola, who stated this after recent federal executive council meeting, said the council approved the ministry’s memo targeted at providing a framework of investment in expanding the distribution network so that it could deliver an extra 2000MW of electricity.

According to him, electricity can be generated but cannot be distributed to Nigerians due to limitations in the distribution network. “Nigeria today has 2000MW of electricity that cannot reach consumers because of lack of distribution capacity. Also presently, Nigeria can generate 7,000MW of electricity. The TCN following extensive grid expansion in the last two years, also now has the capacity to wheel the 7,000MW.

“But bottlenecks exist at the distribution level, with only 5,000MW of distribution capacity; hence the need for expansion. The framework for investment to improve distribution capacity will involve competitive international tendering and procurement. The federal government will contribute 40 percent of the needed investment based on its 40 percent Disco ownership, while the Discos will contribute 60 percent,” he said.

However, the poor electricity supply in the country has long been seen by ordinary Nigerians as evidence of the ineffectiveness of the government at all levels. The situation has not improved much since the privatisation of the sector in 2013, even with continued government subsidies for some users.

Now, faced with general elections come 2019, the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has the challenge of convincing frustrated electricity consumers that it has the expertise to achieve constant, stable and nationwide electricity supply as they promised in 2015.

Whatever the challenges maybe, the Buhari-led government should always remember the promises it made to Nigerians during 2015 general elections. According to the All Progressives Congress, APC, manifesto, the party and by extension President Buhari promised to generate, transmit and distribute at least 20,000MW of electricity within four years and increase it to 50,000MW with a view to achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within 10 years. But from the look of things, the promise looks like a mirage.

– Feb. 11, 2018 @ 4:00 GMT |

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