The World Bank says electricity supply in Nigeria has improved but the masses and business community are yet to feel the real impact
By Anayo Ezugwu
Despite the federal government’s promise of ensuring steady power supply, Nigerians have not been able to enjoy uninterrupted electricity since the inception of the present administration. Although perennial power outage in the country predates the President Muhammadu Buhari, he raised hope of solving the problem in record time before he assumed office. Right now, all the sectors – construction, education, finance and manufacturing etc – are all negatively effected by the poor power supply which has crippled activities in the nation’s economy.
Capacity utilisation of some companies have gone down just as cost of doing business have equally gone up. According to Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, companies spent about N6.5 trillion in 2017 to run their generators. As at December 28, 2018, the power generation capacity of the government is 4,216 megawatts. To make matters worse, the government is not taking responsibility for the epileptic power supply going by Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing’s statement in December last year that the administration should not be held responsible. This is contrary to his previous statement during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration that a responsible government should ensure constant electricity supply within six months.
This development saddens many Nigerians who are living in darkness, especially artisans.
For instance, Hamsat Ibrahim, resident of Ifedayo Estate Alagbole, Ajuwon, Lagos, describes the power situation in her area as terrible. She said the supply is very bad that residents of the area can’t even boost of five hours power supply daily.
According to Ibrahim, the light situation is too bad to the extent that even businesses here are collapsing mostly those depending on electricity to power their businesses such as those selling sachet water, soft drinks, frozen foods and salons.
“The government needs to do something about it. They need to wake up instead of all these election campaigns going on. What we need in this country is somebody that can give us 24-hour power supply or at least 20-hour to enable us remain in business and support our families,” she said.
Ibrahim regretted: “The situation has been the same even before the festive period but now it is worst. Then we were just trying to manage because sometimes they give approximately five hours of electricity per day. But now is not like that. It has gone so bad that we hardly have light at night to sleep with.”
Similarly, Regina Dennis, resident of Ijegun Road, Ikotun, Lagos, said the power supply has not been constant within the neighbourhood for a very long time. She said electricity is being rationed in the area.
According to her, the arrangement is that they will have three days on and a day off. But in most cases, the days that they should be on, they hardly have light. According to her, the situation is so bad that they don’t even know the on and off days anymore. “There is no electricity here,” she said.
But the situation may not be as bleak as some Nigerians always paint. For instance, residents of Ikeja, Arepo, Ogun State, Enugu Metropolis, Federal Capital Territory and so many other parts of the country do enjoy constant power supply. Kingsley Chukwuma, who resides at Iba, Ojo, Lagos, said there is an improvement of power supply in the neighbourhood. He said before Christmas, the power supply was very bad but has changed since the beginning of this month.
“Within the last few days we have been enjoying constant power supply. And I sleep with electricity almost every day since then. Even in Ojo military barrack where I do my business, there is an improvement,” he said.
Even a recent World Bank report attests to this. The bank in its “Year in Review: 2018 in 14 Charts,” stated that electricity access in Nigeria improved from 40.8 percent in 2010 to 59.3 percent in 2016. The Bretton Woods institution says access to power in the country improved at an annual rate of 1.88 percent in the period.
Notwithstanding this report and the improvements recorded, investigations showed that the improvement did not measure up to the huge investments of recent years in the sector. Nigerians are grossly underserved with, perhaps, one of the lowest energy per-capita rates in the world. Darkness is still an irritating companion of most Nigerians every day of the year.
Individuals and businesses resort to self-help through the use of generators. The epileptic nature of power supply makes the country one of the harshest environments for business. The situation is compounded by repeated cases of vandalism of gas pipeline and transmission facilities which also result in low generation and loss of financial revenues in the sector. The electricity generating companies and the distribution companies are all complaining of poor revenues from their business activities after more than six years that the sector was privatised.
This might be the reason Fashola in December 2018, told Nigerians to blame businessmen who operate the power sector for poor power supply in the country. He argued that the federal government had already privatised the sector.
“If your telephone is not working, it is not the minister of communication that you go to. Let us be very clear. For those of you, who want to weaponise electricity, face the businessmen who have taken it up. Let us be honest. If your bank over-charges you interest, is it the minister of finance you go to? This is now a private business by Act of Parliament 2005,” he said.
But Sunday Oduntan, executive director, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, ANED, said instead of blaming the generation and distribution companies, there are some challenges that need to be tackled by many stakeholders, especially the federal government, the Discos and gas suppliers. “These include: lack of liquidity that hampers operations; energy theft which culminates in leakages and losses.
“The vandalisation of facilities that occur too often is also a serious problem that leads to huge deficit. No bank would lend you money unless your business is bankable. Let me re-state for emphasis that this liquidity crisis is a major threat to the power sector. The revenue shortfalls adversely affect the ability of the Discos to make capital investments in metering, network expansion, equipment rehabilitation and replacement that are critical for service delivery,” he said.