By Olakunle Olafioye
Nigeria’s embarrassing electricity woes continued last week with the reported disqualification of the country by the World Health Organisation, WHO, from benefiting from the organisation’s global COVID-19 vaccine bid over what was described as the nation’s poor power supply and storage facility.
The COVAX global initiative had claimed that it declined Nigeria’s application shortlist for the Pfizer vaccines following the country’s inability to meet the standard requirements of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius.
The Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, at a virtual press conference disclosed that only four African countries were shortlisted for the vaccine from the 13 nations that applied.
According to Moeti, WHO could not risk the Pfizer vaccines being wasted. “Around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries – Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia. This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing, but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at -70 degrees Celsius.
The Federal Government had earlier announced that it expected to receive 100,000 doses through the COVAX initiative, which was set up to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.
However, in his reaction, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, described the report as fake, saying that Nigeria had the capacity to store the vaccines and took journalists on a tour of its facility in Abuja.
Not a few analysts have, however, expressed their disappointment over the development, with many describing it as a national embarrassment.
The disqualification of Nigeria due to the poor power situation in the country has once again brought to the fore the country’s growing misfortunes over the inability of authorities to find lasting solutions to the power crisis despite the billions of dollars that had been sunk into the sector over the last few decades.
Analysts have always blamed the poor power situation in the country on corruption, poor policies and regulations, as well as the poor management of its operations, thus impacting negatively on the nation’s economy as both commercial and industrial sectors have become heavily reliant on self-generated power, which is believed to account for over 50 per cent of electricity consumption in the country.
The economic impact of Nigeria’s poor power crisis is indeed colossal. From the informal to the formal sector of the nation’s economy, the poor power situation remains a major source of threats to businesses and business owners in the country.
Mr James Olukayode, a welder, said that the power problem has made his trade more of a nightmare and major source of worry to most artisans who rely on electricity.
“Without regular power supply there is practically nothing one can achieve in welding work. Unfortunately, this has remained the major source of concerns for people in this line of trade. The problem, for me personally, is not that of lack of job, but getting electricity to deliver the work you are given. Sometimes, I resort to sleeping over in my workshop with the intention of working overnight in order to be able to meet up with customer’s deadlines.
“It’s this frustrating experience that has made some of our people to leave the trade and venture into other areas like riding Okada. Another sad development arising from this challenge is that young people are being discouraged from learning the trade because of this very obvious reasons,” Olukayode said.
Commenting on the negative impact of poor power situation in the country, the Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale, said that Nigeria’s shortage of reliable power supply is a constraint on the country’s economic growth.
According to Olawale, electrical power is an important component for the development of any economy.
“Besides capital and labour, it is regarded as a third important production factor in economic models. Power inadequacy has been identified as a key factor with regards to the old industries struggling for survival and the slow development pace of new industries in Nigeria and the same has greatly impacted the nation’s economy negatively,” he noted.
The NECA boss opined that access to power supply would expand the number and variety of business and job opportunities available.
“Electricity means that small businesses, such as barbers hairdressing salons operators, laundromats, welders etc, rely on energy to function. Energy also leads to the creation of new markets, businesses and job openings, which provide more opportunities for individuals to earn an income and lift them, their families and communities out of poverty and thereby impacting the economy positively.
“A lack of a consistent access to reliable power, costs businesses and the economy as a whole. Even with access to energy, unreliable power makes operating a business even more challenging than usual. Nigerian business and manufacturing enterprises experience power outages. As a result, firms lose sales revenues and in the informal sector, where back-up generators are limited, losses can be as higher. These losses have severe consequences for the health and growth of the economy and impugn other set developmental goals,” he said.
Olawale, therefore, recommended that for Nigeria to significantly grow economically, the development of the energy industries remained a strong panacea.
“With Nigeria’s potential electricity generating capacity of 12,522 megawatts from all existing plants, there is need for the Federal Government to review existing policies in the power sector reforms and take full advantage of the ongoing reform efforts and continue to boost the nation’s power generating capacity and distribution nationwide,” he said.
Also reacting, the Director General, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf said the inadequacy in the public power supply remains a major source of challenge to most operators in the economy.
He, however, expressed optimism that with ongoing reform in the nation’s power sector some of the challenges would be addressed.
His words: “The inadequacy in the public power supply has been creating serious challenges for operators in the economy. Many operators have to depend on alternative sources of energy like depending on fuel to power their generators, this alternative source of energy is more expensive than having access to public power supply. Secondly, this alternative source has serious environmental effects. This has equally contributed to the inability of many businesses to compete very well because of high energy cost.
“But the good news is that with the ongoing reform in the power sector, talking about the issue of cost reflective tarrif, the partnership with Siemens to bring in some electrical equipment and to support the ECN. These arrangements will also help to build the capacity in the power sector. So, we hope that the cost reflective tarrif will help to mitigate this problems. It is not that the government is not doing anything; some of these steps are beginning to yeild results.”