The decision of the Federal Government to dissolve the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP) is a cosmetic approach to the serious ailment bedeviling the nation’s power sector. We strongly believe that the current energy crisis requires more comprehensive, hands-on initiatives. Sadly, Nigerians are so far not convinced that successive governments in the country, including the present one, have exhibited the determination and sincerity of purpose required to tackle the power conundrum. This unfortunate situation subsists despite the huge investments in the sector. The country is currently facing one of its worst energy crises in years.
The Presidential Task Force on Power was set up by the immediate former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to drive the implementation of the roadmap on power. It was also charged with the monitoring of the planning and execution of various short-term projects on power generation, transmission and distribution, which were considered critical to meeting the targets outlined in the roadmap.
The winding up of the task force was confirmed recently by the spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Timothy Oyedeji. Nonetheless, the crucial question is: which way forward for the power sector? This question has become necessary in view of the unending energy crises in the country.
In recent months, the nation has largely been groping in the dark, with the national grid reported to have collapsed at a time. Electricity supply to the nation remained below 3000 megawatts for several months.
Coupled with the acute fuel shortage nationwide, the country has been on a complete energy paralysis, with attendant untold hardship on the people and commercial activities.
Considering the importance of the power sector to the nation’s economy, the government will need to look beyond the dissolution of the Presidential Task Force for answers to our power problems.
What is needed is concrete action that can immediately address and rectify the worsening electricity supply situation. Nothing less than government’s maximum attention is required in this sector.
President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly assured Nigerians that the country will be able to generate10,000mw of electricity within the next three years. But, the facts on ground do not support this optimism. At the height of the energy crisis a few weeks ago, about 18 of the nation’s 23 power generation plants were reportedly either broken down or lacked vital gas for effective operations.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, confirmed that much recently. He identified shortage of the gas required to power the turbines, and problems at the Forcados end of the national grid, among the challenges fuelling our power supply problems and making the national grid vulnerable to outages. He said past governments made serious “errors” in the sector and that the “present government will not want to compound them”, with “quick fixes”, which cannot solve the problems.
It is regrettable that no sustained efforts were made by successive governments in the country to refurbish our power plants, while the funds provided for the procurement of equipment were mostly misapplied. This is why the country has never been able to produce more than 5000mw of electricity at any given time.
The need to resolve the energy crisis has become more urgent than ever. The sector needs a multi-pronged approach, with short, medium and long-term components. The country must not continue with the present epileptic supply of electricity. The government should give full attention to the power sector and effectively address the problems of vandalism and shortage of gas supply to the thermal power plants. It should also not neglect other areas in the power supply value chain.
Government should study how other countries got their power sector matrix right. It bears repeating that at this critical period in our national life when the diversification of the economy has become imperative in our quest for sustainable economic growth, we cannot afford to neglect the power sector which is the catalyst that can drive this aspiration. If the government gets things right in this critical sector, the gains will have multiplier effects on other sectors of the economy.
Public expectation is that three years after the formal privatisation of the power sector and the takeover of the power plants by Generation Companies (GENCOS) and Distribution Companies (DISCOS), there ought to be a remarkable improvement in power supply across the country. Instead, power supply has worsened.
Apart from driving industrial development, stable power supply is vital for foreign investment inflow into the country. We, therefore, urge the government to do whatever is required to end the current power supply nightmare in the country.