The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, recently revealed that about 90 million Nigerians have no access to electricity. The minister, who was represented by the Acting Director in the ministry, Faruk Yabo, at the annual international conference of the Centre for Petroleum, Energy, Economics and Law (CPEEL), University of Ibadan, lamented that despite abundant sources of energy in Africa, such as natural gas, crude oil, coal and renewable energy, half of about 1.5 billion people, who lack electricity in the world live in Africa.
We commend the minister for publicly acknowledging the power supply challenge and urge him to find solutions to the problem. Good enough, the minister has underscored the fact that for the government to ensure electricity supply to all Nigerians, the focus should be on developing renewable energy along with conventional power plants.
Fashola also disclosed that some of the federal government’s strategy to improve electricity supply include implementation of off-grid renewable energy solutions such as rural mini-grids, stand alone home solutions, Independent Power Projects (IPPs) for federal universities, teaching hospitals and large-scale solar PV projects.
Some of the energy projects expected to be completed and commissioned this year, the minister said, include the 10MW Katsina wind farm, 30MW Gurara Hydropower, I29MW Dadin Kowa Hydropower, 40MW Kashimbila Hydropower, 700MW Zungeru Hydropower and 14 Solar Independent Power Projects (IPPs). Government must ensure that these projects are completed and commissioned as promised.
Besides, we enjoin the government to emulate other African countries that have overcome the energy supply problem such as South Africa and Ghana. We say this because it would be useful to profit from their experiences. Since power supply remains a veritable gateway to rapid industrialisation and economic development for any country, the government must quickly tackle the energy supply deficit.
At the inception of the present political dispensation in 1999, the nation had a generating capacity of 2,000MW. Despite injecting over $16 billion into the beleaguered power sector since 1999, the situation has not significantly improved. At present, Nigeria generates about 7,000 MW. This is far below the expectations of Nigerians. It is estimated that Nigeria should generate about 40,000 MW to ensure stable power supply. For this dream to be realised, it is projected that $2 billion must be invested in the power sector annually for ten years. Sadly, the nation’s annual budgetary allocation to power sector is so small that it will be difficult to achieve stable power supply so soon.
Since most manufacturing industries require adequate power supply to function effectively, the nexus between power supply and job creation should not be lost on the government. There is no doubt that steady power supply is crucial to the industrialisation of the country. The fact that many companies have shutdown and relocated to other neighbouring countries in West Africa due to power shortage and other factors, is not encouraging.
The nation’s power supply deficit is apparently obvious in the textile industries where stable power supply is critical. The nation’s textile industries that used to be mass employers of labour could no longer do so due to poor power supply and unfavourable business climate.
The situation has led to closure of most of our textile industries, loss of jobs and influx of foreign textile materials into the country.
The government should consider entering into strategic partnerships with relevant foreign partners to solve the problem in the power sector. Let the government tap from hydro, thermal, solar, wind and coal sources of energy to address the electricity supply gap. This approach, we believe, is the best way to tackle the nation’s power challenge.