The recent report by the World Bank that Nigeria is among three countries with the largest electricity deficits in the world can hardly be faulted considering our decades of epileptic power supply. Other countries that shared the unenviable position with Nigeria include the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. The global bank in its new report noted that sustainable energy will remain elusive without addressing the inequalities.
The bank also warned that unless efforts are scaled up significantly in Nigeria, the country will hardly ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy by 2030.
Nigeria’s power situation is so bad that it has apparently defied all solutions. Not even the Federal Government’s interventions to revamp the ailing sector have helped matters. The government’s promise to increase the nation’s electricity generation to 11,000 MW has also not been fulfilled. Across the country, Nigerians have lampooned the nation’s power crisis which has led many homes and companies to remain in perpetual darkness. It is pathetic that the performance of the power sector has not adequately reflected the huge financial interventions made in the sector by the successive administrations in the country. For the end users, the decline in service is worrisome. According to the System Operator, an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the nation’s power generation is still below 4,000 megawatts despite recent interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The government had, through the CBN, pumped about N1.5trillion in intervention funds into the power sector in the last two years. Over $16billion was reportedly invested in the sector during the administration of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, with little to show for it. Due to the daunting power challenge, many manufacturing companies have either closed shop or relocated to neighbouring West African countries. That has equally impacted negatively on the economy as power supply is vital for economic growth and development.
Worse still, Nigeria has also been listed among the top 20 countries that lack access to clean fuel and technologies for cooking. While other top five most populous low-and middle-income countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan, have increased their combined access rate to clean fuel by two per cent, Nigeria is yet to make progress in that direction. This will invariably affect Nigeria’s plan to achieve the universal target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 7).
It is unfortunate that almost 61 years since independence, Nigeria cannot meet the power needs of its citizens. As poor power supply persists across the country, the government should do much more than it is currently doing in power sector reforms. This is the time the government should, as a matter of priority, implement the recommendations contained in the Siemens deal, signed two years ago. The Siemens roadmap is the plan, which the government intends to follow through to achieve the 25 gigawatts power generation target.
The plan runs in three phases. The first phase is meant to deliver 7,000 MW before the end of this year. Through the agreement, Nigeria is supposed to increase power generation to 11,000 MW by next year, as well as supply this amount of electricity to consumers nationwide. Rather than do that, consumers have had their tariffs hiked astronomically without any improvement in power supply. Cost of energy is raising the cost of production.
Government officials have offered excuses for the delay in implementing the Siemens deal, citing lots of problems with infrastructure, especially in transmission and distribution. At the same time, Distribution companies (Discos) often come with their own excuses such as obsolete equipment and paucity of funds. The unpalatable excuses have worsened the electricity deficits and economic growth.
Let the government show enough political commitment to improve the quality of electricity supply in the country. We, therefore, call for realignment and sincerity of purpose on the part of all parties in the electricity value chain. There is need for the construction of more power stations across the country, as well as providing more high capacity 133KV transmission lines. Last year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) gave over $200 million facility for transmission lines network expansion.
Meanwhile, the World Bank, AfDB, and French financial powerhouse, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), have reportedly concluded plans to raise about $568 million for the West African Power Pool (WAPP) North Core Regional Interconnection project. This involves the construction of 875km of 330kv lines and 24km transmission lines from Nigeria to Burkina Faso, through Niger and Benin Republic with associated substations.
While this is commendable, we call on the government to ensure effective generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. To overcome the power challenge, there must be synergy among all stakeholders in the sector.