It is lamentable that about 90 per cent of Nigerians and 2.3 billion other people across the world lack access to safe and efficient electricity. The disclosure made by Mr. Christophe Begat, the Managing Director, Anglophone West Africa, Schneider Electric, a global energy and digital technology company, calls for urgent action by governments of the affected countries to meet the electricity needs of their citizens. In Nigeria where electricity supply has been epileptic, the call has become more urgent now than ever before. A situation where an estimated 90 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to safe and efficient electricity speaks volumes of the enormity of the power sector challenge.
This is not the first time that the nation’s electricity problem is attracting serious attention. Last year, then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, noted that not only that about 90 million Nigerians had no access to electricity, half of an estimated 1.5 billion people without electricity supply in the world live in Africa, and majority of them in Nigeria. Yet, the critical importance of electricity to the economy cannot be overemphasised. Without doubt, stable power supply will enhance industrial development and enable the formal and informal sectors contribute immensely to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Despite the huge investment in the power sector, it is regrettable that access to safe and efficient electricity remains one of the biggest challenges facing the government.
Efforts by present administration to resolve the power supply challenge is yet to yield the expected results, causing many businesses either to shut down or relocate to neighbouring countries. In urban and rural areas across the country, millions of people do not have access to electricity in spite of the availability of about 7,000MW of transmission capacity. The current total electricity distribution by the Distribution Companies (Discos) is below 4,000MW.
The Discos have often cited lack of infrastructure to absorb and deliver grid power to end-users as the main cause of the problem. In the past four years, the government had saved the Discos from insolvency through bailouts and other incentives, believing that by now they should be able to surmount the challenges. Unfortunately, they are still wobbling. The development is pushing the government to mull the option of repossessing some of the Discos, which have been declared “technically” insolvent. It is likely that this may happen after the final performance review of the operators in December this year. If the plans pull through, it would cost the government a total of N736billion.
Therefore, we support every thoughtful measure that will make it possible for Nigerians to have access to safe and efficient electricity supply. It is unfortunate that none of the Federal Government’s power projects embarked upon to resolve the power supply challenge is yet to be completed and commissioned. These include the 10MW Katsina wind farm, the 30MW Gurara hydro-power, 129MW Dadinkowa hydropower, 40MW Kashimbila hydropower, 700MW Zungeru hydropower and 14 solar power systems. For Nigerians to have access to safe and efficient electricity, these projects must be completed forthwith. Getting them completed will drastically reduce the cost of doing business, boost investors’ confidence and stimulate economic growth.
We recall that the Federal Government had in July signed a six-year electricity roadmap agreement with Siemens. The first phase of the agreement is expected to increase the nation’s electricity supply to 11,000MW. The power deal covers the delivery of software maintenance for four years. The power deal has equally raised the hope of Nigerians that the perennial power crisis would soon be resolved. While Nigerians expect the government to deliver on the power sector promise, it should explore other sources of power generation such as hydro, thermal, solar, wind that other countries in Africa have embraced to solve their electricity needs.
However, the government should lay more emphasis on renewable energy. Given Nigeria’s power supply needs, the present 4, 000mw transmission is grossly inadequate for an economy as huge as ours. South Africa has attained over 45,000MW electricity transmission capacity. Clearly, the nation’s power supply deficit has its telling effects on key sectors of the economy, including manufacturing.
Since the manufacturing sector is the backbone of the economy, the unstable power supply has resulted in huge losses in revenue and employment. The high cost of energy is more often transferred to the consumer in the form of high prices of goods and services. As power is germane to economic growth, Nigeria may not likely meet its projected growth plan if the power sector is not urgently fixed. Therefore, the government and other stakeholders should work in concert to give all Nigerians efficient and stable electricity.