From Dennis Mernyi, Abuja
THAT the drastic decline in power generation, transmission and distribution in the country, which has continued to threaten the nation’s economy, is a big headache to President Muhammadu Buhari is certainly not in doubt. But what many are worried about are his plans to achieve the 10,000mw promised Nigerians in his opening address at the National Economic Council Retreat held on March 22, 2016.
This is because as long as the menace of power shortages persist, Nigeria’s economy, its currency and ability to earn more will remain under immense pressure.
It must be admitted that the above challenge, coupled with the current petroleum products scarcity, constitute the biggest setback for the already crumbling economy.
As of today, several electricity generation plants have been grounded because of gas supply shortage. This was even made worse when the hydro power plants crashed recently due to very low water levels and putting them temporarily out of use.
For sometime now, the nation’s power generation capacity has been staggering with no balance as to convince anyone that Buhari’s dream of 10,000mw in the next three years is achievable. For instance, only recently and for the first time in the history of Nigeria, its power generation capacity crumbled to zero megawatt for three hours on Thursday, April 1.
Data from the country’s System Operator showed that at about 12:58pm on Thursday, no power generation company in Nigeria could produce a single megawatt of electricity. This embarrassing development really does not show the country as being serious with power generation as to attain 10,000mw in 3 years.
The collapse, according to the report, lasted for three hours. This then means that between 12:58pm and 3pm on Thursday, no part of the world’s most populous black nation had electricity.
“The power crisis being experienced nationwide since Tuesday last week had for the first time worsened resulting to the total system collapse. At that point, the nation went down to ground zero, with all the Discos receiving zero megawatts allocation from the System Operator,” an operator in the power sector said.
These severe setbacks capable of plunging the country into total blackout for a long period came as President Muhammadu Buhari had told Nigerians that his government has mapped out plans to generate about 10,000 megawatts of electricity without giving any specific or definite approaches to realise this target.
However, while President Buhari was promising Nigerians on March 22 at the opening session of National Economic Council Retreat on the economy at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja, that in three years his administration will produce 10,000 megawatts, his Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Mustapha Shehuri, also disclosed plans by government to achieve a generation target of 25,000 megawatts by 2020.
Shehuri spoke at the fifth induction ceremony of the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria Graduate Skills Development Programme in Abuja. It can only be imagined how government would achieve all these in the face of its poor finances.
As a matter of fact, some stakeholders have described the President’s statement was mere political commentary often made by the nation’s politicians to win people’s confidence.
This is not the first time of experiencing power crises in the history of Nigeria. It was former President Goodluck Jonathan who had touted the same 10,000 capacity target in 2010 when he initiated the National Power Roadmap.
Unfortunately, it never saw the light of day. That is why many believe that the 2019 target set by the President could also be another political statement by a typical Nigerian politician.
As if to prove that President Buhari’s promise to deliver 10,000 megawatts of electricity to Nigerians in the next three years would be near impossible, information from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has shown that power generation in the country dropped to 2,841 megawatts, a few days after the President’s promise. What that means is that the power equation in the country is getting worse, thus creating the impression that Buhari’s promise could be another mission impossible.
But except by divine intervention, the general belief among industry players is that the Presidential promise cannot be met, based on the current state of the Nigerian power sector, which is characterised by not just weak and obsolete systems, but also faulty operating systems.
Those who belong to that school of thought argue that to achieve the set target by 2019, the generating plants must be able to produce at least an additional 3,333mw every year over the next three years, which is also looks impossible.
They may not be wrong because aside from the inadequate generating capacity, the nation is yet to construct the needed transmission grid for the evacuation of the power output.
Another area of concern is the fact that transmission system in Nigeria comprises 330KV and 132KV circuits and substations, while the highest ever maximum daily energy output distributed across the country was attained in February this year when the nation recorded 5,074 megawatts of power generation.