Where is the power? An answer is needed given the colossal expenditure on power. Furthermore, with a wide range of power generators blowing out carbon dioxide and deafening sound, this is a pertinent question to answer in this twilight months of the President Buhari administration. Answering this question is also necessary and preparatory to the upcoming World Future Energy Summit planned for January 2023 in Abu Dhabi.
Power is extremely critical to human well-being and economic productivity. Interestingly, one of the founding fathers of this country, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, was clear on this matter. In 1959, while addressing the visiting Queen of England, the Sardauna said, “In industrial development, we are in our infancy, but the success of the great textile mill in Kaduna, the latest in Africa, is a potent showing of what we can achieve when the cheap electric power, which we plan to provide, becomes available in our commercial centres”. He had no enough time to deliver the plan and neither has his inheritors been able to deliver cheap electric power.
With the inability to deliver the plan, Nigeria has degenerated to a bad level with respect to power supply.
To keep to expectations and meet basic needs, individuals, public and corporate agencies have adequately been coerced to source alternative power by all means. As a nation, this is not a viable option to life, industrialisation and development.
Political leaders of Nigeria after the first republic, lack the mission and vision of making Nigeria an important partner in global production and commercial system. So, they are continuously oblivious of the critical role of electricity in our lives and livelihoods. The stakeholders of cheap electricity provision are basically clogs in the wheel of progress.
The regulator, the National Energy Regulatory Commission, is only looking out for how much it can rake in from generator imports. This is inherent in the commission’s outlined fees payable on each imported generator based on KVA capacities. This has implications for how much the commission cares about delivering cheap electricity.
Citizens are often told, the finances of the government are in the red. Part of the measure is the creation of several companies to which the federal government ceded electricity generation and distribution. That being so, one wonders why the Central Bank of Nigeria will provide the distribution companies the sum of N1.8 trillion to buy equipment and improve revenue base. As business entities, the distribution companies do not deserve this gift. The companies should not be fed from our treasury. More so as roads, schools and hospitals are deprived of funds.
Added to this wasteful spending, Nigerian businesses spend very huge money importing electricity generators. In a report, only 15 firms bought generators worth US $88.2 million acquired from the Central Bank of Nigeria in a week. This is utterly reckless in the nation’s economic doldrums.
Likewise, the federal government is known to spend humongous amounts of money on generators. In 2022, the government budgeted N104 billion for the purchase, fuelling and maintenance of generators. Wait for it. The Federal Ministry of Finance, in 2022 kept aside N82.03 billion for the purchase, fuelling and maintenance of generators.
The Ministry of Power, the overseer of power generation and distribution companies, plans to spend a paltry N168 million on generator affairs in 2022.
These expenditures notwithstanding, Nigeria is still overwhelmed by the massive importation of all sizes and shapes of lamps that barely last a moment. This, like generators, is a drain on the foreign exchange and the economy. Since the lamps have short lifespans, there is a huge problem of e-waste.
As the largest importer of electric generators, Nigeria is by this the largest generator-based contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Africa. The ministries of environment and finance and the Central Bank should worry about the implications of all these.
From all these, certain issues are obvious. The distribution companies that take cash from the Central Bank do not need to empty our treasury to make the distribution system work. They are private investments and should not suck Nigeria dry. Those that contract and supply generators and other related services will be unhappy with a working national electricity supply system. Their revenues will dry up. The countries of origin of the generators will blow hot as controls will injure the balance of trade and their economy.
But can Nigerians forsake Nigeria to satisfy the whims and caprices of other entities? This should not be so. The solution is simple. The difficulty is that the government must be strong and firm. First, the government must create darkness in critical places. Nigeria must prohibit the importation of any model of generators. All planned expenditures on fuelling and maintenance of generators in those critical places must be cancelled.
The point is, whenever the national grid is off for any reason, darkness and possibly mosquitos must rule such places as Aso Rock, National Assembly, the Supreme Court, ministries and agencies and sleeping abodes of the chief executive officers. The principal operators of Nigeria must be granted the privilege to enjoy darkness as the bane of our nation. This will drive home the need to ensure the national grid works and continuously.
When the national grid is made to provide cheap electricity, industrial production will pick up at low energy costs. Quality of life will also shoot up. The several industries that have migrated out of Nigeria due high load of energy costs can be persuaded to return. Other industries that have collapsed due to operational costs will be revived. On top of all, the importation of all manner of generators and lamps will naturally become irrelevant.
The road to efficiency and greatness is tough and rough. We must take that path to render our energy supply efficient, affordable and accessible to all. This is the bedrock of national development. This is a potent way to answer the question: where is the power? This is the frame for Nigeria’s participation in the Future Energy Summit. The Future Energy Summit is not for nations that do not know how to deliver energy today.
Yunusa is the Executive Director Socioeconomic and Environment Advocacy Centre, Zaria