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Despite privatisation electricity supply still lulls

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MUCH has been said and written about the Nigeria power (electricity) sector, but definitely not the last discourse on vexed issues surrounding it is anywhere near. From total government control, NEPA metamorphosed into PHCN without meaningful operational change.

Thus, forcing government to rescind total or direct control and shift its further management into the hands of private investors under privatisation arrangement. Again, the name changed from PHCN to various DISCOs such as the Enugu Electricity Distribution Companies (EEDC) with different service areas in partitions of the country.

Before each parent of the power sector acquired and adopted the perennial sick-child of the Nigeria power sector, there had always been a common symptomatic manifestation of its debilitating anaemia. These include but not limited to; constant power outage, load shading, moribund facilities, questionable tariff system, management incompetency and a whole lot of others.

Nigeria’s economy had in the past three decades, suffered untold lull and retrogression due largely to poor energy supply in the overall economic life. Manufacturing sector has hitherto received the hardest knock in this topsy- turvy power arrangement that had driven the country’s economy for 58- years  and worsened in the last 30-years.

Successive governments had tried within the limits of their powers to address power problems in Nigeria, but none could be said to have successfully discovered the antidote to the intractable  disease the sector is bedeviled with. To compound crass inefficiency, several billions of dollars had gone into the sector with a view to salvaging it from total collapse, yet, the doom proved inevitable.

Whether Nigerian leaders, military or civilians were shortsighted on the apparent valley its energy was sliding into and the devastating consequences bound to come with it that she had to toy with such important instrument in her economic life until the year, 2000, when former president Olusegun Obasanjo began a reparation exercise of the sector with over 16billion dollars wasted and nothing convincing to Nigerians of any meaningful progress to show for attempted effort.

Whatever the money and the efforts, Nigeria’s total energy generation slumped to paltry 2800mega watts before his administration quit the stage for good in 2007. The clear bleak the sector faced forced the regimes of Late Musa Yar’adua and ex- President Goodluck Johnathan to contemplate privatisation scheme that eventually handed private sectors its ownership through sales. The technical expertise that went into the sales arrangement which made possible the unbundling of the whole structure from Generation, Transmission to Distribution gave hope for a radical change so much needed in the sector.

Surprisingly, after seven years of tinkering privatisation in the sector, the system is yet to witness significant change. With Nigeria’s population estimated to be hitting 240million, the current power generation hovers between maximum of 5000 to 6000megawatts according to available statistics. Even when it is claimed in some quarters that it is sufficient to drive the economy forward, the continued power outages in many parts of the country and substantial load shading on daily basis contradicts the notion. Apparently, while the population is geometrically growing, the total energy generation, transmission and distribution is struggling to maintain a clear dysfunctional level.

Comparatively, South African country with a population of 58,065.097 million  as at 2019,  generates a total domestic energy of 51,309megawatts, with 46,776megawatts representing 91.2 percent coming from thermal stations, while 4,533megawatts, representing 8.8 percent, generated from renewable energy sources, according to South African Department of Energy,  while Nigeria boasts of maximum 6000megawatts against a population of about 240million. According to Ikeja Transmission Unit Chairman, Kola Adeshina, “for a country to develop a functional power, she needs to know her population. The infrastructure should reflect the population.”

The situation with Nigeria goes beyond infrastructure challenge. Funding has presented more difficulties than any factors in the chain. While the Gencos (generation companies) and TCs (transmission companies) are in horse race, the Discos provide tunes incongruent for harmony in the whole hog. Claims of overriding debt burden seem to make efficiency difficult for the Discos, at least, going by their persistent position. They had among other things insisted that unwilling-to-pay consumers put enormous debt burden on their shoulders. But how can this be justified, when against legislative orders for metering of all customers, they have continued to resort to estimated billing format to substantial number of their customers than accurate metering?

Specifically, South East is yet to hit the ground running with her manufacturing potentials, despite the flowery promises of EEDC to improve on power supply in all parts of Nigeria, South East inclusive. Onitsha, Anambra State seems not to be connected with this promised improved service package of this company. The absence of prepaid meters to great number of energy users questions the seriousness of EEDC and its asset registration and customer enumeration exercise long embarked upon by the organisation.

It is heart warming to know that efforts are being made to build more power substations in strategic places as had been made known to journalists by Head of Communications, EEDC, Emeka Eze some months ago. According to him, ” there are plans to deload some feeders and construct more injections substations to boost electricity supply in identified locations within the network.” The power substations are supposed to serve some parts of Awka environs when they eventually come on board, according to Eze.

It is equally important to let the service providers know that many areas and streets in Onitsha are yet to know any difference between NEPA, PHCN or EEDC in terms of power supply as prolonged power outages with high estimated bills still the order of the day. At Abaluku Street, in Nkpor, Idemili North Local Government, flicker of light had not been seen for over six months now due to transformer breakdown. Whose duty is it to fix equipment dysfunction, customers or investors?

Day in, day out, small and medium business enterprises are shutting down due to poor power situation. Super markets, welding shops, saloons, bakeries, paint factories and many others are closing down in numbers due to epileptic power supply. This is not inclusive of the overwhelming impact on the wider economic circle, where real sectors are grappling with survivor struggle. The manufacturing sector has much to weep for at the thought of power situation in the country.

It is expected that at this point, much progress would have been made with the emergence of new power sector driven by private hands, that is yet to be seen, while the country and her citizens continue to bear the brunt of this burden. It may be argued that all power problems may not end in one day. However, convincing practical measures have to be on ground to pave way for attainment of expected height.

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