Column Opinion

Tinubu Must Solve That Power Problem

By Prince Charles Dickson Ph.D

One who hears and repeats a curse of the king is really cursing the king

Quickly last week, my office premises and environs did not have electricity and some few steps from my office is the Jos Electricity Distribution Company. The company is one I did rate a 4 out 0f 10 which by any standards is fair enough. So, they were powering the office with a generator, yes you heard me generator.

And I have seen this scenario, once or twice but it just occurred to me that we simply are not well as a people. However, truth be told worse things have happened.

A few years ago, the Bureau for Public Enterprise BPE sold NITEL, the nation’s elephant telecom company, to a building in Switzerland, it was a building housing a church, all the dance and drama. We soon let go. Just a reminder it was called PENTASCOPE. Years later, the father of a white cloth wearing former Honourable bought the NITEL house…The NITEL story remains a tale by moonlight, plenty of lies, half-truths, misinformation, propaganda, a potpourri of sorts.

How about the Steel Rolling Mill in Jos, Plateau, it was ‘racketered’ in that sweet sounding word privatization. Some journeymen bought all the assets, renamed it Zuma, today the only functional thing is the housing estate. The factory and machines have long been vandalized.

There was that drama of Daily Times, publishers of that ole time newspaper. Before I go far, a former Managing Director of the once pride of publishing told me “Charlie, Daily Times is like a big elephant, everybody comes and cuts his/her own and goes away.”

You need to appreciate that statement in context, at a time in point Daily Times had properties virtually everywhere Nigeria had a presence in the world. All that changed, what is left of the elephant was sold to some clowns and the rest is history…the elephant eventually slumped.

Let me spare us the story according to Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian Shipping Lines, or our textile industry in Kaduna state!

Anyway, my admonition is on our power sector, the Buhari administration is leaving a sector comatose after promises that power supply would get better, and indeed on some odd occasions I and many Nigerians have enjoyed more than 8hours of electricity. But don’t forget, it was not the norm, it was an exception. The President, his aides, and ministers made pledges but delivered very little in this respect.

I will put it in context, almost 200% increase in tariffs in 8 years, with more than 100 nations still paying cheaper for electricity, and depending on who’s statistics you are looking at, we have spent over N7 trillion on our power sector since 1999, with the bulk of that finding itself in private pockets.

We don’t have enough electricity but under the WAPP initiative to promote and develop power generation and transmission infrastructures as well as to coordinate power exchange among the ECOWAS member states. Nigeria currently supplies electricity to the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Niger.

The economic loss due to grid collapse is almost 3% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

I recall the drama of Enron, a failed American company that was reckless in its use of derivatives and special purpose entities. Mr. Tinubu, the incoming President started the IPP project in Nigeria with Enron then in Lagos. It is noteworthy that he was the first to challenge the monopoly of NEPA. He conceptualised the bulk purchase agreement. Obasanjo stopped the implementation. We wait to see what lies in wait and fate…

Put in perspective, with 12 Turbines, the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station is a 3,050 MW hydroelectric power project under development in Nigeria. When completed, it will be the largest power-generating installation in the country, and one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in Africa. It is still 6 years away from expected completion date of 2030 and costing US$5.8 billion

For those that did not know the Mambilla hydroelectric project was originally conceived in 1972, it could advance only after 35 years when China’s Gezhouba Group awarded a contract to develop the project with 2,600MW installed capacity in 2007, all still na voicemail.

At 50 years old, Kainji hydroelectric dam is the oldest functioning power plant in Nigeria. Kainji is one of 3 major dams in Niger state. The others are the Jebba dam (1985) and the Shiroro dam (1990). A fourth dam is currently under construction at Zungeru.

The Federal Government in February 2023 announced the preferred bidder for the concession of the 700 megawatts Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Plant for a fee of $70,000,251 per year for a period of 30 years

We have blamed witches for power outages. We have since forgotten the Minister who resigned and the controversies surrounding all that power scams.

And then the many Chinese loans taken, yet we are on the same track, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria has been sold and the drama continues. But if you know Nigerians and Nigeria, it is only a repeat episode, nothing new.

Most of the owners simply bought PHCN properties for peanuts. Owners that have no required expertise, distribution companies aptly called DISCOs that see the venture as new ‘oil wells’ dancing around our collective psyche.

Looking at the best efforts of the government or the DISCOs, I simply recall those days when we read, the novel by Adaora Ulasi, many things we don’t understand. What captivated me then, was not just in the story but that title.

Yet, from PHCN, to NEPA, onetime ECN, for those old enough to remember. Now Distribution Companies, the power sector and these Discos are just a repeat episode of things we never may understand.

Like why we can’t get 22hours electricity in a nation with so many resources both human and financial. Like how do we expect to get the desired megawatts with generating and transmission points that are run like Lugard lamps.

Only last year a handful of men put the whole nation in darkness in the name of a power strike. No one cared about the loss of those hours that the nation was left in the dark. We still suffer high current—electric gadgets bear the brunt, no one is held liable, and then low current—you can barely see, so there is electricity but it cannot power a bulb.

The Transmission company people are doing loads of hard work but truly it amounts to nothing when there are many questions and no answers, I agree that we are a difficult people, it is probably only in Nigeria that PHCN owes NNPC for fuel supplied, and NNPC has not paid for electricity supplied and state houses owe utility bills, while citizens that have not paid bills in years have power as long as there is power to spare.

I do not need to lecture us on the benefits derivable to the Nigerian economy in the event we sort out our electricity palaver. I must state the solution does not lie in Chinese, World Bank loans or Private Partnership but upon a strong political will by leadership.

If and if only Mr. Tinubu can lay the groundwork, of solving the power problem, to address the energy palaver, to direct his energy to the octopus like the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills, just solve the power problem, posterity will judge him fair, but as it is—only time will tell.

Contact the writer: pcdbooks@gmail.com

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