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Opinion

Inadvisability Of Making Electricity Challenge In Nigeria Look As If It Can Only Be Tackled Through The Application Of Rocket Science -By Isaac Asabor

If there is any critical infrastructure that has continued to draw Nigeria back in terms of economic growth, it is unarguably that of electricity.
The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as unreliable power supply has continued to shave at least 5% of the country’s GDP, costing the economy US$28 billion, according to a Report titled “Back to Growth: Priority Agenda for the economic revival of Nigeria”, published by NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, adding that “Nigeria lags behind other African countries when it comes to electrification.

Only 55 percent of the country has access to electricity, and most firms connected to the national grid receive less than five hours power per day.

Without any scintilla of hyperbole, the issue of epileptic power supply has been a critical challenge to the government; from one political dispensation to another. It seems no government has ever found a solution to the problem as all kinds of explanations as to why the challenge persists are usually offered ostensibly to pacify Nigerians.

Against the foregoing milieu, it will be recalled in this context that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in January 2024 threw insights into the worsening situation of inaccessibility of electricity to millions of Nigerians who are invariably customers to Nigeria’s 11 Electricity Distribution Companies of Nigeria (DisCos), particularly since May 29, 2023 when the new government, been led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, succeeded former President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a statement made available to newsmen at a point when the challenge was felt to be critical by virtually all Nigerians, Ndidi Mbah, General Manager, Public Affairs, TCN, said the unfortunate trend was due to gas constraints to the thermal generating companies, and regretted that the challenge impacted the quantum of bulk power available on the transmission to the distribution load centres nationwide. At the time, Mbah assured that TCN was doing everything possible in collaboration with stakeholders in the power sector to ensure that it continues to keep the grid intact in spite of the incessant low power generated into the system.

Given the seeming self-explanatory statement offered to Nigerians in January by TCN, which is over 10 weeks down the line, one is tempted to ask, “Does it mean that the problem TCN identified at the time in question is yet to be tackled? “Why is TCN seemingly finding the problem intractable since it does not need the application of a Rocket Science?”

At this juncture, it is expedient to opine that the ongoing Easter holidays been celebrated all over the country have since on the day of Good Friday been characterized by an unprecedented level of heat wave such that not a few Nigerians needed electricity to power their fans and Air conditioners but unfortunately, they could not as virtually all the 11 DisCos have failed to generate electricity to ease the people’s collective comfort.

Ostensibly having identified the causes of the age-long electricity challenge in Nigeria, contrary to the stories our-own-people are fond of spinning, Mr. Amit Jain, a Singaporean Economist, and a director at the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, and leader of the research team that came out with the Report earlier cited in this piece, said “Inefficiencies across power generation, transmission and distribution are being driven by several factors. At the generation stage, the availability of feedstock is a challenge. Electricity generation in Nigeria relies mainly on gas, but there is a shortage due to a lack of investment in the production of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). This is causing challenges in the availability of feedstock for power plants, which is impacting in the country’s ability to generate electricity. Hydro power plants account for 20 percent of grid capacity, but experience water shortages.

“Apart from the problem of availability, failure by power generation companies (Gencos) to pay gas suppliers create a break in the delivery of supplies. Operational inefficiencies include frequent equipment breakdowns due to poor maintenance, which leads to down time of turbines and other equipment. Maximum transmission capacity is less than 50% of the maximum generation capacity. At the distribution stage, the challenges include sub-optimal distribution of network capacity. Limited coordination or matching of distribution network capacity to the transmission grid land demand for power can result in load rejection.

“DisCos also struggle to recover cash shortfalls as a result of limited investment in network rehabilitation and metering, which contributes to Aggregate Technical Commercial and Collection (ATC&C) loaded up to 51%. Poor management of the power industry’s value chain limits revenue potential and hampers investment in infrastructure and operational activities such as gas supply, leading to liquidity issues. DisCos remittances also low and supply costs are affected by inflation, currency devaluation, infrastructural challenges, and forex. However, these impacts are not translating into timely adjustments to cost structures.”

Against the backdrop of the foregoing Report, which no doubt can be said to have aptly identified the challenges being faced in Nigeria as to power generation and distribution, and which was presented at EkO Hotel and Suites, in Victoria Island, Lagos, last year, precisely in November, 2023, coupled with the statement issued by Ndidi Mbah, General Manager, Public Affairs, TCN, “Why is it that technical officials of the 11 DisCos in Nigeria always impress it on Nigerians, who are majorly their customers, that the challenges they face in the course of lightening up Nigeria can only be tackled through the application of rocket science?

To this writer, solving the age-long power conundrum in Nigeria does not need the application of a rocket science, rather government should garner enough political will, and declare a state of emergency in the sector.

It would be recalled that this is not the first time Nigerians have called the government to declare a state of emergency in the sector as Mr. Chijioke James, President, Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria (ECAN) recently called on President Bola Tinubu to declare a state of emergency in the power sector against the backdrop of the continuous drop in power generation and supply in-country.
James at the time said, “Electricity consumers are not happy that generation and distribution instead of increasing is dropping.

“I believe that the administration of President Tinubu should take this sector seriously and genuinely declare an emergency in the power sector, giving delivery timelines and be ready to place appropriate sanctions for service providers who do not work towards the actualization of agreed targets.”

Without a doubt, his stance cannot be opposed as 26 power generating plants across the country had not been able to generate up to 5000megawatts in the recent time as it used to, as peak generation had fallen below 4000MW.

Against the foregoing backdrop, the government, operators of the 11 DisCos should stop making electricity challenge in Nigeria look as if it can only be solved through the application of Rocket Science.

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