October 7, 2022

Motorists drive at night on a road without street light as Nigeria struggles with power outages in a commercial district of Ojota, Lagos on March 21, 2022. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)
For the umpteenth time, the epileptic national grid collapsed over the weekend again, resulting in blackout in most parts of the country. A terse statement from the Ministry of Power attributed the collapse to “the partial shutdown of the Oben gas plant to address the repair of critical gas processing equipment. The incident unfortunately occurred at a time when other power plants on other gas sources are undergoing planned maintenance and capacity testing.” You cannot fault this empty logic, can you? This has been the story of power supply in Nigeria and it is unlikely that things will change. In times past, we used to look forward to the rainy season because it births a temporary moment of stability in electricity generation. It is possible that this year, some supernatural forces have blocked the flow of water in all the dams, especially now that diesel sells for about N800 per litre.
Power generation is the main issue with regard to the socio-economic development of any nation. In Nigeria however, successive governments have deployed it for political gains, knowing the importance that Nigerians attach to it. Thus in 2015 when it was canvassing for votes from the electorate, the All Progressive Congress stated as follows:
“Infrastructure: APC will:
Generate, transmit and distribute from current 5,000 – 6,000 MW to at least 20,000 MV of electricity within four years and increasing to 50,000 MW with a view of achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within ten years, whilst simultaneously ensuring development of sustainable/renewable energy.”
– Manifesto of the All Progressive Congress (APC), submitted to the people of Nigeria in the wake of the 2015 general elections.
Seven years down the line, the electricity situation has not fared any better, if not worse. For instance, I have never experienced electricity supply in my home town since I was born, as we are not connected to the national grid at all. Indeed, the entire Ondo South Senatorial District was disconnected from the grid about twelve years ago even though attempts are underway to reconnect. Several towns and villages are like my home town, locked out of any form of development at all, yet we are classified as oil producing.
The impression that our leaders in power have conveyed to us is that it is practically impossible to have stable and permanent power supply; that we don’t have the resources to build the needed energy plants that will meet the needs of all Nigerians; that we must accept generators as second nature, if we must function and survive, as a people. Churches, banks, schools, small businesses, factories, government ministries and departments, police stations, the courts and even PHCN itself, all depend on generators. Indeed, a story was once told that a President was set to commission a newly built power plant and a generator had to be hired to power the commissioning ceremony. It is that bad.
Electricity is listed in the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution, the implication of which is that only the federal government can deal with issues related to power, although it has since been discovered that off-grid developments are not covered by this exclusive design. Over the years, it has been the sole business of the federal government, to legislate on, regulate and provide electricity, with the debilitating effect of poor management, bureaucratic bottlenecks, corruption, incompetence and sheer greed, all holding that powerful sector down. We have been told several tales of billions of dollars pumped into the power sector, with little or no results, making Nigerians to conclude that there must be some demons and principalities, holding the power sector in the jugular. And it is one out of the many nuts that this administration has not been able to crack.
The average experience of those depending upon public power supply is that of total frustration, resulting from absence of any supply at all, irregular supply, low voltage, high voltage, load shedding, constant blackouts, extortion by members of staff of the companies involved and naked corruption. This has in turn led many to believe that there is some sort of collusion between the regulators, transmitters and the distributors of power, with generator importers and marketers, with diesel marketers and suppliers, with candle manufacturing companies and the importers of rechargeable solutions generally, to milk us dry.
Having cornered all exclusive rights over the power sector, the expectation was that the federal government would do all in its power to satisfy the demands of the citizens in respect of power consumption. All over the land, power cables and conductors line the space, some disjointed, some expired, some others so very weak that they cannot even transmit the available power. In some tragic cases, these exposed cables have fallen upon innocent passersby, leading to instant electrocution.
To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

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