A combination of crippling security challenges across the country and fatigue of lamentation over constant outages of power appears to have reduced the public campaign for improved supply of electricity. But the problem of power has not run away; rather it escalates with a breakdown of the system as reflected in the reported collapse of the national grid the other day.
The regressive situation once again exposes the futility of the government’s efforts to revamp the power sector and boost the economy. The recent crippling episodic collapse was not the first. Several similar incidents took place previously that practically grounded Nigeria and millions of economic activities.
Given that a strong reprieve is not immediately in sight, and Nigerians are being undermined and exploited over power supply, it is time for the country to pay greater attention to other sources of power generation and distribution. For instance, several countries in Asia, Europe, and North America have adopted solar power as a viable option. In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is in the league of solar energy countries, gearing to reach an installed capacity of 8, 400 MW by 2030. Similarly, hydropower, coal, and wind are dependable energy sources that Nigeria has in abundance and should explore.
The frequent collapse in the power supply is a huge embarrassment. It adds to the near-total national blackout that plagues Nigeria. The latest might count among the worst the country has had in recent times, indicating that there is still no stable framework for managing Nigeria’s power supply sector. Reports say Nigeria’s electricity supply suffered a major setback as the national grid, operated from Osogbo in Osun State, collapsed and plunged many parts of the country into darkness. As a matter of fact, there is little or no distinction between when the country has a system collapse and when it does not.
The grid, which has been epileptic for years, has reportedly recorded a number of failures this year, a development described as not only a national embarrassment but a grave economic threat. The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the umbrella body of distribution companies, had last year decried the recurrent power collapse, stating that the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN’s analog system caused the over 100 collapses since the privatisation of the power sector in 2013. But there are other causes.
According to the TCN, a government agency that manages the asset under privatised power sector, the latest collapse of the grid is caused by what it called multiple tripping. Investigation was to be conducted to establish the immediate and remote cause(s) of the tripping as soon as the grid is fully restored.
Since 1999, the country’s focus has, among others, been on breaking the jinx of poor power supply. The target is to have a steady electricity supply in the country. But the means of achieving that seems to be flawed; hence, there is no success yet. Questions are asked as to what sort of decisions and actions have been taken and channeled into the energy sector over these years that cannot show the slightest improvement despite the huge expenditures.
Rather than see improvement, the energy sector continues to nosedive, leaving the entire economy practically in a virtual lockdown. Businesses and institutions have shut down on account of epileptic power. The economy and homes run on private generators. Quite often, all the key power plants in the country, including Egbin, Utorogu, Chevron Oredo, Oben gas-fired power plants, Ughelli, and Chevron Escravos power plant shut down at the same time. This is incomprehensible.
Notice must be taken of the fact that Nigeria’s power generation is largely dependent on gas transported through exposed pipelines that are easily vandalised in many spots across the country. Thus, low electricity generation has also been attributed to the lack of gas to power the turbines. Contrary to the popular belief, the GMD of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, once said there was enough gas to generate 8, 000 megawatts of electricity but the transmission grid could not support such quantum of power without complications. Nigerians don’t know who is telling the truth and why the problem cannot be fixed.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration should explore alternative energy sources in addition to gas. The world is scandalised that Nigeria, one of the leading producers and exporters of crude oil and gas dwells in darkness. Importantly, the government must put its house in order and provide security and business-friendly environment to attract the private sector, without which the sector stagnates. Power industry is too technical and financially inclusive to be undertaken solely by the government. But the present private-sector arrangement is grossly defective and has only presented Nigerians for suffering and exploitation.
In addition, some of the issues hindering adequate generation and distribution of power could be resolved through decentralization of the power system, using the energy sources available in different parts of the country to supply power to the different regions.