Penultimate week, precisely on 6th January 2022, in a televised interview when asked about the government’s plan for the dwindling Nigeria’s power sector, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration was ready to invest in solar panels towards boosting electricity generation in the country.
Aside from this avowal, it’s noteworthy that so many other announcements and moves had been made by the government towards revamping Nigeria’s power sector, yet the maltreated baby still cries woefully in the backyard.
Nigeria’s power sector has over time been obviously politicized by the country’s leaders at various quarters, many have wondered if the anomaly is being enjoyed by those meant to solve it.
Just recently, the President sacked the Power Minister and instantly replaced him with another. This perhaps was born out of his intent to see a better Nigeria as regards electricity generation cum consumption.
Last year, the 9th House of Reps led by Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, recently, announced its deep determination to commence investigations into the power sector, perhaps with a view to ascertaining why the huge spending so far was unable to address the country’s electricity conundrum.
But unfortunately, till date, nothing tangible has been heard from the Green Chamber concerning the awaited investigations as was announced by its leadership. It sounds ridiculous, but is real and true.
The country’s generation sub-sector comprises about 23 grid-connected generating plants. These plants are in operation around the country with a total installed capacity of 10,396MW, with available capacity of 6,056MW.
The thermal-based generation has an installed capacity of 8,457.6MW, with available capacity of 4,996MW. The hydro-based generation possesses a total installed capacity of barely 1,938.4MW, with available capacity of 1,060MW.
It’s noteworthy that the thermal segment has been sold to the private sector, except the Sapele Power Plc – generating about 414MW – that is 51% sold. Similarly, the hydro segment is under long-term concession.
In its effort to increase the level of power generation in the country, the Federal Government (FG) in 2004 under the leadership of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, incorporated the Niger-Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) as a public sector funded emergency intervention scheme.
The NDPHC was imbued with the mandate to manage the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP), which essentially involved the construction of identified critical infrastructure in the generation, transmission, and distribution as well as the natural gas supply sub-sectors of the electric power value chain.
In total, the NIPP power stations were targeted to add about 4,774MW of electricity to the national grid network. Some of these stations have been privatized while plans are underway to sell the remaining ones to interested investors towards increasing private-sector participation in the power sector, thereby improving the ongoing reform programme of the FG.
In furtherance of the reform policy direction, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has in the past licensed many private Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Some of the IPPs are reportedly at various stages of project development.
This analysis implies that the generation sub-sector is currently operating under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP), with almost 97% participation of the private investors. But the transmission segment is completely managed by the FG, whilst the distribution sub-sector is being operated and managed by private investors.
It’s imperative to acknowledge that, even if all these generating plants are in good form, or functioning as expected, their total installed capacity will still not generate the needed Megawatts (MW) of electricity across the federation.
Recently, by implementing reforms, Nigeria targeted 40,000MW generating capacity by 2020. Going by the estimate, she needed to expend approximately $10bn per annum on the power sector, to achieve the motive.
Taking a painstaking cognizance of the abridged survey or review, as presented above, we would understand that the country’s lingering power crisis ought to be blamed on the epileptic policies guiding the sector, not the ability of the minister as being perceived.
The fact is that, even if the best brain and most active technocrat is in charge of the Power Ministry, the sector will continue to wail and bleed. This shows that the country’s power anomaly needs to be addressed from the background.
The FG needs to, as a matter of urgency, decentralize the transmission grid, thereby giving room for each region or zone to manage their respective grids. This measure would help to eliminate the unending burden occasioned by theft, criminality, and corruption being experienced by the national grid. Hence, the private sector ought to be allowed to invest in the power transmission. There’s a need for candid legislation in this regard.
In the same vein, healthy policies should also be created to encourage generation of electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar. This wouldn’t need to be connected to the national grid, hence the various states can see to its operations and management on a daily basis.
The policy should equally create an enabling environment to enable our trained technologists or engineers to manufacture the needed devices for the generation. We as a country can currently boast of the needed manpower; what is then required is just a sincerity of purpose to trigger the needed change.
So, as the President is apparently in a move to invest in renewable energy such as Solar, he ought to engage the cognoscenti to educate him on the nitty-gritty in respect of the tech-driven measure.
More so, formidable policies must be formulated by the FG to discourage the endless rampant importation of conventional household/industrial power generating devices whose operations depend solely on fuel, diesel, or gas, as the case may be. The importers of the equipment won’t live to see a functional power sector in Nigeria, hence the need for a policy or legislation to tame their unwholesome activities in the country.
The political will must be worn like clothing to actualize the people’s aim. We must therefore look inwards towards solving our collective problem, rather than being myopic or shying away from the truth.
It’s imperative for the government to acknowledge that Nigeria’s power conundrum cannot only be tackled practically, but politically. It’s therefore time to walk the talk.