WHY ARE WE IN DARKNESS?

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What is the essence of power? What has power got to do with sustainable businesses? Why should the power sector be fixed? If the power sector is paralyzed, what is the effect? Why are we in darkness? These are rhetorical questions have been asking and continue to ask myself.

In Nigeria over 75 million people are yet to be connected to National grid, with Nigeria’s power capacity between 4,500MW and 7200MW but can only supply between 2,500MW and 4,000MW per time it is glaring that Nigeria has shortage of power. Recent statistics show that Nigerians spend over #700 Billion (Seven hundred Billion Naira) on fueling generators without maintenance and utility. This is sure big loss and wastage in the economy; it is expedient and purely sensible for government to quickly fix the power sector to boost the economy and foster prosperity.

It is clear that with well over 75 million people yet to be connected to the national grid and many still do not have up to 20 hours of power every week, it is clear that Nigeria needs to expand her power capacity with investment in clean and sustainable energy to cushion climate change.

Nigeria’s main sources of power are mainly Hydro and Natural gas. During dry season there is always a drop in power because of reduction in water pressure from the hydro power station. Hydro power has its limitations if we cannot control the water pressure to be constant all year round. Hydro power is really safe but sustainability is yet to be achieved in Nigeria. When the dry season is heavy, sometimes Nigeria power capacity drops to 1,900MW. As one of the fastest growing economy in Africa, we could double our growth if we invest effectively in power.

The unpatriotic and destructive attitude of greedy citizens and militants across the water coast where there are gas pipeline is sabotage on access to power. Nigeria is a gas and crude oil producing nation, gas is a very good alternative to providing power, many houses now use gas cooker to make their food, iron their clothes and recently new innovations like gas generator are becoming more acceptable in Nigerian household. The continuous vandalism of gas pipeline by militants has been a great jab on every little progress the power sector tries to make in providing clean and sustainable power. Vanguard newspaper reported that in 2015 NNPC said Nigeria lost #51.3 billion to vandals.

In the global community, connection is important, without power on our phones, laptops and gadgets, this connection will never be possible. Power is important to our business life. It is the soul of productivity in government, entertainment and agriculture.

In Mowe, ogun state a small community of about 5000 houses, Mowe is on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the main expressway that connect the north, east and south of Nigeria together. Mowe is a strategic location because it is a small town between Lagos (the commercial hub of Nigeria) and Ogun(the border state to Benin Republic) Many religious organization have their headquarters on this expressway, yet it is really sad to know that nobody in mowe has up to 20 hours power. The community has been forgotten by the government, no good road, no water, non-functional health centre and the worse is that the town is in darkness.

In Mowe, many are connected to the national grid but have less than 20 hours power and they pay between #2000 and #5000 monthly without constant power supply. Many houses have a running generator, rechargeable lamp, kerosene lamp to lighting their homes at night.

Many have been in and out of hospital because of adulterated kerosene by criminals. A resident of Mowe that want to remain anonymous said, “The inability of government to provide electricity made me almost lost my eye while refueling the kerosene lamp for my son who was preparing for exams”.

The owner of Adonai ventures also recount her loss to fueling her generator everyday with petrol. She said, “It is really annoying to spend #30,000 monthly on generator, do we have a government at all?” She asked rhetorically.

Doctor Oyin says, “Hospital bills can be reduced by 20% if there is constant, stable, and affordable power supply. We run generator 24 hours in our hospital because we deal with lives, we cannot afford to take chances on our patients. We know there are a lot of people who need to access cheap health care but the cost of running the hospital especially power is a big challenge to accessing low cost health care. It is a pity that the government health Centre that are supposed to cushion this effect are not also working. Who suffers? The lowest cadre of the society that the government was elected to serve”.

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From 2005-2008 when I was in high school I read with a kerosene lamp or rechargeable lamp which has affected my eye sight. I have seen the doctor and a correcting eye glass was recommended but I have refused to use it. The doctor said, “You have over stressed and strained your eye to read in the time past, you eat good food that is why your eye sight is still sharp, but to stop the tears and itching in your eyes you need a correcting glasses”. Lack of power has different adverse effect on our health, business, education and others. I did lost some reading days in school because of no power supply which had its own negative effect sometimes on my education.

Rape, robbery, and kidnapping on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway at night is becoming worrisome, yet the reason crime flourish is there is no street light, responsive and reliable security operative on the road at night.

What exactly should we be doing? Is there a solution? Sure there is. I am no expert at power but I will try my best as an active participant. Corruption is a huge monster on the way to sufficient power supply; a whooping #30 billion was spent between 1999 and 2007 to revamp the power sector without result. No one has been punished or sentenced by EFCC or ICPC for public fund misuse. This is still a tragedy.

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Privatization of the power sector is a great move in the right direction. Reduction in bureaucracy and bottleneck in getting license for a power company like ENEL will be a major move to lighting every house in Nigeria. A close monitoring of all gas pipe using technology will further make power capacity in Nigeria stable. Nigeria government must be willing to finally bring corruption to a hurt in the public sector for citizens to access power.

Exploring clean and safe energy like solar, wind, and so on will further help expand the national grid. Currently, the federal government is the only one that has the legal power to generate power, this is a big challenge, and therefore government must allow private company, state, local government and investors to generate power in states, communities and regions.

Government must create the free and fair environment for investors to profit while also protecting the citizens from greedy investors. Government must be a fair umpire between power companies and customers through legal frameworks, policy, and sanctions.

Citizens must begin to protect power infrastructure if they want constant power supply. We all have a responsibility to light up Africa. Africa is rich but we need visionary leaders to lift Africa out of the mess we find ourselves.

Why are we in darkness?

 

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