Consistent Interruption of electricity supply in Nigeria to electricity customers has become a serious national issue in Nigeria, most especially in the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja. The reason that has been given for this persistent occurrence by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing as well as Abuja Electricity Distribution Company- AEDC- (just as other Distribution Companies do) is the shortage in electricity energy or the fall in the national grid. Also, the bad roads on Nigerian roads and those dilapidated and abandoned roads projects within Nigerian streets have been a great aid to kidnappers to waylay and or ambush their targets who are on journey from one location to another within Nigeria and in most instances, these victims are the common citizens who cannot even afford the cost of purchasing or travelling by aircraft or jet. The Buhari’s Administration has come up with another theme for the smooth running of Nigeria and as a re-assurance of a better Nigeria for the masses with the theme ‘Next-Level’ as opposed to the previous ‘Change’ theme/slogan. This paper is of the views that improved electricity power and infrastructure, though, not a day’s job, should be the two focuses for the Buhari’s second term administration as a visionary administration, and also shares the views that poor electricity power is the mother of all other challenges confronting Nigeria at the moment and that where electricity power problems are improved upon, all other problems or challenges or more than 50% of them would have been resolved or would get resolved naturally considering the situation of other foreign countries.
It must first be noted and understood that electricity power supply in Nigeria is no more in the hands of National Electricity Power Authority- herein referred to as NEPA- since year 2005 or Power Holding Companies of Nigeria-herein referred to as PHCN-since 2013. NEPA seized to exist in the year 2005 by virtue of the enactment of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2005-herein referred to as EPSR. And PHCN ceased to exist since 30 September, 2013 following a privatization process by the Goodluck Jonathan government when the Company was privatized under the Bureau of Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act. Since then, what we have in Nigeria in Electricity Power Industry are competitions by Private Investors.
At present, there are eleven (11) different electricity Distribution Companies-herein referred to as DISCOs among which is the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company-herein referred to as AEDC. They are owned by private individuals and not government, even though the government is also major shareholders of these companies. It is only regulated by the established government’s body (ies).
The Government’s Regulatory Body in charge of electricity regulation is the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission-herein referred to as NERC. The Ministry of Powers, the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Authority (NEMSA) established under the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Authority (NEMSA) Act, 2015 are main electricity power sectors. NERC is empowered by the EPSR to ensure an efficiently managed electricity supply. The Act mandates the Commission to ensure that electricity supply industry meets the yearnings of Nigerians for stable, adequate and safe electricity supply. The Act also mandates the Commission to ensure that electricity investors recover costs on prudent investment and provide quality service to customers. The Minister for Power, Works and Housing is empowered under the EPSR to regulate and supervise the Commission.
It has always been an excuse for failure of electricity supply or electricity power disruption that for instance, that DISCOs do not generate electricity rather they only distribute electricity purchased from the Transmission Company so, could not be blamed for the consistent electricity supply interruption to electricity customers. Nevertheless, I am of the view and submission that the Buhari’s Administration should utilize this his second term in office to bring Nigeria to a greater, re-assured and better next level by concentrating and focusing on the electricity power sectors in this regard. For instance, complaints were many during the period of NEPA but unfortunately, the sector was privatized but the situation is not quite different from what was obtainable. Perhaps this is responsible for why majority of Nigerians still think NEPA is still in charge and not private companies so that whenever there is electricity power disruption, they shout ‘NEPA!!!’ and when the power is reinstalled, they shout ‘UP NEPA!!!’, the slogans which have continued to be passed to generations even those yet to come, which is just a symptom of a failed electricity power sector. Sharing a true life experience, in the year 2016, I was on the holy pilgrimage to Saudi-Arabia to perform the Hajj (Holy pilgrimage performed by Muslims as fulfillment of the 5th pillars of Islam), the journey which took us about forty-five (45) days before returning to Nigeria. In fact, from the landing point at the airport in Saudi-Arabia, everything was bright and technologies were aided by the supply of electricity power. It will be surprising to say that for those forty-five (45) days, the electricity power was not interrupted for just once and there was no complaint of low current. This is what we envisage that our government’s officials in Nigeria who travel to foreign countries would borrow and implant such nation-building ideals and ideas in Nigeria for her development but never! This will not be the situation. Perhaps those who benefit from the failures are those who would wish that Nigeria continues and are always discouraging acts that would put Nigeria in her proper improvement with such comments as ‘Nigeria is a lost nation!’, ‘Nigeria is gone!’, ‘It can be well for Nigeria again!’, among other discouraging comments. Whereas, it is in the situation that Nigeria is that they are building mansions, buying brand new labeled cars in vogue, sending their children to abroad for educational and career purposes, etc., yet, Nigeria is not better! This is so perhaps because they benefit from corruption and when the nation is not properly fixed. Of recent (just few days ago), I was discussing with a good brother of mine who is on his doctorate degree programme in Malaysia on the electric power system in Malaysia compared with the situation in Nigeria and he had this to say ‘The issue of electrifying the entire country. If this is achieved over 50% of other issues would be fixed. This is based on my experience with Malaysia and other developed countries I have visited. Because of stable power, so many industries, both local and foreign are present in these countries which eventually create employment and increase the value of the currency. In addition, housing issues can be solved because very tall buildings (between 20 and 100 stories) can be built with elevators installed. On corruption, when power is stable, modern technology can be used to monitor processes and transactions reducing it drastically. Examination malpractices can be tackled using same technology’. And he also recommended that ‘Buhari should make it his most important agenda before leaving office because even the insecurity is borne out of the harsh economic situation. Another benefit of stable electricity will be to our Universities by enhancing science and technology research’. I absolutely agree with my brother and all his recommendations are absolutely realistic if the Buhari’s administration would focus on them. Furthermore, in my humble submission, criminalities would also be resolved or be reduced by the use of technologies. For instance, the CCTv cameras would only work where there is electricity supply. Even solar is cost to obtain. The Nigeria Police Force has been reported in the newspapers to have promised to launch an application that would aid fight against criminality in Nigeria. This is indeed a wonderful idea but maintaining such technology with no electricity power or low current electricity is another challenge. Also, the citizens are always vulnerable to criminals’ attacks during raining season, due to the operational surveillance and studies of those criminal elements who utilize the raining periods when people are deeply asleep and when there would be no electricity power supply to waylay their targets in the darkness, and would always succeed in their nefarious operations. Electricity customers have also been complaining of electricity ‘crazy-bills’ by the Distribution Companies. The NERC came up with customers to purchase meter by themselves but the NERC still needs to always checkmate the DISCOs to ensure that their procedures for getting the meters are not impracticable where the cost of the meter is N36,999, for instance and the same DISCOs have been mandating customers to fill a form wherein such applicant for a meter for borehole water machine, for instance, must secure the services of a certified/registered electrical engineer/ accredited electrical contractor who is registered with the professional association, this is another means of creating business for another set of electricity professionals and making lives difficult for the customers where he will be spending another cost to engage the services of the professionals.
Also, on the infrastructure issue, I do not think that there is need to over-flog the issue in this paper as government already knows what this should entail. We have also seen the negative impacts of the bad roads and abandoned and dilapidated roads projects on Nigeria and travellers. What the government should do is to improve the system.
Finally, I hope that the Buhari’s administration would work on these recommendations for the betterment of Nigeria moving to a greater next level.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless and guide President Muhammadu Buhari! God bless and guide Nigerian leaders! God bless Nigerian citizens!