The Nigerian Electric Power Question: To Hold Or To Distribute?

The Nigerian development dilemma has been put on the door post of Power inadequacy. It is a contentious argument made mostly by those in power to support their chosen line of intervention. It is also the view of our foreign partners who have a lot to gain from stable electric power. The popular view is that the more power we generate the more that is supplied for enhanced industrial take off a la 20 2020. So the myth is gaining ground that what Nigeria needs most is power. Even nuclear power is not off the table. Once it was bandied that 60,000 megawatts production would do the trick and as usual the 31st of each December is chosen for the realization. The Late President Yar Adua made it one of the seven point agenda for his time but unfortunately he did not realize it by December 2009.His successor the present President of Nigeria has made Power generation the key to his short stay in transition to 2011. It is supported by the United States whose bi- national agreement promises the realization of this magic 10,000 megawatts. To ensure no story is told this time around, the President is chairing the power effort. His recent statement shows that Nigeria may need to generate just 40,000 megawatts more to be home and dry.
On the other hand, signals coming from States attempting to help out in this regard is not as cheering. As we approach the reality of this situation the problem seems to widen a bit from generation to distribution. For instance the Niger Delta states have championed the independent Power projects built on gas supplies and have achieved considerable newspaper success. Yet the people await electric power to their homes. Rivers State has just commissioned the Trans Amadi Power Plant said to produce 100 Megawatts extra electric power more than enough we are told to give uninterrupted power to Port Harcourt and environs. What happened to it? Distribution has become the obstacle. Recently the Governor threatened publicly to shut down the plant if distribution by the privatized power holding company would present further problems thereby costing the State further overhead expenses. Other states like Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa are facing similar situations. Those States like Abia will have to wait even longer in darkness because they do not yet have their own plants in place.
Now the question is: to generate or to hold? What do we do with all that power when the national plan comes on stream?

I hope we are not just playing on words here? On the lighter side someone once volunteered that this power pursuit will soon end with 2011 elections, when power would meet greater power. I am also beginning to be skeptical because who could have feigned ignorance of the fact that Power holding was formed to hold power not to distribute it? Weighed down with a monumental overhead of our profligate past consisting of accumulated debt to staff and other agencies the privatized company, this unfortunate has not been able to do things in a more efficient manner outside the egunje way that keeps the staff going. Even when the President's recent promise to retire these debts is fulfilled it remains contentious whether the leopard can change its skin.
Let me paint a picture of this situation further here. You are living in Port Harcourt and the World Cup is approaching. To receive electric light you may have to consider relocating closer to a viewing centre in order to watch the matches uninterrupted by blackout or too much noise of generators. Here light is cash and carry. After the World Cup you are about to breath a sigh of relief that power will be more regular for say 2 hours or more stretch a day. If only you could plot the graph you could await it with betted breath. But that is the luxury you cannot have because even the unit heads do not appear to know. The only people who know when or where power will make a landfall are the cable thieves. So on this day you wake up to hear that someone had vandalized your transformer and even removed the armored cable worth about N50,000. If you can raise this amount quickly then you will be back on the national grid in no time. If you didn't raise it then you have to wait out the year. Well it also depends on whether you can boost of an important government official or personality living in your neighborhood. Here patriotic service rides on the smooth back of meaningful kickback. On the other hand where a levy is determined upon don't even begin to think about not paying or seeking redress in the law courts or sending a up a petition because there are mechanisms on the ground to make you pay up; the same mechanism that makes you pay for light not given because reading meters has become a dangerous mission. What is often employed is guestimation of your consumption or your paying capacity.Take my advice, do not even wonder aloud as to the use of newly introduced Meters because every attempt has been made to use them to no avail till date. The problem with Meters and the pay- as- you- consume varieties is that you have to read them even when you did not supply light and some people may not be feel too supportive of that design in certain neighborhoods. Then there is the impending decrease in the inflow of kickbacks which is also accounted for in regular returns enjoyed up to the highest levels of stake holding.

Do I need to further illustrate to you why electricity cannot ever be regular or why you cannot expect a time table for blackouts at least under the present set up? The biggest problem with time table is how to achieve it. Other factors are expected to intervene in this pursuit of efficiency which of course is not really supported by the enabling laws or even the constitution. Relax. You can't achieve efficiency with quota employment. If you think you can then you may yet hesitate in prevailing on managers from doing their periodic prayers while on duty. Well it is their fundamental human rights guaranteed in the constitution some are wont to argue but then how does it come in here? Well calculate how long it takes a manager to concentrate on his desk when he has to pray 5 times a day taking compulsory 30 minutes within periodic intervals. He switches on the lights for designated areas in the morning and goes to pray. His subordinate takes over and makes changes depending on where his own kickbacks will come for the day. When he returns in the hour, he takes another one hour to begin to concentrate on the job and discover that changes have been made; he cannot reprimand the subordinate because his own secrets may be jeopardized and besides it is a joint crime. He makes new switches just in time to go off after 4 hours to pray again. The subordinate makes his own alterations and it goes on. Now you begin to understand why light is given to an area only to be removed 10 minutes later and replaced in the next one hour for 4 minutes before a long blackout ensures. You know why power can be yanked off from the Airport without the overall man being aware of what happened and why telephone calls to cronies planted in the parastatals or companies from above can translate to changes in blackout policies of the government without any notice nor do you have to worry about the imminent political use of blackouts as the 2011 elections approach.

Mr. Nworisara is a former Presidential aspirant in Nigeria.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Nwokedi Nworisara