DECENTRALIZING POWER DISTRIBUTION
The recent call by the Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, on the Federal Government to decentralize power distribution to accelerate the development of the country is timely. The governor, who made the call at a two-day state organized summit, Delta Diaspora Direct (D3) in Geneva, Switzerland, observed that the failure to decentralize the energy sector has hampered the development of many states in the country.
While noting that the federal government has not been able to fix the energy challenges facing the country, Uduaghan regretted that it is even worse that when alternative options are sought, the centralization of the sector constitutes constraints to achieving the desired goal.
Although Delta State has contributed about N3.9 billion to the Independent Power Projects (IPP) initiative of the federal government, the state is yet to reap the fruit of such investment. Delta State is not alone in this ugly saga. States like Akwa Ibom, Rivers and a few others are also in this power centralization dilemma, which the government is yet to address despite its unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The worrisome aspect of the power situation in the country is that the affected states have generated energy beyond their immediate needs but are daily saddled with the persistent power hiccups that have been the lot of Nigerians in recent times.
Now that Delta State is working on a private energy plan that can generate between 100 and 250 megawatts, there is no guarantee that its citizens would have access to it when it is ready to use because the sector is not yet deregulated.
This is the bane of the various IPP projects launched during the administration of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. Uduaghan's concern reflects the thinking of many informed Nigerians on the issue.
For the country to develop industrially and achieve its dream of becoming one of the top 20 industrialized nations in the world by the year 2020, power should be decentralized as it has been done in other countries.
Power decentralization is really needed in the country in view of the collateral damage done to our industrial growth over the years by the rigid power centralization. Centralization of power in the country has translated to more corruption, decay and inefficiency in the system. It has stalled the nation's industrial march and general economic development. Getting our energy sector right would invariably translate to a quantum leap in other sectors of the economy which depend heavily on power for their daily function.
If the country is to develop industrially, we should take a cue from the modest success recorded in the telecommunications sector through its deregulation to reform the power sector. Deregulating the power sector will ensure that those willing to generate their own energy will be allowed to do so and they will be incharge of its distribution.
A situation where the IPP initiatives that generate power are made to channel such to the national grid for distribution is not tidy at all. Let all the laws governing power generation and distribution be reviewed forthwith so that those who generate power will at the same time be in charge of its distribution. Let these laws be amended as part of the National Assembly constitution review exercise.
If this is done, states like Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta and others involved in the IPP projects will be able to benefit from the fruit of their power generation as those in Kwara State are said to be enjoying steady power supply for some time now.
We believe that liberalizing the power distribution sector will significantly help in our industrial development. If power is decentralized, states and corporate organizations can generate and distribute their own energy needs.