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A nation that sells darkness

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

"A rat's teeth cannot be stained by oil, no matter how soaked the yam is in red oil".

So it is easy to forget the important things, or even get tired and common after all it is a norm now, we have all talked about it, the creepy news story that electricity tariff will be increased, amongst sector flaws

The move by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to fully implement the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) designed in 2015 and the Minimum Remittance Order for the Year 2019 has raised new arguments on the structure of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).

NERC has the mandate to implement the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act 2005, especially Section 32, which allows it to ensure prices charged by licensees (distribution companies) are fair to customers and sufficient to allow the licensees finance their activities and make reasonable profit for efficient operations.

Some stakeholders, however, insisted that the recent review of electricity tariffs by the commission amounts to exploitation of consumers, given the shoddy performance of the power sector. Besides, lapses in the operations of Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) are still generating criticism.

A sector, which is supposed to be in a state of emergency, has hardly shown any stumbling sign of crawling, talk less of walking and working. Despite the billions, no one has been held accountable; will anybody be held accountable even in the face of renewed efforts about probing the billions that was sunk into the sector? This is a nation that use phrases, and clichés especially our politicians and they do so, often without any understanding of the real issues.

The raison de etre a Nigerian politician would visit his house on a familiarization tour, and promise to address the issues, and in local parlance we say, a rat's teeth cannot be stained by oil, no matter how soaked the yam is in red oil. Nigeria, with a population unofficially hitting almost 200M, our energy story to say the least is embarrassing.

There are currently two main types of power plants operating in Nigeria: (1) hydro-electric and (2) thermal or fossil fuel power plants. With a total installed capacity of 8457.6MW (81 percent of total), thermal power plants (gas-fired plants) dominate the Nigerian power supply mix.

Nigeria is endowed with large oil, gas, hydro and solar resource, and it already has the potential to generate 12,522 megawatts (MW) of electric power from existing plants, but most days is only able to generate around 4,000 MW, which is insufficient, and in many seasons we generate a frightening less that 3000MW.

As of date we should have approximately 21 licensed private power-generating companies that would supposedly generate electricity in excess of 8,000 megawatts. Only four private power-generating firms have so far come on stream. The four, Agip Gas Plant in Okpai/Kwale; the Rivers State IPP in Omoku; the Ibom Power Project; and Alaoji Plant have not shown light difference with their 1250 additional MW, that of AGIP is even expected to add another 960MW.

There are three major dams in Niger State, Nigeria. The Kainji Dam built in 1968, Jebba Dam built in 1985 and Shiroro Dam built in 1990.

There are only 11 electricity distribution companies in Nigeria.

According to the Ministry of Energy, South Africa's total domestic electricity generation capacity is 51,309 megawatts (MW) from all sources. Approximately 91.2%, or 46,776 MW, comes from thermal power stations, while 4,533 MW, or 8.8%, is generated from renewable energy sources.

In the last 19 years we have had all sorts of interventions, we have even witnessed the murder of one Minister For Power, in the person of Bola Ige, we have seen name change from Never Expect Power Always (NEPA) to Please Have Candle Near (PHCN), we have dance and currently enjoying Distribution Companies (DISCO). The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) manages the electricity transmission network in the country. It is one of the 18 companies that was unbundled from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in April 2004 and is a product of a merger of the transmission and system operations parts of PHCN.

To the ordinary Nigerian give us light, and maybe the above technicalities would make sense, as they continue to suffer the brunt of inefficiency through frequent tariff increase. It is no longer news that during the rains, the dams have too much water and during the dry season, it is a case of no water, or when the weather is stable across the country, it is a case of no gas.

The regulatory body for electricity, the National Electricity Regulation Commission NERC talks of deregulation, and one wonders when. We have tried pre-paid, post- paid, consuming less pay more, and all manners of payment system for a utility that is simply not there.

The federal government has signed two contracts with the United States based General Electric Company (GE) for the supply, installation and maintenance of five gas turbine plants to produce 2,016MW at a cost of $2.5 billion. Siemens got its share too, until the story went sour. We have signed contracts, entered agreements with everybody and everywhere, for gas fired plants, for Independent Power Plants (IPP), for gas turbines. Maybe what remains is Kerosene or a candle fired plants.

From ENRON, SHELL, ABB, ExxonMoblil, Cummins Corporation, Geometric Power Corporation, Eskom, ENI, GE, CMEC to SEPCO, this list excludes, the likes of Obasanjo Corporation, Third term Power, PTDF Energy, PDP Gas Company, and APC Lights. In all these the best we have is a three course meal of no light, half current not even comparable to candle light and then the highest of current that necessitates a visit to the repair shop, as virtually every electronic appliance in the house is victim.

The nation ranks top as favorite destination for manufacturers of Power Generating sets, while top Power utility officials are Directors in the companies. In most suburb it is a case of ‘I pass my neighbor’ a local name for the small Chinese gen that barbers, seamstress and homes use. No one cares about the health hazard, via emission of carbonated smoke and the several hundreds it has killed.

Nigeria remains in 2019 a nation without light. Painfully we have the resources, the manpower, we have it all, and sadly and almost in unimaginable contradiction I say we do not have it, we do not have the commitment, the political will, the sincerity and as long as this stays, in local comedy there will be no light at the end of the tunnel, as Nigerians continue to pay for darkness. For how long; may the Almighty Allah show us His light; grant us the wisdom, to know what to do with our leaders, as only time will tell

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Prince Charles Dickson PhD 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."