It was recently reported in the news media that President Muhammadu Buhari has just signed an agreement with the German firm, Siemens, over the problem of perennial electricity shortage in the country. The aim, reportedly, is to achieve the target of 7,000 megawatts of electricity by 2021 and 11,000 megawatts by 2023.
On the occasion of the signing, the president is reported to have said, “This project will not be the solution to all our problems in the power sector. However, I am confident that it has the potential to address a significant amount of the challenges we have faced for decades. It is our hope that as the power situation improves, we will improve investor confidence, create jobs, reduce the cost of doing business and encourage more economic growth in Nigeria.”
We commend the president for the above step taken about the disgraceful situation of power supply in the country. But the president’s remarks are not reassuring at all. He acknowledges that this will not be the solution to all our problems in the power sector, pointing out that potentially, it will address a significant amount of the challenges. This means that an end to the epileptic power supply in the country is not yet in sight. When will Nigeria reach the promised land?
Epileptic power supply has been with us for five decades. Nigerians started experiencing power outages frequently as the civil war came to an end. Before then, electricity was reliable in the country. There were no power failures as we know them today. Small and medium-scale enterprises that depended on electricity never had standby generators, as electricity was available 24 hours a day. If there was to be any power interruption, the public was duly notified.
However, this civilised practice was jettisoned as from 1970 and since then, unreliable power supply became the lot of Nigerians. The most painful aspect of it is that our political leaders have been largely indifferent to the situation. The fact that public power supply is unreliable in the country has not been of any urgent concern to them. If they ever considered the problem, either their solutions were not wholistic enough to deal decisively with it, or they(our leaders) were not sincerely committed to really solving the problem..
Let’s look at what has happened so far since the onset of the present democratic dispensation as from 1999. Upon assumption of office, following his electoral victory president Obasanjo promised that his administration would solve the nation’s lingering power supply problem in one year. When the period elapsed and the situation was still the same he apologised that the magnitude of the problem was underestimated and that an extra year be given him to deal with the issue. Not only did Obasanjo fail to deliver on his promise at the end of the two tenures of his presidency, but a fraud scandal also erupted over the contracts awarded in connection with the power supply problem.
President Yar’adua who succeeded Obasanjo indicated that he would declare a state of emergency in the power sector. This he failed to do until his unfortunate demise in office. President Jonathan, who stepped in, decided that privatisation of the power sector after the manner of the telecom sector would lift the country from the power supply quagmire. Private investors have since taken over the power sector. What’s been our experience? Constantly collapsing national grid, lack of gas to power the turbines(imagine that, with the nation’s acclaimed huge gas reserves), falling me- gawattage, and dilapidated infrastructure.
It’s against this background that the present move with the German firm by the president must be viewed. If the president stops at just addressing a “significant amount” of the challenges , then this will be another disappointment for Nigerians once again. Nigeria requires nothing short of stable power supply on a sustained basis. This must be achieved unfailingly, otherwise the nation is headed nowhere in its development efforts.
Owanate G.G. Godwins