A flawed power reform is prolonging the country’s agony

Nigeria’s public power supply system has for years been characterised by unreliable and poor service delivery. This has sadly continued even after the reforms expected to change the situation were introduced and completed in 2013. It is bad enough that a country with an estimated population of 190 million people generates not more than 4000MW of electricity daily. It is worse that the little power available cannot be distributed.

Indeed, despite the huge investments of recent years in the power sector, things are still exceedingly bleak. Nigerians are grossly underserved, with perhaps one of the lowest energy per-capita rates in the world. Darkness is still an irritating companion of most Nigerians every day of the year. Individuals and businesses resort to self-help through an assortment of generators. The epileptic nature of power supply makes the country one of the harshest environments for business.

The situation is compounded by repeated cases of vandalism of gas line and transmission facilities which also result to low generation and loss of financial revenues by the sector. For example, a June 22 market report of the advisory power team in the Office of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo stated that an average of 3,928MW of electricity was generated and sent out to homes and offices in the country while 1,567.5MW was not generated due to unavailability of gas. It also stated that 83.2MW was not generated due to unavailability of transmission infrastructure, while 2020MW was not generated due to high frequency resulting from unavailability of distribution infrastructure. Another 190MW was recorded as lost power due to water management.

Just recently, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) disclosed that the total volume of electricity generated and distributed across homes and offices in Nigeria had gone down considerably. Even though the TCN said the country was not in total darkness then, a loss of 1,087.6MW from 3,827MW was significant and that left it with the option of load-shedding to avoid a complete collapse of the entire system. But this is not the first time the country’s power system would experience such disruptions, as it has so far in 2018 recorded up to seven cases of system collapse, recorded in January, February and June.

Records from the sector indicate that on 2 January, a fire incident that affected the Escravos-Lagos pipeline system close to Okada in Edo State, resulted in the shutdown of the pipeline supplying gas to Egbin power plant that produces 1,320MW; Olorunsogo NIPP which has the capacity to generate 676MW; another station in Olorunsogo with a capacity for 338MW; Omotosho NIPP capable of generating 450MW; Omotosho with 338 MW and Paras with 60MW. The result of all this was the trip-off of the power grid which inflicted darkness across the country. However, prior to the experience of 2018, the TCN in 2017 also recorded 15 system collapses, indicating strong evidence of the weakness of the transmission infrastructure to wheel power from the generation companies to the distribution companies.

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had warned that the raining season would pose a major challenge to the transmission and distribution arms of the power sector and so it has proven, despite the fact that ordinarily, Nigerians usually enjoy a relatively stable electricity when the hydro stations come up at this period. But if after close to five years of power sector privatisation, the country still has not overcome what many refer to as teething problems, then the challenges of the sector are quite enormous.

Notwithstanding, we feel that since the problems are very well known to both the government and operators, there must be concerted efforts at finding a lasting solution. Nigeria cannot continue to be a nation in darkness.