Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and material resources. Yet she has less than average ratings on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2018. Compared to Ghana and Mali, with overall governance rankings of 28 and six out of 54 nations in Africa respectively, Nigeria is a distant 33 – and this is especially in matters of the safety of her citizens, rule of law, participation and human rights vis-à-vis sustainable economic opportunities open to her people.
Part of what is responsible for our poor show as a people is because we have no power to sustain economic and social growth. In the past decade in Edo State, nobody can boast of having had power for 24 hours consecutively. Everyday businesses at the micro and macro levels grind to a halt over power outages. There is no night economy and crime, which festers in the dark, has escalated. Dissatisfied with the power situation in Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, Edo State governor was reported to have expressed public sentiment by walking out the top gun of the BEDC in a meeting. The Civil Society enclave as well has had several skirmishes with the BEDC on behalf of the Edo people.
Unfortunately, these efforts have not given Edo people power to match their entrepreneurial bent. While people in other states enjoy semi-constant power supply, Edo people rely on power generating sets 24hours thereby contributing to depleting the ozone and escalating the climate change debacle. Should we allow this to continue?
There are tales on the street that there are two reasons why we are constantly and continuously in the dark. According to the former Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, former Nigerian leaders unbundled the Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria (PHCN) and sold certain elements of the distribution of power to their cronies and girlfriends. The way things are the government of the day has no power to repudiate those sales without further complicating issues for ordinary Edo people seeking to sustain their economic and social lives.
We understand that another reason there is regular power outage in Benin City especially is that monies for power projects were stolen. An investigation by TELL Magazine, March 16, 2009, revealed that Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, initiated a National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) mostly because Nigeria generated a miserable 2,000 MW then. According to Dimeji Bankole, former Speaker, Olusegun Obasanjo paid well over $16billion to contractors handling the power projects but nothing came out of the NIPP project. That amount translates to trillions of naira and kobo, and would have been put to use to power even the tiniest village in Nigeria with 24hours electricity.
Under the Umaru Yar’Adua administration, the Federal House of Representatives set up the Ndudi Elumelu Power panel to probe how the $16billion was spent. Even though the report was adjudged by TELL to be biased against the Obasanjo administration because of its tone and temperament, we at the Civil Empowerment & Rule of Law Support Initiative (CERLSI) call on the EFCC, to use it as a baseline study into the remote causes of constant blackout in Nigeria and Edo State in particular. We recommend as well that Buhari should wield the big stick, and land it heavily on anyone found complicit in the deterioration of power supply in Nigeria.
Edo is a state supposedly enjoying good relationship with the government at the centre. It is also an oil and gas producing state. Her son is the head of the party in power, and therefore there should be no reason why Edo people and residents should suffer the kind of hardship they go through daily.
Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, deputy executive director, Civil Empowerment & Rule of Law Support Initiative