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Thursday, August 29, 2013

WHEN WILL NIGERIA’S DAILY BLACK-OUT COME TO AN END?





        As the sell of Nigeria’s major generation and distribution companies are being concluded, with the last week final payments from core investors, the question on the minds of many observers is ‘when should the light come out and stay?’. Many Nigerians see it as near miracles if light is provided for twenty four hours, seven days a week and four weeks a month. As I am writing this article, light hardly stays for more than five hours a day in Kano my home town. Millions of Nigerians that can afford it have depended on generators for their daily need of light. In market places clever businessmen have built clusters of generators to produce power which is later sold to different shops and houses at higher prices. Thousands of economic activities have collapsed due to this single problem of poor power supply. Industries that relied on power supply for their activities have either closed down or managed to produce at high cost with generators which ended up eating the little margin they made at the end of the day. But, the promise and expectation from power sector reform have continued to elicit their hope and determination; despite the fact that the process has been on and off for more than a decade. We all remember that the power sector reform and privatisation was started by the regime of President Obasanjo, at a period when he kick started his nationwide sell of government own properties and organisations. Obasanjo finished his tenure without seeing to the end of the problem, Yar’ adua came in and left without much change being seen in the total supply of power in the country. And, the current regime of President Jonathan came with it own promise and target dates on which to deliver so- and -so Megawatts of power supply to country electricity but with no tangible results yet.
   But, what I have observed with the recently concluded sell of PHCN assets give me some hope of replicating what happens in the telecommunication sector in the power sector. The very fact that 14 power generating and distributing companies have been successfully sold to local majority consortium is clear sign that the reform is making some progress. Already the federal government has borrowed over one billion Euros for further investment in the sector. But, the onus now is on the main regulatory body of the whole power industry. I am talking of the Nigerian electricity regulatory commission (NERC), which come into being in 2005 and further reconstituted in 2010. It core function is surveillance of the whole industry with the view to insure fair play and realisation of effective supply of power to all the corners of the country. Just like in the case of the Nigerian financial sector where Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) plays central role in directing the industry toward the achievement of a stable financial sector and deepening of the sector, NERC is expected to play similar role, thereby, facilitating the achievement of reliable power supply. The root of our present debilitating power problems in the country can be found in poor planning, negligence, and corruption; if these three evils can be addressed I am confidence that we will say bye-bye to perennial power problems. But, the road to achieving 24 hours power supply in Nigeria will remain long, until such a time when the powers that be are ready to jettison the culture of greed and I don’t care attitude. No foreign investor would be compatible putting his money in a sector where he/she is not sure of getting back his initial investments talkless of making a profit.