That the nation currently experiences very significant drop in public power supply occasioning almost nationwide darkness is an incontrovertible truism. But that the development is being seen as an act of sabotage by electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) is an unmistakable statement affirming the fact that the days of uninterrupted power supply that Nigerians yearned for with the establishment of DISCOS are still far from reality.
The National Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, had kick-started a new 45 percent tariff hike regime on February 1, but faced opposition from labor unions and Nigerians who took to the streets in protest, forcing the Senate to suspend the new price hikes. Prior to the suspension, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distribution Companies, ANED, warned that suspending the new tariff could throw the nation into darkness. True to their threat, the nation has been plunged into darkness for two weeks and running. This development, no doubt, portends danger to the prospect of optimum electricity supply in the country. More still, many now see it as cheap blackmail. On our own, we consider the development distasteful and this is unacceptable.
One of the high points of President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign was his promise to end the blackouts; and on the basis of that most Nigerians in public and private endeavours overwhelmingly elected him.
The propelling force behind the decision that translated to the people’s vote for President Buhari was hinged on the strong belief that a regime of constant public power supply would power our industries in various ways towards uplifting the economy. From what is on ground right now, we fear that that expectation remains a pipe dream which, like a mirage, vapourises into the air the more you get closer to it.
Today, from Enugu to Kaduna, Kano to Edo, Calabar to Sokoto, and elsewhere across the country, electricity supply has gone from bad to worse. Generators run full throttle, even as some parts have been without power now for weeks. While in some places, supply is erratic, in others, rationing and load shedding have become the order of the day. What is now apparent is that several parts of the country have experienced abysmal plunge in power supply, and the situation degenerated only after the Senate refused to give a nod to the new tariff increase.
While some stakeholders have blamed the performance failure by DISCOS on the absence of a market priced tariff for electricity in the country, it appears the power discos are more interested in improving their revenue streams than supplying electricity to Nigerians. No matter what the problem really is, Nigerians are united in asking DISCOS to demonstrate sincerity and belief in the Nigerian dream first by addressing the worrying hiccups in public power supply, as that is the only way to warm themselves into the hearts of Nigerians.
After all, against the backdrop of myriads of failed promises by governments in the country, most Nigerians are no longer as gullible as they were decades back, especially in the years of Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, ECN, or his successor, NEPA.
Nine months into the new administration, the situation in the power sector shows no signs of abetting as complaints and excuses from actors in the sector have begun to parry the real need for optimum electricity supply. First, the regulatory body, NERC blamed the deteriorating power supply on gas shortage. Next, the DISCOS and generating companies (GENCOS) listed the fact that consumers are not metred and the issue of gas as factors.
What a shame! What with all gas at the nations own Liquefied Natural Gas plant; if only the country can save the gas flaring, the nation will begin top enjoy uninterrupted public power supply. On this note we recall that experts have long posited that the volume of gas flared in Nigeria is capable of generating up to six gigawatts of electric power annually.
Until relevant institutions of government can put their acts together towards addressing the inherent problems in this sector, we fear that no matter the tones of policies churned out in this direction, without patriotically addressing the issue will continue to leave Nigeria unlit, and its prospects for prosperity locked up in the dark.