For the first time in the nation’s history, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous black nation and the bedrock of the West African regional economy, suffered a nationwide blackout as the national grid totally collapsed on March 31, 2016. It was an event unheard of in the nation’s history. While the nation has always been known for epileptic power supply, this unfortunate event marked the emergence of a new low in the country’s power supply matrix.
Nigeria’s minster of power, Raji Fashola, acknowledged that the nation did not have enough power to go around, attributing the problem to vandals sabotaging pipelines. How odd it is that the so called giant of Africa cannot power its country and economy, given the level of technology and resources available to the nation. The aim of this article is not to point fingers, but to analyze the problem, locate the root causes and in turn propose policy making initiatives that may help in addressing and rectifying the situation promptly and efficiently.
Because Africa’s most populated country is also the foundation of the West African economy, and modern day mercantilism is wholly supported by electrical power, it is imperative that Nigeria solves her energy problems immediately. Bear in mind also that without the Nigerian economy operating at full potential, the West African and indeed the African economy will remain miniscule to its worldly counterparts. This is the domino effect of the Nigerian energy crisis. Nigeria’s electric problem is not one dimensional, as over the years many factors have intermingled to impose a multidimensional burden on the country’s power generation and distribution potential.
In this day and age and with all the natural resources Nigeria is blessed with, it baffles the clear thinking individual why the country is still at the megawatts generation stage, and why it hasn’t entered the terawatts realm, or even into the business of selling electricity to other African nations? It appears that the vision of the country’s leadership is stuck in the 1970s mind frame, oblivious of the exponential increase in population and socio-economy. The core of Nigeria’s problems stem from mainly poor policy initiatives over the years by the country’s governments with regards to expanding the sources of electricity from the age old Kainji Dam and a few scattered power plants.
Also, Poor town and urban planning makes it difficult to regulate power distribution and downstream activities thus overloading the current grid, a non-existing asset protection mechanism for the safety of power generation/distribution equipment like pipelines and plants and finally a very poor maintenance culture. The combination of these factors has placed Nigeria at about zero grid capacity per capita. To put it in perspective, according to online research, the average Nigerian uses only 136KW/h annually; consumes only 3% of the power of the average South African and 5% of the average Chinese citizen i.e. for every 24 hours of power they get, the average Nigerian gets only 1 hour or less! That is just appalling.
How can the seventh most populated country in the world generate currently 1,580 MW and potentially 6 GW! Nigeria has the potential to generate hundreds of GW of power if the right minds apply themselves to the issue. It is an absolute disgrace for the statesmen of the country to operate under such circumstances and stand amongst their peers at international conventions. Gravity of problem To begin to solve this problem in Nigeria, it is important to approach it from a multidimensional perspective. The federal government and the present minister of power must understand the gravity of the power crisis and how detrimental it is to the Nigerian and West African economy.
With only a handful of natural gas power plants built, one wonders why a country so blessed with this wonderful resource should wallow in darkness. There is no reason why Nigeria should not have at least 150 natural gas power plants, especially from independent power producers (IPP) and national integrated power projects (NIPP). This area will also generate a lot of jobs and improve unemployment. But the operation of this policy is grounded in the ability to protect the pipeline network necessary for the entire energy sector to thrive. Without a functioning pipeline grid, it is impossible to operate upstream and downstream sections of the oil and gas field and also, maintain functional electric power distribution and generation.
While the government has proposed drones to monitor pipelines, it appears laughable given the more sophisticated and efficient alternatives available. In one of my previous articles titled “Pipeline Protection and Industrial Security in Nigeria”, which can be found online at, I explained the Digital Acoustic System as the most efficient mode of monitoring pipelines, plus other dynamic perspectives regarding pipeline protection. It is imperative if Nigeria is to have electricity, that her pipelines must be protected by the most technologically advanced means possible.
All in all, if the government can pump money into protecting the nation’s pipeline grid, which is the absolute foundation for the availability of electricity, while at the same time neutralize bunkering and militancy with diplomacy, If the government can invest heavily in natural gas power plants, and work with state governments in expanding the overpopulated urban areas so as to build a proper grid for power distribution and consumption, if they can take the time and effort to put aside party politics and political vendetta and remember that this portion of the earth is all they have as a collective whole irrespective of language or religious difference,. If they can buckle down and implement this simultaneous and multidimensional approach, then in less than 10 years, the issue of power outage in Nigeria will be a thing of the past.

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Ifedobi is an economist and a consultant of the American Petroleum Institute (API), based in [email protected]

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