Pressing Issues That Gen. Muhammadu Buhari Needs To Tackle, By Frank Ijege
Let me use the opportunity to congratulate the president elect on his recent victory at the poll. His tenacity and perseverance has indeed paid off; his victory it is hoped, will indeed offer Nigerians the opportunity to enjoy his robust programmes, which he has over the years sought to implement if given the opportunity to govern the country. Thank God that opportunity has finally presented itself.
This piece is the first out of four series which will run within the next four weeks. It covers fundamental problems in our national life; which therefore, becomes necessary to draw the attention of the incoming government to, so that as soon as it takes over in May, it will hit the ground running. This particular piece is focused on the power sector. Other areas will be discussed in the ensuing weeks.
Power, plays a fundamental role in the life of every nation. Due to its importance, countries of the world invest heavily in the sector. According to a 2012 report, countries like Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica and South Africa, were the largest investors in renewable energy. South Africa generates close to 40,000 MW, 98% of which is from coal. In Mauritius, a workable plan between the government have seen the Island enjoying stable electricity. In 2013, 2575 MW was generated, representing an increase of 3.2% when compared with the year 2012. The country’s electricity consumption for that period was less than 1000 MW. 80% of the electricity in Mauritius is generated from thermal plants, while the remaining 20% is from hydro-power. The government has a fifteen year plan, which hopes to see power generation increase steadily. In Uruguay, power generation has increased from 2500 MW to 2900 MW, between 2009 and 2013. 63% of the generated electricity is
derived from hydro-power. These are countries that have invested greatly in the power sector, and they have been reaping the benefits that come with stable electricity.
The benefits enjoyed by the citizens of the aforementioned countries are enormous. Industrial activities thrive, small businesses crop up, as stable and reliable electricity reduces operational cost. People and organizations are saved the burden of investing in costly backups. Through stable power generation, the citizens are gainfully employed and engaged, which translates into few people engaging in anti-social activities.
In Nigeria however, the opposite is the case. Electricity generation is at a disappointing level. Despite the huge investment in the sector, darkness remains prevalent in the country. Corruption has destroyed the power sector; the high level of corruption in the power sector, makes a ridicule of the huge investments in the sector. For instance, according to a 2013 report, the government of Nigeria has invested $31.45 billion, from 1999 to 2013, and all that was generated within that fourteen year period is just 2500 MW; thus taking the total electricity generation in Nigeria to around 4500 MW. This is a far cry when compared with the output by other countries within the same fourteen year period. Brazil invested $58 billion in its power sector within a fourteen between 1994 and 2008, while its power generation is about 100,000 MW! With the amount invested in the sector thus far, Nigeria and Nigerians deserve more in terms of power generation.
The effect of this poor power generation is already being felt by the people. A lot of industries have folded up, small business have equally been flushed away. Others have resorted to artificial backup systems, which translates into high operating costs, which are transferred onto the citizens. Businesses must make profit despite the huge cost of doing business. Due to the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, most business have moved to other African countries that have over the years ensure a steady electricity supply for their people. This diminishes our self-acclaimed status of being the giant of Africa. A giant that cannot cater for his subordinates is worse than a weakling. Our people are insulted and killed in small countries of the world due to the persistent failure of our leaders in providing the basic essentials of living.
The incoming government therefore, has a job to do; and it must start with the power sector. That it must provide stable electricity for Nigerians is non-negotiable. It must show us that it is different and must get things right. One expects a complete overhaul of the entire sector, and putting mechanisms in place in order to get the desired results. A situation where billions of naira is invested with little result to show for it must stop. The privatization of the sector has yielded little or no result. Nigerians are paying more for electricity they hardly use or consume. This must change!
There should also be a diversification of the means of power generation. The countries mentioned above do not have oil. Yet, they have been able to provide a steady power for their people. It is therefore shameful that despite the huge deposit of resources in Nigeria, the country is still lagging behind in terms of electricity generation.
The Buhari administration must put an end to this shame. It is hoped it would achieve this through hydro-power generation and a revisit to coal. All the private industries hoping to invest in the sector should be made to come up with a plan on how it intends to explore on other source of power generation, rather than the unwholesome dependence on fuel. Also, investments in that sector must also be monitored in order to ensure that every dime budgeted to be spent is not only spent but spent appropriately. His administration must restore the dignity of government and the status of Nigeria in not just Africa, but in the entire world. The expectations are high; he must therefore, strive to meet these expectations
I pray that Nigeria witnesses a new birth in the power sector, as we embark on another four years democratic experience under Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
To be continued…
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