In the aftermath of the ongoing energy crunch in the country that has lasted for weeks brought about by worsening electricity supply from the public mains, the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, in a media briefing, blamed the embarrassing situation on low water level in the nation’s hydro dams. The hitch in energy supply is not helped by the escalating fuel scarcity that is inflicting maximum discomfort on Nigerians.
During the briefing, he listed a number of measures that his ministry, in collaboration with other government agencies, are making to bring the shortfall under control. In his words, ‘the challenges have been identified and we have short term solutions as well as long term solutions’.
What the minister disclosed at the media briefing is not new to Nigerians. Power shortage is a perennial problem in the country that has defied solution for the simple reason that those in charge hardly think proactively. It is common knowledge that during the dry season, there is always a challenge with the hydro dams. So, in our view, that ought not to be a reason not to provide an alternative in anticipation of that challenge.
The tendency on the part of the officials is to let it happen, deliberately, we dare say, so as to engage in fire brigade measures with enormous cost implications. The worry is that, even with the cost, the measures are barely enough to stop the problem from re-occurring. All that sermon about wind mills and gas fed electricity are aspects of the incompetence that has consistently denied Nigerians the benefits of regular power supply.
The challenge, in our opinion, is that in government circles, especially in the power sector, no one is under pressure to deliver on their mandates. The only talk is that for power to be supplied on a stable basis, the cost must be in line with economic realities, that investors must be encouraged to invest more and have a comfortable return on investment. That has always been the argument that the cost per unit of electricity is not economic, not investor- friendly.
This was the argument that led to the unbundling of the public power structure and the involvement of the private sector operators. The result is a descent into the abyss of inefficiency which is inflicting more hardship on the average consumer.
Power deficit is one of the major infrastructure challenges confronting Nigeria with its attendant consequence of stifling the growth of most small and medium enterprises that rely heavily on electricity.
A report released by the World Bank not too long ago indicated that almost 90 million Nigerians were without electricity supply, further underscoring the fact that the nation is enmeshed in serious electricity deficit.
Years after the World Bank report, it is obvious to the uninitiated that there has been no appreciable progress to suggest that the nation is on the verge of resolving challenges associated with provision of stable electricity for all especially residents of rural areas and urban slums.
Sadly, in our opinion, the story of power supply in Nigeria is riddled with corruption as humongous amount of money supposedly voted for the improvement of the sector is either mismanaged or out- rightly stolen.
We recall that the need to boost power supply in the country informed the decision of government to mull the idea of the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power project, located in the present-day Taraba State, over 30 years ago. However, like most such gigantic projects in Nigeria, the Mambilla, in spite of its enormous potentials, was neglected by successive administrations.
In 1972, a preliminary report recommended the construction of a hydropower project with a rated capacity of 3,960 MW. When the project was eventually conceived in 1982, construction was expected to last six years. However, years after its conception, due, solely to neglect on the part of successive governments, the project was abandoned.
However, in 2011, years after the project was mooted, government approved the award of contract for consultancy services for the detailed design and project management and supervision of a revised power output of 2,600 Mambila Hydro Electric Power project at the sum of $37,220,068,72.
Since then, nothing tangible happened until 2017 when the government gave approval for the contract. However, even at that, the progress of work on this all-important project has been annoyingly slow with litigation further compounding the matter.
We believe, like most Nigerians do, that the project has the potentials to transform Nigeria’s socio-economic development when completed. Experts are of the view that the project, unarguably the biggest single power project in the country, will no doubt chart a new course of prosperity in the entire nation.
In our considered opinion, a little more serious approach to the issue of power supply in the country is what Nigerians expect as solution to the problem. Certainly not the kind of utterances and despondency that emanate from official circles. Enough of the excuses.