By Adedotun Ajayi
Electricity is one of the wonders that science has bestowed on mankind. It has also become a part of modern life and one cannot think of a world without it.
In late 2001, at the International Conference Centre Abuja, during the launch of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s book: “The New Dawn,” he lamented about the state of electricity supply in Nigeria.
He claimed that it was a major concern to his government then and that his accepting to run for a second term would depend on how much he is able to fix the electricity problem during his first term. It turned out a mere political gimmick to make it look like he was so concerned about it that he could hang his political career on it. He nibbled around it for years without any significant improvement, even though his administration started the unbundling of NEPA and the privatization scheme.
The Goodluck Jonathan’s administration too did nothing significant on electricity, except the eventual unbundling of PHCN to three sub-sectors of Generation company, Distribution company, and Transmission Company. The essence was to reduce and redistribute the burden of a complex entity like NEPA to three agencies, with the overall aim of improving service delivery.
The Buhari’s administration was said to have been struggling to ensure that the cost of electricity supply does not increase, as the various DISCOs have increased electricity tariff. Secretly, the Buhari’s administration has thus been subsidizing electricity supply in Nigeria for almost all the time the administration has been in power. Yet, power supply remains epileptic, sadly.
It would be recalled that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, revealed how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply was allegedly squandered under the governments of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the report, “The total estimated financial loss from corruption in the electricity sector starting from the return to democracy in 1999 to date is over Eleven Trillion Naira (N11 Trillion Naira). This represents public funds, private equity and social investment (or divestments) in the power sector. It is estimated to reach over Twenty Trillion Naira (N20 Trillion Naira) in the next decade given the rate of Government investment and funding in the power sector amidst dwindling fortune and recurrent revenue shortfalls.”
According to the World bank, it disclosed that businesses in Nigeria suffer an annual loss of $29 billion as a result of “unreliable” power supply, which it stated has resulted in the refusal of consumers to pay bills.
Since stable electricity has been a major issue in the country for decades, the question is “can the economy function without stable electricity?”
Olubunmi Adewa, an economist from the Adekunle Ajasin University said electricity is a major contributor to a nation’ s economic development.
According to her; “It is the wheel that drives most aspects of everyday life in society. A nation is a compendium of activities and people whose progress is driven by the infrastructural components. Electricity is the source of fuel for so many sectors of an economy. We all live by electricity, our hospitals need electricity for the safe delivery of children and for surgery and other purposes. Our airports need electricity for them to work and ensure the safety of our aviation industry.”
She explained that every nation lives by the activities of its workforce and electricity is the number one amenity that is the lifeblood of many activities in the country.
” It is essential for our industries, they all need electricity for them to power their engines. The foreign missions in our countries and their businesses need electricity for them to have a comfortable life in the country. The welding and other artistry in our country need electricity to be able to work and all aspects of life in today’s world are revolving around electricity.
“Electricity is so important to the economic development of every nation because it brings investment opportunities for the country. In a country with a fair share of electricity, investors come in because the cost of production in such a country is minimal compared to where there is no electricity. The electricity is cheaper compared to running on generators. Electricity helps to reduce mortality rate in the country because the hospitals will be efficiently powered and such is a key factor in service delivery at hospitals.” She enumerated.
She expressed that in countries with better electricity, good production and preservation are higher because, the electricity can help in powering irrigation, food preservation, and seed preservations. Adewa added that they enable the country to have fewer damages to agricultural products because they can be kept in storage facilities to avoid wasting them.
“Electricity improves the standard of living of the people in the country. This is very important for the economic advancement of a country. If the people live in better conditions, it has ripple effects on every aspect of the country. It reduces unwarranted expenditures for the government. ” She stated.
She stated that it would improve the security of the country and help to create job opportunities for the people because the indirect sectors use electricity to power their businesses. “The development comes when the key drivers of the economy are unhindered by lack of infrastructural components of the country.” She stressed.
In the same vein, Engr Stephen Olugbenga Bolawole, the State Coordinator of Ondo State Electricity Regulatory Bureau while speaking with The Hope harped on the importance of electricity in driving a nation’s technological advancement.
He said “for every nation to develop, it depends on it’s technological advancement, so the nation’s technology depends on electricity. To work fine, it also depends on affordable and reliable electricity.
Ayomide Olupona, a political scientist said his hopes were high that the Buhari’s administration would decisively tackle the mess in the electricity industry, but regretted that the administration, as in many areas, has been romancing the cabals that do not want things to work in Nigeria.
He said “When this present administration took over, I personally thought electricity problem would be a thing of the past but to my greatest surprise, it became even worse. The main reason why investors are not investing in this country is because there is no steady supply of electricity, not only does poor power supply cripple our chances of attracting investors, it also comes with environmental costs. The constant use of generators that emit fumes into the atmosphere, increases air pollution which affects climate change and human health. In turn, environmental damage can result in agricultural job losses, the ripple effects are countless” he said.