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Any Sabotage over Nigeria’s Unending Grid Collapse, by Musa Musa Ilallah

Any Sabotage over Nigeria’s Unending Grid Collapse, by Musa Musa Ilallah
National Grid
Any Sabotage over Nigeria's Unending Grid Collapse, by Musa Musa Ilallah

It will indeed be not strange, or suprising, if Nigerians wake up one morning and hear that there is another nationwide power or grid collapse. What will however be strange or surprising to Nigerians will be to hear that grid collapse will no longer happen.

Despite a N1.52trn bailout given to Nigeria’s Power sector by the Buhari administration since coming to power on May 29th, 2015, the country’s National Grid has collapsed 98 times.

Any Sabotage over Nigeria's Unending Grid Collapse, by Musa Musa Ilallah

Nigeria’s available power generation capacity fell by 981.8 MW between 2015 and August 2022 despite the over N1.51tn intervention in the sector by the Federal Government since the current administration came on board in 2015.

A document on Power Generation trend between 2013–August 2022 from the Association of Power Generation Companies which is an umbrella body of electricity producers, indicated that while available power generation capacity was 6,616.28MW in 2015, it dropped to 5,634.47MW as at August 2022 thus resulting to a loss of N1.76 trn between 2015 and August 2022.

Meanwhile, data sourced from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC indicated that the country’s power grid had been recording incessant partial and total collapse since 2015 despite the funds pumped into it.

The level of embarrassment, losses and inconveniences they have caused Nigeria and her citizens are unquantifiable.

Sadly, grid collapses which become one too many, have continued to occur with impunity because no one has been made to pay the price of an action due to negligence, lack of patriotism or sheer sabotage.

Commenting on the unfortunate recurring grid collapse in the country’s power sector, the President of Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, who served in the National Technical Investigative Panel on Power System Collapses, System Stability and Reliability in 2013, Kunle Olubiyo stated: “the power sector lacked the required governance structure and that not much would be achieved in an electricity market that is deliberately skewed to fail and lacks the requisite governance structure, fiscal discipline and responsibility.”

Available records show that the annual capacity revenue losses in the sector in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 were N214.93bn, N273.32bn, N236.47bn and N264.08bn respectively, while in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 (January – August), the sector’s annual capacity revenue losses were N256.97bn, N266.10bn, N159.86bn and N88.13bn, respectively.

The losses are despite the interventions by the Federal Government to the power sector estimated at over N1.51tn, without commensurate available generation capacity.

Available records have further indicated that aside its annual budgetary allocations to the Federal Ministry of Power, government went out of its way to offer series of interventions in the sector in a bid to revamp the industry.

This however was regardless of the fact that the distribution and generation arms of the business were unbundled and officially sold to private investors in November 2013 by the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

On Special interventions to power, one can vividly recall that on September 30, 2014, the Federal Government announced a loan of N213bn to the privatised power firms while on March 1, 2017, Government again approved N701bn as a power assurance guarantee fund for the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc to pay for the electricity produced by the generation companies for two years, and another N600bn secured from CBN for payment assurance facility to the sector in 2019.

Experts in the sector have variously agreed that the sector’s key gaps include incomplete implementation of power sector reforms and regulations; dearth of appropriate manpower in the sector; lack of laws to stem activities of energy thieves; and absence of strong political leadership in exercising the powers.

It is therefore not doubtful that power generation had continued to fluctuate due to various concerns such as gas constraints, water management challenges, and gas pipeline vandalism among others.

Aside from these direct interventions from the Federal Government, the sector had also received funding from international financiers such as the World Bank and African Development Bank, AfDB among other development partners.

Operators in the sector also confirmed that there are question on the funds invested in the past years as the sector is currently in abysmal state because the industry has failed to live up to expectation.

They however stressed that Government must provide functional leadership and enabling laws, among others, for the sector to be revived.

The need for adequate follow ups through monitoring and evaluation in the industry cannot be over emphasised.

Electricity generation started in Nigeria in 1896 but the first electric utility company, known as the Nigerian Electricity Supply Company, was established in 1929. By 2000, a state-owned National Electric Power Authority, NEPA was floated to take charge of generation, transmission and distribution of electric power in Nigeria. It operated as a vertical integrated utility company and had a total generation capacity of 6, 200 MW from 2 hydro and 4 thermal power plants.

This resulted in an unstable and unreliable electric power supply situation in the country with consumers exposed to frequent power cuts and long periods of power outages.

The reform of the electricity sector began began in 2001 with the promulgation of the National Electric Power Policy which had as one of its goals the establishment of an efficient electricity market in Nigeria.

It had the overall objective of transferring the ownership and management of the infrastructure and assets of the electricity industry to the private sector with the consequent creation of all the necessary structures required to forming and sustaining an electricity market in Nigeria.

In 2005 the Electric Power Sector Reform, EPSR Act was enacted and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC was formed as an independent regulatory body for the electricity industry in Nigeria. In addition, Power Holding Company of Nigeria PHCN was formed as a transitional corporation that comprised of 18 successor companies consisting of 6, 11 and 1 generation, distribution and transmission companies.

For me, President Buhari has done extremely well for the power sector like he has done with other critical sectors of the country since he came on the throne on May 29, 2015.

Whatever gaps and shortcomings are in the sector today that have caused untold hardship to millions of individual and coporate power users should be placed at the door steps of those charged with delivery across the chains of generation, distribution and transmission as well as regulators and policy makers in the Federal Ministry of Power.

It is our fervent prayer that soon a permanent solution to persistent grid failure in our power systems will be found and applied once and for all.

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