Economy

Nigeria politicians power campaigns with energy pledge

Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck (left) and main challenger, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari during election campaigns. Photo/AFP
Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck (left) and main challenger, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari during election campaigns. Photo/AFP 

Politics in Nigeria, like everywhere else, is about power.

But in the giant West African nation, politics is also about electric power.

So debilitating is the power rationing in the West African country — the most populous in Africa — that it must rank as one of the biggest contributors to Nigeria’s sleeping giant infamy.

Not surprisingly, every politician on the campaign trail makes a promise to resolve the crisis to try to win over the electorate.

You scan through newspaper campaign advertorials and a solution to Nigeria’s power blackouts is a recurring theme.

You attend the political rallies, and you are assured of hearing about the same.

The electronic media political campaign messages too invariably carry the power (electricity) theme.

The blackouts that would elsewhere be a cause of outrage among the citizenry, are in Nigeria the norm.

People just find alternatives and move on with their business.

Nigerians readily confirm that hardly a day passes without a blackout. These are either several and intermittent, or stretch on for long periods.

At the same time, they readily point out that the situation has improved considerably since Goodluck Jonathan took over the presidency about a year ago.

To keep the wheels of the economy running, Nigerians rely mostly on generators.

Factories, offices, hotels, cybercafés, you name it, must of necessity have a standby generator if they have to run their businesses with minimal interruption.

Lying between the Equator and the Sahara desert, Nigeria is generally a hot country where every modern building has to be equipped with an air conditioner, which, of course has to be powered one way or the other.

“Ever since this paper was established in 1983, there is no single day we have printed it using electricity supply, we always use the generator because printing is a delicate process that you would not want interrupted,” said Mr Felix Oguejiofor Abugu, the editor of the Guardian on Saturday.

Guardian Newspapers Limited is the publisher of Nigeria’s number one daily and weekend papers in terms of content.

According to a report by the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP), released early this week, Nigeria is the country with the biggest gap between supply and demand for electricity in the world.

The report put electricity supply in Nigeria at 3,800 megawatts (mw) for a population of 150 million, leaving a deficit of at least 7,770mw.

In contrast, South Africa generates 40,000mw for a population of 47 million, while Brazil in South America generates 100,000mw for its population of 201 million.

According to Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), some 100 million Nigerians have no access to electricity, while 50 million others receive low or irregular supply.

This essentially leaves nobody untouched by Nigeria’s endemic power supply hiccups.

To fix the problem, BPE recommends that over $35 billion (Naira 5.5 trillion) should be invested in the power sector in the next 10 years.

Further, the government must relax its stranglehold on the critical energy sector.

According to PTFP, “…since independence, Nigeria’s power sector has operated as a state monopoly, where only the Federal Government invests in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

“It has also been responsible for the procurement, construction, operation and maintenance of all power sector infrastructure and services required to support the sector.”

This centralisation, PTFP said, could not supply adequate power to keep pace with economic and population growth.

comondi@ke.nationmedia.com