If there is one index that has shown that Nigeria is almost a failed state, it is electricity generation and supply. For Nigeria’s 180 million inhabitants, the country supplies just some 3,000 Megawatts of electricity. That is not only shameful, scandalous even, but it is tragic. It simply degrades and takes the nation back into the dark ages because no nation can develop without electricity. Nigeria is currently producing two per cent of the total electricity it requires. Also, only four million of Nigeria’s 32 million households have electricity. Unfortunately for Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) government led by President Muhammadu Buhari is right now strolling down the electricity road that past governments also walked: make huge promises only to deliver nothing. It is likely that APC’s top shots have forgotten the party’s promise of increasing Nigeria’s electricity generation and distribution to 40, 000 megawatts. But The AUTHORITY newspaper is not asking Buhari to do the outright impossible by taking Nigeria’s electricity supply from 3,000 megawatts to 40,000 within the remaining two years before 2019 election date.
APC had stated that it would add an additional 5,000megawatts to the national grid every year and thus increase supply to 40,000megawatts in eight years. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had also through the late President Yar’Adua promised to increase electricity supply to over 10, 000 megawatts by 2013 and failed miserably, so we are not about to knock the APC. But if the government aims and achieves its own timetable of making available 5,000 megawatts yearly for the next two years, it would be able to outdo all the past administrations by raising Nigeria’s electricity supply to 13,000 megawatts - from just 3,000. Fortunately for the Mohammadu Buhari administration, the immediate problem that must be solved to up the present generation capacity of electricity in the country is not the problem of establishing new generating plants but that of making the seven gas turbines out of the 10 built under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) to work. And the way to make them work is to ensure they are supplied with gas. To do this will entail three things: ensure that there is adequate natural gas production. Luckily for Nigerians, the country is actually sitting on a sea of gas. So the first step on this road is to enhance the collection and storage of the abundant natural gas that is routinely burnt away during the collection of crude petroleum.
Then the next step is to successfully supply the natural gas to the already completed seven gas turbines. The only stumbling block here is vandalisation of pipelines. So the government must dream up the effective way to actually stop that national scourge.
Then we should complete the construction of the non-completed gas turbines and ensure that gas is available and that this gas produced by the companies get to the turbines. Fortunately, Nigeria already has 10 existing power plants. Each unit of the gas plant requires 30million/scfs of gas a day and we have 35 of these units in the system as we speak. That’s talking about 1,500million/scfs per day. Unfortunately, the supply of gas reaching the plants is about 400million/scfs of gas per day. So, most of the power plants are operating right now at about 20 or 30 per cent of installed capacity. So, really, Buhari is not faced by the problem that demands new gas turbines to be built. Actually, the problem facing Nigeria now is that generating capacity is just lying idle while people suffer for not having power. Many experts have posited that what has happened is that because the National Electricity Regulatory Commission has put a peg on the price of gas to the industry, the investors are not so much motivated by such price regimes and therefore prefer to sell the gas available to foreign countries. No, we think that because of pipeline vandalisation, suppliers may opt for the safer alternative; to send supplies to the overseas gas market – which is safer than the pipeline borne local electricity gas market. And here is the real problem: unless there is something Buhari could do to ensure that local industries get all the natural gas they need, inadequate electricity supply will continue to dog the country. If the gas turbines are functional, and we extract at least 5,000 megawatts from them alone, if we repair the old thermal and hydro power plants, Nigeria would begin to inch towards the 10,000 megawatts level.
Of course, there is the problem of some of the distribution companies’ (DISCOs) refusal to invest money in buying metres, transformers or even to replace fallen poles or cut wires, or to even extend electricity to rural areas because they are focused on profits. Such cases are real, but the pale before Nigerians is the shameful level of general electricity supply in the country. South Africa generates 40,000 megawatts and Ghana’s 30,000 megawatts level may equal Nigeria’s but the two countries combined population is vastly smaller than Nigeria’s. Then there is king coal. With coal, Nigeria can generate 17,500megawatts in 5 years and keep the manufacturing sector humming again and it is the cheapest electricity source. Nigeria’s Energy Mix is currently dominated by hydro (Water) and thermal (gas). It is strange that coal which we have in abundance is yet to find accommodation in our electricity generation, yet it is the main source of power generation in countries like U S A , Germany, China, Japan, India and South Africa. China generates over 70 per cent of its electricity from coal. In South Africa, 90 per cent, the UK , 47 per cent, India, 73 per cent . And Nigeria has coal deposits in 18 states , estimated to last for 200 years.
Dangote Cement is already utilising coal as electricity generation source at its Obajana Plant in Kogi State, producing beyond the company’s needs and giving the excess to the national grid. Nigeria should follow the example of this Nigerian entrepreneur. What is more! The lingering problems plaguing the management of the small quantity currently generated must be adequately addressed. Government must augment the revenue shortfall of about N809bn in the industry to avert the ugly incident of 200 per cent tariff increase which would likely break the back of the ordinary consumer. The alleged outstanding debt of over N100bn owed the distribution companies, the DISCOs by government ministries, agencies and departments should be offset without further delay. Again, all Nigerian homes must be provided with metres to put a halt to the menace of ‘crazy’ or estimated bills being used to swing Nigerians of their hard earned money by electricity marketers. Above all, while calling on the Federal Government to create the enabling environment and infrastructure that will attract investors into the sector, we urge the National Assembly to further liberalize the sector by abrogating Decree N0. 14 of 1973, which makes it mandatory for any electricity generated above 50 megawatts to be channeled to the national grid. This will encourage state or local governments, corporate organisations and even individuals to embark on the generation of energy. No country can develop without steady power supply.