States Must be Allowed to Generate and Distribute Electricity – Tony Osborg

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Lagos State has the resources, manpower and ability to generate and distribute all day long electricity to Lagosians and even neighbouring states. The only obstacle militating against this possibility is the Federal Government, and the 1999 Constitition which forbids states from generating and distributing electricity to their people!

The Niger Delta states and some Eastern states have abundant gas reserves and resources to build gas-driven power plants in their regions and offer their people uninterrupted power supply. The only obstacle also hindering this possibility is the Federal Government and the 1999 Constitution, debars these areas from generating and distributing electricity without first connecting it to the national grid.

Niger State is a host to three dams with a combined capacity of 1,900MW of potential electricity production through hydro plants, yet the state is in darkness. The State has equally pleaded with the Federal Government to give it only 13 percent derivation in revenues from the elctricity generated from the dams, yet the government has refused and continues to deny the State a fair share of the electricity generated in its backyard. What kind of depraved system is that?

Zamfara State has abundant wind to generate electricity for some parts of its territory, but according to the 1999 Constitution, no state has the power to exclusively distribute electricity it generates without sending this initially to the national grid.

Sokoto, Kano, Borno, Kogi, Enugu and all other states in Nigeria have their natural comparative advantages in generating and distributing electricity to their people, however federal laws have remained obstacles to this. Which is the main reason why Nigeria does not have enough electricity, as these states are obstructed from producing electricity in a competitive manner.

During the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Governors Fashola of Lagos and Amaechi of Rivers wrestled with the Federal Government and demanded that they be allowed to distribute electricity to their people. The Government refused, citing the said laws and some existing concession arrangements. Today Amaechi and Fashola are at the federal level yet rather interestingly they have both quietened on the struggle. At a point in Lagos, the state had excess electricity which it generated for its public infrastructure and was pleading with the Federal Government to allow it distribute this surplus to private residences as a way of dealing with the shortages from the national grid, but this was not permitted, with the hindering provisions in the 1999 Constitution cited for the denial.

One can only be highly alarmed at how much resources the Federal Government has invested in power generation and distribution, and the dismal result it has been able to achieve so far.

The concept of a national grid is an outdated model for power distribution within a federal system. We must allow every state to generate and distribute its own electricity. We must even allow small and big cities and towns to generate and distribute electricity. Competition is what drives national development.

The 1999 Constitution is our number enemy in Nigeria, and Nigerians must rise up to discard it by unbundling the Federal Government and giving back the states as much political and economic powers that they deserve.

In a federal system of government, every tier of government is autonomous and ought to encounter no centralised obstacle to its development. Nigeria is not a federal republic but a retrogressive, skewed, military unitary republic that is responsible for its own underdevelopment.

If militants blow up a gas pipeline in Bayelsa State, electricity goes off in Abuja and Adamawa. What kind of system is that? Why can’t we have a system that allows every regional crisis remain as local as possible, without it affecting us directly in other regions or at the national level?

The Nigerian system of government underdevelops the South and incapacitates the North. People from both the North and South must rise up to demand for a restructured Nigeria.

The Federal Government MUST give up its exclusive right to electricity generation and distribution if we must have sustainable power supply in Nigeria. Anything short of that is a waste of time and resources.

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