Nigeria’s Electricity Situation

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Sustainable electricity supply in Nigeria has been very elusive due to ominous reasons that are probably not exclusive to Nigeria alone. However, our situation is a peculiar mess when compared to other countries.

The Power Sector conundrum seemingly defiled all administrative solutions aimed at redressing it in the past. Darkness grown so bold that Nigerians conditioned themselves to accepting it’s companion. A situation that is damaging to the economy and infrastructural development in the country over the years.

Sadly, Nigerians are still likely not to enjoy stable electricity for many years to come, for reasons which include: regulatory hitches, funding challenges, and inconducive environment for investors.

The funding challenge is more precarious because of the recalcitrance of electricity consumers to pay for energy consumed. But ironically, Nigerians are more favourably disposed to paying the right price for other essential goods like food, water, clothes, and GSM/internet services even when the prices skyrocketed.

While Nigerians finds it difficult to pay for energy utilized at the prevailing low tariff rate, they did not hesitate to pay appropriate costs for other alternatives to public power supply such as Inverter, Generators and fueling at the current deregulated price of petrol.

The aberrative thinking of Nigerians that electricity is a social service by the government and should be sold at cheap price or given freely is mostly responsible for the outcry that usually greeted an increase in electricity tariff in line with the MYTO policy to reflect market reality. This height of ignorance mostly led to the refusal to pay for energy supplied by customers.

Even in the days of NEPA when government was fully in control of all aspects of power generation, transmission, and distribution, energy was supplied to consumers at a price that reflects the cost of production.

Nigerians must discountenance this erroneous assumption especially under the current framework where private investors handled the generation and distribution components of the electricity chain. We may need to adjust to seeing it in the same way we consider bags of pure water we buy to fill the lacuna created by the absence of portable water supply.

The government, through the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), has retained control of the transmission segment. NBET buys electricity in bulk from the generation companies and delivers it to the distribution companies through TCN which manages the national grid and affiliated assets like substations and transmission lines.

As consumers, we only interface with the distribution companies (DISCOs), 11 of them across the country. The DISCOs receive tariffs from which they are expected to pay the transmission company, the distribution companies, the regulator and in fact every other person on the electricity chain.

Where, due to failure to pay electricity bills, the DISCOs are unable to raise enough funds to settle the invoices submitted by the generation companies, TCN and NBET, it is recorded as a debt in their books, which is the present reality.

The conspiracy against increase in energy tariff by people who are unaware of the real implications is usually supported by politicians who have also been playing to the gallery on the issue of tariff, assuring the people that they would oppose attempts to increase tariffs until power supply has improved.

But they also failed to explain to the people that players in the sector are unable to recover cost and should the present situation persist, may have no choice but completely surrender and divest just like other investors in the aviation and manufacturing sectors have done.

If we must get stable and sustainable electricity supply, Nigerians may need to see the reason to pay for energy consumed promptly and regularly to boost financial capacity and the confidence of private investors in the power sector.

Source: The Nigerian

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