• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Business woes worsen as large scale theft deepens blackouts

The states and the blackout nation!

Large-scale theft of electrical equipment is worsening the already crippling power outages plaguing businesses across Nigeria.

Businesses, already struggling with inconsistent electricity supply, are now facing even longer blackouts due to the theft of transformers, cables, and other vital infrastructure. This surge in theft is further crippling the Nigerian economy, which relies heavily on the private sector.

“We’ve been experiencing blackouts for years, but it’s gotten much worse recently,” said Amina Abubakar, who owns a bakery in Lagos. “Last week, thieves stole the transformer for our entire neighbourhood. We were out of power for four days, and I had to throw away a whole batch of bread.”

The theft of electrical equipment is not a new problem in Nigeria, but it appears to be on the rise. Power distribution companies say they are working with law enforcement to apprehend the culprits, but many businesses are sceptical that the problem will be solved soon.

“The government needs to do more to protect our infrastructure,” Sola Olanrewaju, who manufactures clothing in Kano said on X, formally known as Twitter. “These blackouts are killing businesses. We can’t operate without power, and we can’t afford to keep replacing stolen equipment.”

The lack of reliable electricity is a major hurdle for businesses in Nigeria. It not only disrupts production but also drives up costs, as many businesses have to rely on expensive generators to keep the lights on.

Although successive administrations have attempted to address the country’s erratic power supply, significant success has not been achieved.

The Transmission Commission of Nigeria (TCN) confirmed the widespread theft and condemned it as a major setback for its already strained power grid.

The government’s electricity utility company, confirmed “The vandalism and destruction of two of its transmission towers, T377 and T378, along the Gombe–Damaturu 330kV transmission line on February 23.”

“This act, perpetrated by insurgents, resulted in a load loss of approximately 5MW. “At approximately 9:35 pm yesterday, the Gombe -Damaturu 330kV transmission line experienced a trip.

“Following initial checks, TCN engineers from the Bauchi regional office attempted the restoration of the line. “But it tripped again, prompting the dispatch of TCN’s linesmen and security operatives to trace the fault.

“The team, then discovered the two collapsed towers, T377 and T378,” said TCN on 25 February. TCN then arranged to temporarily supply electricity to Damaturu from the Potiskum Transmission Substation.

“Meanwhile, arrangements are underway to mobilise contractors that will re-erect the vandalised transmission towers and restring the 330kV line affected by the incident.”

On 3 February TCN reported that its tower number 388 along the Jos-Bauchi, 132kV Single Circuit transmission Line was vandalised, resulting in its collapse.

“The incident, suspected to have occurred on the first of February, 2024, at about 10:20PM, led to a power outage in Yobe and Borno States.”

The police’s anti-bomb squad and the Department of State Services (DSS) accompanied the TCN line crew to the site.

“Upon inspection, the team uncovered remnants of detonated explosives by vandals by the tower legs, which had exploded and caused the tower to collapse.

“This incident mirrors a recent and similar act on December 21, 2023, which brought down towers T372 and T373 along the Gombe-Damaturu 330kV Single Circuit transmission line.”

A security operative was killed and it affected power supply in the same Yobe and Borno States.

“The line and towers from the December incident were fully reconstructed and energised on 2nd February 2024,” said TCN.

Last year vandals destroyed 109 transmission towers over nine months across Nigeria, a TCN report showed.

Nigeria’s Electricity Connectivity Challenge

In December, the World Bank said that access to electricity is “a significant challenge in Nigeria”, with more than 85 million people living without it as of 2021.

Utility Bidder, a UK-based company that monitors business electricity consumption, said firms in Nigeria experience almost 33 power outages a month.

This equated to around 394 a year – the third highest of any country on the list. Nigeria ranked the highest on the list of African countries.

“Widespread blackouts have become common in Nigeria as their national electricity grid supply is unreliable,” said Utility Bidder.

Papua New Guinea, with 503, experiences more business-related power outages than any other country on the list, followed by Yemen with 466 power outages per year across firms.