• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Businesses pay more for ‘darkness’ as power outage persists

Businesses pay more for ‘darkness’ as power outage persists

For Ngozi Uzordike, owner of a popular financial consulting firm, the dream of financial independence feels increasingly distant.

Rolling blackouts, a constant frustration for Lagosians, have become a business nightmare.

Already, most band A customers, who are expected to get at least 20 hours of power supply daily for being charged an exorbitant rate of N225 kilowatt per hour (KWh), are complaining of poor supply.

Read also: Can’t escape the heat: Blackouts make Nigeria heatwave unbearable

“We are on Band A but we struggle to get two hours uninterrupted supply; we have to apologise, reschedule appointments, and hope they come back,” Uzordike said.

Uzordike isn’t alone. Businesses across Lagos are paying a steep price for the power sector’s struggles.

The lack of power supply has increased production costs for many businesses forced to provide their electricity, mostly using diesel-run generators as alternative sources of electricity.

While some who can’t afford to fuel their generator to run for at least a minimum of 15 hours a day are already out of business, others who can are battling with low patronage due to the cost implication of the high cost of fuel, dollar rate, inflation, etc. on their goods or services.

DisCos, the electricity distribution companies, are under fire for failing to deliver consistent power despite customer complaints and high bills.

“We are on Band A, but I can tell you clearly that we’re basically paying for darkness,” Emeka Uka, who runs a fast food restaurant, said.

The unreliable power supply forces Uka and his cohorts to rely on generators, significantly increasing his running costs.

“The generator eats into profits, especially with the rising cost of fuel,” he explained.

The additional burden makes it difficult to compete and forces him to consider raising prices, a move that might push customers away.

The impact extends beyond financial strain.

Unpredictable power cuts disrupt workflows, leading to delays and lost productivity.

“Imagine having a machine halfway through a process when the power cuts out,” said Zainab Mohammed, who runs a printing press. “The quality suffers, and sometimes, the whole job is ruined.”

The lack of reliable power creates a vicious cycle. Businesses struggle to expand or invest in improvements, hindering economic growth.

“Customers are frustrated, and it hurts our reputation,” Ngozi said. The dream of a thriving business feels further away with each passing blackout.

A sense of powerlessness hangs heavy. Many business owners express frustration with the lack of transparency and accountability from the DisCos.

Power supply at an all-time low

Electricity supply in Nigeria is currently at its all-time lowest. Across social media platforms, Nigerians have lamented the epileptic power supply and on many occasions have called out Adebayo Adelabu, the nation’s minister of power and accused him of being clueless.

Nigeria has struggled with poor power supply for decades, a challenge that is estimated to cost businesses about $29 billion yearly, according to the World Bank.

The country has the lowest access to electricity globally, with about 92 million persons out of the country’s 200 million population lacking access to power, according to the Energy Progress Report 2022 released by Tracking SDG 7.

Read also: Gas-rich Nigeria faces blackouts as supply shortage worsens

Also, a World Bank report in 2021 revealed that a total of 74 per cent of power users in the country are dissatisfied with the supply of electricity across the country while 93 per cent of metered power users paid their bills regularly, 78 per cent of electricity consumers in the country received less than 12 hours of power supply daily.

Earlier in February 2024, women protested at the office of the power distribution company in Port Harcourt, saying their husbands no longer make love with them at night due to excessive heat and poor power supply.

NERC had increased tariff for band A consumers from about N66 KWh to a flat rate of N225 KWh in an attempt to reduce government subsidy on the sector.

Struggling to meet up with required hours of electricity for band A, most consumers and the larger segment of the country, who are meant to enjoy between 16 to about four hours of electricity under band B to E, have been thrown into darkness.

Some customers in the Ajao Estate area of Lagos State served by Ikeja Electric, who are under band C, said the supply only comes by midnight and disappears before dawn. These customers are supposed to get a minimum of 12 hours of electricity per day.

Indeed, Nigerians are displeased with the worsened power situation in the country which the heatwave has worsened occasioned by the harsh climate conditions.

Adeola Adenikinju, president of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES) said it was obvious that the DisCos do not have enough power to distribute to customers.

He noted that with the higher tariff rate, band A consumers are likely to be more negatively impacted, except there is an overall improvement on electricity generation.

“DisCos should not be allowed to implement any tariff increase until they are ready to meet the number of hours required under each tariff band. “Overall, the current band category should be transitional. It is also discriminatory. Every customer should be entitled to stable, reliable, affordable and constant electricity supply,” Adenikinju said.