• Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Large scale theft robs Nigeria of electricity

Businesses pay more for ‘darkness’ as power outage persists

Millions of Nigerians nationwide are facing extended power outages due to large-scale theft of power infrastructure, further exacerbating the nation’s ongoing electricity crisis.

BusinessDay reports showed that thieves have systematically targeted critical components, including transformers, cables, and conductors, leaving entire communities without power for days or even weeks.

After a two weeks blackout, 24-year-old Toun Jegede and other residents of Magboro, an outskirt of Ogun state were excited when the power supply was restored to their community.

Their excitement lasted for just about six hours before there was an outage again. Since Jegede was born, her community, like many other parts of the country, has never enjoyed a constant electricity supply.

“Power supply has never been stable in our area, that explains why anytime we have it, you see everybody excited,” the undergraduate of the University of Ibadan told our correspondent.

“It has been worse in recent times. In July, we used to have electricity about once a week. In July, it degenerated, and we only had electricity three times throughout the month. The last time we had an electricity supply was two weeks ago,” he added.

Read also Nigeria only transmits 8,100MW of 13,000MW generated electricity – TCN

The power supply in most parts of Nigeria has been awful for decades. Many young adults in the country, especially those in rural areas, have never witnessed an uninterrupted power supply for a week.

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.

On Monday, TCN said its Gwagwalada-Kukwaba-Apo 132KV Transmission Line 1 in the Abuja axis has been attacked by suspected vandals, noting that the transmission line was “vandalised between Tower 23 and Tower 25.”

Read also Blackout worsens as national grid collapses again

The vandalisation of the line, the statement said, was suspected to have taken place at about 1 am on Sunday, “when bulk power supply on the line was cut off, necessitating an early morning investigation by TCN linesmen.”

Ndidi Mbah, the TCN General Manager of Public Affairs, released the statement that investigations revealed a vandalised portion of the line route between Tower 23 and Tower 25.

Mbah added that the vandals had also carted away conductors, causing a power outage at the Kukwaba Transmission Substation.

TCN admitted that it could only transmit 8,100MW of the 13,000MW, a meagre 62 per cent, of electricity generated in the country, leaving a significant gap between supply and demand.

“We are supposed to be able to transmit about 15,000MW, but we are unable to meet this capacity due to weak and ageing infrastructure,” said Thomas Inugonum, TCN’s general manager for Port Harcourt Region.

TCN officials attribute the limited transmission capacity to outdated equipment, some of which is over 50 years old. This ageing infrastructure is prone to breakdowns and inefficiencies, hindering the flow of electricity across the country.

“In just two months, we have lost several of our transmission lines in Odukpani (Cross River) and in Elelenwo in Rivers,” Inugonum said.

“A 60mva cost about N1.2 billion, while a span of 132kv of our transmission line cost about 330,000 dollars, making our losses unquantifiable and humongous when vandalised.

“Unfortunately, people vandalise facilities worth billions of naira only to melt the metals to construct gates, pots, and cups. It is just wickedness,’’ Inugonum lamented.

Read also 90m Nigerians still lack access to electricity 10 years post privatisation — Tinubu

Tunde Adeniyi, an energy expert with an investment bank, explained that there were laws around energy theft that criminalised the stealing of transmitting lines, noting that even though the DisCos were directly affected, the challenge affected all the operators.

“Nigerians need to know that electricity is a commodity, and just like every other commodity, there is a cost of production of services that goes into producing electricity and distributing it from the grid,” Adeniyi said via phone.

In the Nigerian electricity sector, different segments of the value chain have their respective lamentations.

While the DisCos, who interact with the final consumers directly, insist on energy theft as a major challenge that impedes capital investment that could help them improve their operations, the consumers at the receiving end complain about the poor service delivery.

Sunday Oduntan, the executive director, research and advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors said in Ibadan during an interaction session with electricity consumers, “The amount of energy stolen in this country is so much that it has impacted our ability to deliver service.”

On the implications of energy theft on the operations, Wale Ademoye, an analyst with Sofidam Capital, lamented the impact on their operations and obligations to market participants and industry stakeholders.

He stated, “Energy theft affects Eko DisCo’s ability to collect revenue for the energy delivered to its network fully. As a result of this, there is a constraint in settling the market invoice. In addition, the component of the electricity tariff that allows DisCos to recover its distribution charge and afford it to make notable network improvements to enhance the quality of service to customers will be lost.

“More importantly, energy theft brings about the scarcity of resources and lack. The scarcity of resources makes it herculean even to fulfil the primary operating expenditure obligations of the company such as staff salaries and welfare packages.”

He stressed that beyond the impact on the DisCos, it affects the entire value chain and could hamper a DisCo’s going concern.