• Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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The high cost of Buhari’s infrastructure neglect

Buhari gradually gets thrown under the train

Launched with huge expectations, and most times in a fanfare that would suggest commitment and imminent delivery and gains, many projects, policies and Programmes proposed and established under the former President Buhari-led administration could not materialize and therefore failed to deliver on promises.

One such is the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP), which has left many Nigerians’ electricity consumers reel under excruciating estimated electricity bills from the distribution companies (DisCos).

A total of 7,017,809 Electricity customers are still on estimated billing despite various interventions by the government to bridge the metering gap, according to the latest report by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

Of 12,378,243 registered customers, only 5,360,434 have been metered as of March 31, 2023.

But in 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration launched the NMMP to increase Nigeria’s metering rate, eliminate arbitrary estimated billing, and strengthen the local meter value chain by increasing local meter manufacturing, assembly and deployment capacity.

Read alsoNERC urges electricity consumers to update their meters to avoid deactivation

With an N120 billion intervention fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the distribution companies were expected to provide free installation of 6 million meters for electricity users between 2020 and 2023.

However, almost three years after the program was launched, it has remained stuck in its first phase, which the government termed phase 0.

In the first phase, the federal government installed about 900,000 free prepaid meters for electricity customers against the 1 million targeted.

The second phase (phase 1), which was expected to have commenced at the end of 2021, was put on hold as stakeholders continued to fault the payment plan of the government while expressing distrust in the entire system.

Lanre Elatuyi, an energy analyst, noted that improper monitoring and poor funding structure affected the successful execution of the programme.

“The changes that occurred in the leadership of some distribution companies also affected the programme because most could not continue with the payment plans.”

Read also NERC allows compensation claims for electricity outages

For him, even though it was a good initiative, stakeholders, especially meter producers, are not satisfied with the government’s funding plan.

He said: “The programme faces several challenges, including funding.

“The meter producers do not agree to the unit cost that the federal government is willing to pay per unit of the meter; some of the meters supplied at the first phase were not fully paid for.

“So this disagreement has affected the continuation of the programme. Many meter producers engaged in the first phase have yet to get back their money.”

Elatuyi said the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) would need to wake up to its responsibility of adequately regulating the sector.

However, Usman Abba Arabi, general manager/head of the public affairs department, NERC, insists that the NMMP remains in progress.

BusinessDay gathered that most of the DisCos have returned to the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) scheme following the failure of the NMMP.

Under the MAP scheme, customers can pay upfront for the exorbitant total cost of the meter with the assurance of a refund via electricity units over 36 months.

Prepaid meters under the MAP scheme – pre-naira devaluation- were sold for as high as N117,910.69 for three phases while single-phase goes for N63,061.2.

Revitalization of 10,000 Primary Health Care Centres

Another project is revitalizing 10,000 Primary Health Care Centres across the country, which Buhari’s government failed to actualize.

At a fanfare event in January 2017, Buhari flagged off the “Revitalization of PHCs for universal health coverage” held at the Kuchigoro model PHC, Abuja. At that event, he declared that the revitalization project aligns with his administration’s focus on the vulnerable population and ensures that low-income people can access healthcare services.

Functioning as the pillars of any healthcare system, PHCs are the first port of call for healthcare delivery and closer to the most vulnerable groups of Nigerians and reportedly make up 82.5 per cent of the total health facilities across the country, according to the Nigeria health facility registry.

Read also Strengthening healthcare regulation in Nigeria

The revitalization pledge aroused so much expectations and was hoped to renew Nigeria’s ailing health sector. However, Buhari-led failed to deliver this crucial promise before leaving office.

So far, no PHC have been revitalized, as authorities confirm to BusinessDay. However, the government managed to renovate only a little over 4,000 – with the support of donor partners.

In April 2019, the then-minister of health, Isaac Adewole, claimed that the government revived over 4000 PHCs. However, Olayinka Oladimeji, the then director of Primary Health Care Systems Development at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), revealed that only “plaster and paint” renovations were done, as these facilities grossly lacked in even the most basic facilities.

Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of NPHCDA, once alluded to the fact that only renovations were done, which is different from revitalization.

During the 2023 World Health Day, Osagie Ehanire, immediate past Minister of Health, said the country had just refurbished a little above 4,000 PHCs.

However, investigations reveal that these facilities are at different levels of rot and citizens are left to bear the consequences. This is as the country’s health indices continue to deteriorate, as millions of children under five face life-threatening diurnal mortality, as 145 women die daily, according to NPHCDA. Also, out-of-pocket expenditure remains high as citizens seek care from other facilities.

Read also Ali Pate hinges turnaround in Nigeria’s healthcare on financing

Public health experts like Onyechi Adaobi believe no healthcare system can deliver on expectations without PHCs, especially as Nigeria clamours for universal health coverage.

“Citizens crowd secondary and tertiary centres and exert much pressure on available facilities, doctors become overburdened, quality of care reduces, and due to poor welfare services, these overworked doctors and nurses seek better opportunities abroad, that’s brain drain. The consequences are just too heavy”, she lamented.

Remodeling of 10,000 schools annually

In 2018, Buhari promised to overhaul the education sector if re-elected as President the following year. He further pledged that his administration would remodel and equip 10,000 schools annually.

Buhari made the promise during the public presentation of his campaign manual and a “Next Level” in Abuja.

“Perhaps our biggest ambition yet is the overhaul of our education sector. Every child counts – whatever it takes to prepare our teachers, curriculum and classrooms to attain the right educational goals that grow our country will be done. We will remodel 10,000 schools every year”, he had said.

The remodelling plan is captured under the ‘Every Child Counts Programme’, and the policy aims to transform digital literacy, functional skills acquisition, school infrastructure and retraining to move Nigeria to a knowledge-driven economy. It was also expected to equip and transform classrooms into labs.

Read also Implications of student loan act for tertiary education access in Nigeria

Since 2019, however, the only project that commenced was the Federal Government’s nationwide rehabilitation of 104 unity schools.

However, investigations have revealed deplorable conditions in schools and classrooms, with an apparent lack of critical facilities. In many parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, BusinessDay found that in most government-owned schools especially, children still learn on the floor, under leaking roofs, and under trees in extreme conditions. The learning environment in these schools is unhygienic and simply deplorable for learning.

Siemens Deal

Perhaps the lofty Siemens Power deal could have helped Nigeria solve its enormous electricity challenges to a great extent, but unfortunately, it has not made any meaningful impact.

In 2019, President Buhari signed the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) agreement with German-based Siemens Power to modernize Nigeria’s national grid and achieve 7,000 megawatts by 2021, 11,000 megawatts by 2023 and 25,000 megawatts by 2025.

The $2.3 billion Nigeria-Siemens network improvement deal, which was hugely applauded, addressed the perennial challenges in the Nigerian power sector, covering transmission, distribution, generation, and financing.

Read also Energy security concerns of Nigeria-Siemens deal: Emerging future energy pathways (1)

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had allocated €62.9 million and $1.9 million in December 2021 for the Presidential Power Initiative’s first phase (PPI) to drive the project.

Under this phase, the then minister of power, Abubakar Aliyu, announced that the country received ten morbid power transformers and ten mobile substations under the Programme in December 2022.

However, as Buhari’s administration wound down, Nigerians questioned why the government could not deliver on expectations of such a lofty project- Siemens Power has blamed delays on the Covid-19 pandemic, which they say disrupted supply chains. A new date of 2030 has been set for the project completion.

According to available information, the scope of the Siemens deal includes rehabilitation, upgrades and expansion of transmission and distribution networks and power generation to be delivered in three phases.

Phase 1 was to increase end-to-end operational capacity to 7,000MW from the current power of about 5,000MW.

Read also Why Federal Government has to make the Siemens deal work

Phase 2 targets expanding the capacity of the transmission and distribution systems to enable evacuation of up to 11,000 MW of electricity to consumers, whilst Phase 3 targets expanding the power grid to 25,000MW capacity through further expansion of generation, transmission, and distribution systems.”

In 2021, the federal government and Siemens AG signed a six-year roadmap agreement to develop the power sector in Nigeria, targeting 11,000MW by 2023.

But Businessday findings revealed that the grid power generation only peaked at 4,329.80 MW on the 28th of August, 2023.

In May, Kenny Anuwe, the  Managing Director of FGN Power Company, the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the execution of the project, reiterated that Phase 1 was underway and has recorded notable successes.

He explained that the pilot project remains a quick-win intervention strategy, which will unlock immediate constraints in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) by deploying ten power transformers and ten mobile substations nationwide.

“FGN power company has received delivery of about 80 per cent of the equipment for the pilot projects, which are being deployed to critical sites across the country to improve power transmission capacity.

“Some of the sites include Apo, Ajah, Okene, Nike Lake, Kwanar Dangora, Maryland, Omouaran, Ojo, Amukpe, Ihovbor, Potiskum, Birnin Kebbi, amongst others,” Anuwe had said in the statement.

In a recent interview, Oladayo Orolu, head of business development and government relations at Siemens Energy, said that the first phase, the rehabilitation and expansion of Nigeria’s electricity grid, will be concluded by 2025, while the project can only be completed in 2030.

Read also Nigeria/Siemens deal could unravel power sector privatisation

High costs of raw materials also affected the project’s completion.

“When we conceptualized this project in 2018, we planned that we should be done with phase one within two years, but then Covid happened,” disrupting supply chains, which meant getting raw materials took longer than before.”

“Some raw material components costs have been doubled, some are still close to where they used to be, some are just marginally higher,” he said. In 2020, phase one was projected to cost about €2 billion,” he was quoted to have said in a recent interview.

Auto Gas project

After the December 2020 launch, Nigeria’s Autogas project, which had planned to reduce the country’s high reliance on petrol and promote the use of gas as a cleaner and cheaper energy source for vehicles, has practically failed to make meaningful progress.

The federal government initially planned to convert up to one million vehicles – mainly passenger and haulage vehicles that run on Nigerian roads- by the end of 2021 as pilots, but that did not happen.

The government initially assured it would bear the conversion cost, estimated between N200,000 and N250,000 per vehicle, but backtracked, leaving interested car owners to pay. BusinessDay had earlier reported that Nigeria has between 20,000 and 50,000 Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs), though the figure may have increased.

Read also The Buhari Legacy Series: Autogas project under Buhari lags target

With Nigeria’s rich resource base, the project was predicated on the country’s proven gas reserve of 208.62 trillion standard cubic feet as of January 1, 2022, according to data from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

Data from WorldoMeter, a platform that provides real-time statistics, shows Nigeria ranks number 9 globally regarding gas reserves yet ranks 12th in natural gas production and 38th in gas consumption.

But many worry why this project, which held so many prospects in helping drive the utilization of the country’s enormous gas reserve and reducing dependence on PMS, would fall short of expectations.

Ayodele Oni, Partner of the energy practice group at Bloomfield Law Practice, described the project as a brilliant idea that commenced with excellent intentions and could have revolutionized the usage of Nigeria’s abundant gas resources. However, it was challenged with its implementation, which has primarily decentralized the Project.

Read also FG’s autogas programme seen having little impact on petrol subsidy

“The Project has not been able to deliver on its set targets so far for varying reasons such as lack of decisive implementation, inadequate infrastructure (gas development infrastructure and vehicle-capacity infrastructure), lack of sufficient investment in Nigeria’s petroleum sector, inadequate funding and tough economic realities, increasing cost of gas, amongst others,” he tells Businessday.

Just recently, President Tinubu approved the establishment of the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas Initiative (PCNGI), having understood how the project could ease the current burden of subsidy removal on Nigerians by cutting down energy and transportation costs.