• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Mr President, quench the darkness

$6.23m fraud: Presidency requests Interpol to apprehend 3 suspects

During Former President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola emphasised the urgency of addressing Nigeria’s power challenges. At various public events, including the 7th Annual Colloquium in Lagos, Fashola asserted that “Any serious government can fix the power problem within six months.” His track record in Lagos between 2007 and 2015 lent credibility to his assurances.

In 2014, Fashola reiterated the need for change during a ceremony marking his tenure’s milestone. He asserted that voting out the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 elections was crucial for achieving uninterrupted electricity supply. His administration in Lagos achieved significant milestones, including handling the Ebola crisis, creating jobs, and improving infrastructure, such as constructing bridges and Independent Power Projects. Given his impressive track record, it is understandable why many believed in his assurance that the ruling party would address the national power grid issues and ensure adequate power supply to the people.

Read also: Fashola gives reason why Pantami was perceived as annoying by Buhari ministers

However, Nigeria’s power crisis persists, hindering the aspirations of young entrepreneurs and impeding small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). The Egypt Megaproject demonstrates the potential for rapid progress in addressing power shortages. The monumental endeavour not only alleviated persistent power shortages but also propelled Egypt toward long-term power security, crucial for industrial growth. While comparing ourselves to China’s Belt and Road Initiative may seem ambitious, studying such initiatives could offer valuable insights into addressing our own challenges with consistent power shortages.

 However, Nigeria’s power crisis persists, hindering the aspirations of young entrepreneurs and impeding small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).

It is evident that effective leadership is paramount in driving reform. The Ministry of Communication, Innovation, and Digital Economy’s 3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT) Program is promising, but reliable electricity is essential for its success. Unfortunately, the current Minister’s focus on political engagements and neglect of the ministry’s core mandate underscores a disconnect with the presidency’s agenda for progress. Given the critical nature of this ministry, it was a mistake to treat it as a trial-and-error endeavour. It is evident that the current minister is more bewildered than even a bus conductor. This calls for a reassessment of our approach.

Despite challenges, the Transmission Company of Nigeria has failed to efficiently transmit power. With an installed capacity of 12-16,000MW, assuming 50% generation (around 7GW), only 4-5GW has been transmitted in the last 8 years. This stagnant performance underscores the dire need for structural reforms within the agency.. Given the pressing necessity for change, the coordinating Minister should prioritise a comprehensive overhaul.

Egypt’s energy strategy has evolved beyond thermal stations, with a concerted effort to diversify into renewable sources. Beginning in 2016, the government prioritised solar, wind, and conventional power, incorporating gas turbines while halting the development of hydropower stations.

During the period from 2010 to 2022, significant progress was made, adding 16GW of power, largely attributed to wind and solar energy. Given the immense potential and demand in this sector, it is crucial to appoint a leader who not only comprehends the role but also possesses a resolute and non-controversial demeanour.

The advancement proposed could significantly benefit small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), but it is essential for the president to take decisive action and assume control of the ministry. The progressives, typically afforded considerable leniency, have expressed dissatisfaction with the ministry’s performance thus far. It’s crucial to communicate the citizens’ discontent to the presidency promptly. There’s still ample opportunity to enact meaningful changes and rectify the course. However, failure to address the shortcomings of the ministry could have dire consequences.

Read also: Buhari: Can we speak evil of the living legend?

The country has experienced persistent grid collapses, with 46 occurrences between 2017 and 2023, including 12 in 2023 alone, making up 26%. Performance data remains stagnant, with distribution companies (Discos) struggling in cash collection and billing efficiency, leading to significant losses. According to the latest data from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), most Discos have low performance in cash collection, exacerbating AT&C losses. Urgent government action is needed to address these issues to prevent further setbacks by 2027.

Initiatives like the Tunisia-Italy Interconnector Project highlight the potential for innovative solutions to regional energy challenges. These are the kinds of initiatives that we know President Asiwaju for but unfortunately, no one can drive it in the Ministry of Power. Solutions to each of the various value chains in the power sector must be itemised and implemented as soon as possible, to guarantee adequate and uninterrupted power supply to the country.

The citizens of the country are hopeful for progress. They believe in the president’s capability to deliver the renewed hope agenda, benefiting young Nigerians and SMEs.

 

Opeyemi Oguntoye, an engineer, writes from Lagos.

Twitter handle: @EquityOyo