By Clem Nworah
After failing to placate over five of his more irate customers who had called complaining about their unfilled orders Prince Osita Okeke, director of Bond World Class Garments and shoes and National Chairman, Home-made Goods, Garments and fair makers Association (HOGOGAFAMA) of Nigeria moved towards his tailors to discuss the latest development – though inwardly he knew what their reply will be- electric power blackout from the national grid. Crippling electric power supply had made it virtually impossible for him to fill goods orders from his numerous customers across the country.
This had resulted in serious stunted sales returns for his outfit in the past five years.
While several companies have folded up across Nigeria in the past five years following the privatization of electric power sector, those still managing to operate cannot meet their installed capacity utilization and are on the verge of winding up.
As the new power minister Engr. Sale Mamman recently observed, the power generation capacity of Nigeria is over 13,000 megawatts while transmission could reach 7,000 megawatts but our never-do-well, incompetent Discos whom the government of former President Jonathan handed over our power assets only distribute 3000-4000 megawatts, a far cry from the needs of the country. Even then they only pay for about megawatts since the Buhari government has decided to give them subsidy- thereby paying the balance of 3000 megawatts with tax payers money. However, it is now obvious. That the distribution companies have pocketed the subsidy and turned it to their private use and had not deployed the subsidies towards improving the status quo since it is in their interest that such improvements are stalled by all means so the subsidy will keep flowing.
This has scuttled Nigeria’s match towards rapid industrialization and the nation is now faced with bleak twilight of industries.
As I opened the gate of the Common Facility Centre in Aba – Abia State, the first thing that hit me was the gloom that perverted the place. I recalled the nostalgia we felt back in May 2008 when the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) who built the place as finishing centre for shoe making, leather making and garment industries in the African sub region came for its opening. UNIDO had equipped the centre to help our budding industrialists in shoe making, leather and Garments, produce finished goods that will meet international standards. They fitted the centre with its own electric transformer, to ensure power blackouts do not scuttle their work, but that was not to be because as I looked I saw electricity in the nearby buildings but at the centre only gloom.
Hon. Aloy Chukwu, director of the centre who spoke to me in company of his assistant Hon. Orji Ugboma said they could not meet up with the payment of EEDC’s estimated billing and their centre was cut off from the national grid over three years now. He said all efforts they made to get EEDC fit the center with industrial pre-paid meter failed, and wondered why EEDC does not want to give pre-paid meter to the people. “We had thought that with the Privatization of the power sector, that electricity supply will improve but it has become worse. The days of NEPA, PHCN seems to be better, then you can see electricity but these days EEDC gives you light for only one or two hours a day and force you to pay for what you did not consume through their estimated billings” Comrade Chukwu enthused.
“How can anybody sustain an industry with only 48 to 50 hours of electricity in a month? Here we are barely existing and the government for whom UNIDO built this place do not seem to care. As it is with us so it is with other industries, artisans and craftsmen that are supposed to be the engine of Nigeria’s economy” Chukwu lamented.
Government must deregulate the power sector to bring more players to break the jinx of EEDC and other Discos nationwide to fast track Nigeria’s industrial development he called.
“Where is GEOMETRICS Independent Power Plant, Aba he further asked and deplored government decision to sideline the Geometrics power plant for a businessman with nil knowledge of electricity more so rural electrification.”
He called on the Abia State government, governors of the South East Region to leave no stone unturned to see Geometrics IPP Aba is empowered to redress the crippling state of electricity power supply and generation in the Region,
However, all cries to government to deregulate the power sector and transfer control to capable operators who can muster FDI, expertise and global investor confidence in the sector seem to have failed as government recently through the state minister for power Mr. Goddy Jedy-Agba in a newspaper report insisted that the Federal Government has no plan to take over the Discos but was working towards strengthening the electricity Distribution companies (DISCOS) to ensure smooth operations.
If that is the position of the APC, federal government of Nigeria on electric power supply in the face of crippling infrastructure deficit, especially power supply with its attendant de-industrialization and gross unemployment; then it is most unfortunate. And to have based her assertion only on the activities of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, (AEDC) out of the eleven DISCOS in the country exposes the administration’s gross ineptitude and hindsight. What stops Mr. Goddy Jedy-Agba from carrying out unannounced visits to the other Discos to expose their 419 activities against Nigerians before making his pronouncement? Being at the seat of power, the AEDC always presents a seemingly hand-on-deck stance to hoodwink indolent government officials who pretend not to know how to carry out their jobs and hence Nigerians suffer. It is a satanic act for an electricity distribution company (DISCOS) like EEDC to heap up milestones on the road to sustainable power supply in Nigeria, when they build 33KVA circuit breakers to throw-off electric power supplied them by TCN and plung the nation into darkness. And further, refuse to avail the people of pre-paid meters to enhance their robbing the people blind through estimated billing.
The Buhari administration’s continued refusal to heed calls by Nigerians to deregulate the power sector and throw the sector open for people with the technical knowledge and fund to enter and deliver sustainable electricity to Nigerian smacks of gross insensitivity. The APC federal government must realize that almost six years of the two term tenure of Buhari has gone with nothing to show but grinding poverty, misery and hopelessness for Nigerians.
The past Obansabjo administration unbundled the communication sector and created millions of job for Nigerians through the mobile phone set-up. He also introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which Adams Oshiomhole opposed under labour but which has benefited millions of Nigerians including Oshiomhole, and given jobs to millions.
The past President Goodluck Jonathan administration built roads which even Fashola as Buhari’s works minister acknowledged–that no Nigerian president past or present built roads like President Jonathan. But the APC federal government of Mohammed Buhari which indeed campaigned to power on the platform of three issues: Fighting insecurity, overcoming our economic difficulties and dealing with the scourge of corruption has failed Nigerians woefully on the three counts. Nigerians had been shaken by ceaseless attacks by bandits, kidnappers and terrorist across the country, especially some northern states which recently even compelled a group under the umbrella of Coalition of Northern Group, (CNG) to stage a protest in Katsina State, the home of the President calling for his resignation and that of the State Governor, Aminu Masari according to Nigerian press report.
Perhaps, the reason why this administration has not achieved anything came out in the recent fraudulent proposal by the Minister of State for Labour and employment F. Keyamo (SAN), that 774,000 people will be employed by the federal government for three months in all the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria. Where each of them will receive N20,000 per month for a task that is yet to be announced and after be thrown back into the already bloated job market. This proposal which will gulp N46.4 billion or $116 million dollars is the height of perfidy and a satanic waste of our meagre resources and should never be contemplated by any right thinking human being.
One had hoped that the president will ignite his anti-corruption stance to route out corruption in the power sector; flush out the cabals that have made nothing to work in Nigeria’s power sector and usher in steady power supply that will midwife Nigeria’s much needed industrial take off. This will no doubt help tradesmen in HOGOGAFAMA, the UNIDO’s common facility centre at Aba and indeed the Organized Private Sector (OPS)-NACCIMA, MAN and SMEs – overcome the challenges posed to their very existence by the country’s crippling infrastructure deficit especially electric power supply. But that has now become the average Nigerians’ wishful thinking as the Buhari administration today seems to be the most corrupt, when compared with other past administrations that have ruled this nation. From the administration’s anti-corruption poster-boy Ibrahim Magu, now on trial for looting recovered funds, accumulation of property through fraudulent means etc, to Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, Babatunde Fashola and others in the Presidential Power Reform Transaction who signed a deal that obliged Nigeria to pay between $30 million and $33 million monthly to Azura for power generated, even if not dispatched. As a result Nigeria now stands to lose about $1.2 billion, if the country defaults or revokes the current agreement with power generation companies who, from the deal have the legitimacy to pull the $1.2 billion from Nigeria’s foreign reserve. And somebody will tell us that Osibanjo and Fashola, two eminent lawyers did not read that document before they signed it on behalf of Nigeria.
Nigerians vote for their presidents to transform their lives; Political scientists speak of transformational versus transactional leaders; Catalyst or figure-head. Agent of change versus defender of the status quo; Presidents who transforms the lives of their people – think, they boldly challenge the orthodoxy of their time, leaving behind them an alternative consensus that effectively extends their grip on power, sometimes for decades. This bold challenge, this refusal to be bound by the status quo, this capacity for seeing what eludes the more literal-minded, is the hallmark of the transformational leadership. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world,” proclaimed George Bernard Shaw. “The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. Where has the President, Muhammadu Buhari left his thinking cap?”
It may seem unreasonable, throwing open the power sector through deregulation to bring in multinationals who can muster the money and expertise we need to provide electricity. The privatization was done in a hurry and the President must ensure it is given to capable hands who can provide electricity and brake the jinx in the nation’s power sector.
Clem Nworah writes from Umuahia, Abia state.