Darkness in Power?


By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN



No reason has been proffered, no single explanation has been offered and there is a general sense of abandonment of the people, to their fate. Never has the nation witnessed such gross darkness and never have a people been so pauperized and traumatized as is the present condition of Nigerians. Since the advent of the present administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the nation has been thrown into inexplicable darkness, by way of power outage. Everywhere you go, generators are booming, with very poisonous smoke emitting from their silencers, enough to cause damage to human organs and reduce life expectancy. How can anyone be so comfortable in this situation? What have we done wrong as a people to deserve this state of rot and misery? You cannot generate power on your own, so you have to depend on those authorized to do so by law. You cannot afford to stay in darkness either, as you need to preserve your refrigerator, get yourself prepared for work, get your children ready for school or work and generally to take care of other necessities of life. For this and other reasons, virtually every home has a generator, most offices, places of worship, factories, schools and almost all corporate entities have generating plants. Government ministries and parastatals also depend on generators to function. In essence, the nation is held down by reason of failure of government to provide the most essential infrastructure for its people. Let us examine the legal angle to this avoidable conundrum.

The Constitution in its section 14 (2) (b) has imposed a statutory obligation on the government towards the people when it provides as follows: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Leveraging on this provision to win votes from the people, the ruling party made a solemn promise to “Generate, transmit and distribute from current 5,000 – 6,000 MW to at least 20,000 MV of electricity within four years and increasing to 50,000 MW with a view achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within ten years, whilst simultaneously ensuring development of sustainable/renewable energy.”

Power generation is thus the main issue in regard to the socio-economic development of our nation and any leader who is unwilling or is unable to meet this basic obligation has failed his people. Presently, factories are closing down and relocating to other friendly jurisdictions for their businesses to survive. The government claimed that it has removed fuel subsidies and as such the cost of petroleum products has increased astronomically. In the absence of a stable power supply, you need to buy fuel or diesel to power your generator. So, in the midst of a spiraling exchange rate, insecurity, unemployment, mass poverty and hunger, perpetual darkness has been the gift of the present government to the people. The impression that our leaders in power have conveyed to us is that it is practically impossible to have stable and permanent power supply; that we don’t have the resources to build the needed energy plants that will meet the needs of all Nigerians and that we must accept generators as second nature, if we must function and survive, as a people. It is totally unacceptable. We have been told several tales of billions of dollars pumped into the power sector, with little or no results, causing Nigerians to conclude that there must be some demons and principalities, holding the power sector in the jugular. The average experience of those depending upon public power supply is that of total frustration, resulting from absence of any supply at all, irregular supply, low voltage, high voltage, load shedding, constant blackouts, extortion by members of staff of the companies involved and naked corruption. This has in turn led many to believe that there is some sort of collusion between the regulators, transmitters and the distributors of power, with generator importers and marketers, with diesel marketers and suppliers, with candle manufacturing companies and the importers of rechargeable energy solutions generally, to milk us dry.

To get electricity to the consumer, there has to be a transformer, to which power will be transmitted and then distributed to individual consumers. These transformers are in most cases archaic, old, dysfunctional and unable to bear the load of the electricity consumers. So, what happens in most cases is that the fuses plugged to these transformers get blown up due to excess load, whilst some get stolen outrightly, leading to blackout. In some other cases when the fuses don’t work optimally, there is then the problem of low or high voltage, which impacts upon and at times damage valuables, leading to fire incidents resulting in several deaths. To survive these frustrations, you have to develop an alternative means of power supply on your own, the commonest of which is the generator. In the present situation in Nigeria, public power supply is the standby option for many, while homes and offices are powered through the generators as the main source of power. The absence of basic infrastructure fuels corruption and it is a disincentive for selfless service, as our leaders in office, having tasted the allure of stable power supply through generators funded with the commonwealth, would want to perpetuate their lives of luxury when out of office, and so they use this as an excuse to dip into the public treasury to amass enough resources to help them secure and sustain basic infrastructure when out of office, all of which are out of the reach of the common man. Stable power supply is critical to life and existence, it is vital to economic growth and development and it is the foundation upon which all other development initiatives can blossom.

It was this terrible scenario that the present administration promised to change through its Renewed Hope agenda when it was canvassing for votes, but now, after close to one year in office, all we get is one story or the other, leading to the usual blame game of failure of past regimes. In the past, we used to get some form of explanation as to the cause of power outage, between national grid collapse, low gas supply, vandalization, drop of water in the dam and turn around maintenance. That has become a thing of the past, as if to accept our fate that power outages should be second nature. The solution from the present government was to tinker with the law by granting autonomy to the States to generate and distribute power in limited measures. Private entities can also go into off grid arrangements. I do not know of any State in Nigeria that has taken up the challenge of generating and distributing its own power beyond the rhetoric of the campaign promises. Yet, this is the secret behind the development and success of any economy. The money and energy invested by private individuals and corporate entities to generate power are simply mind boggling. The President, the Governors and indeed all our leaders cannot continue in this fashion of self convenience amid the calamitous sufferings that the people are going through. We need to declare a state of emergency in the power sector, since the reforms are not working. Let the government gather all the major stakeholders together in a conference in order to deliberate and agree on the terms that will birth a revolutionary blueprint for the immediate and urgent transformation of this critical sector. We cannot claim to be the giant of Africa and yet wallow in darkness.

The corruption bedeviling the power sector must be addressed frontally given the monumental loss that its failure has caused Nigeria. A good number of our leaders travel to other countries to see the value that a stable power supply brings to their people. Interestingly, smaller African countries like Egypt, South Africa and Rwanda have defeated this monster with lesser cost compared to the sums committed to the Nigerian project. I had opined then that President Buhari would fix the issues plaguing the power sector but alas, he left it the same way he met it, if not worse. The agony of the people in this area must be mitigated by all means possible. Unless our leaders are only deploying epileptic power supply as some deliberate instrument of oppression to frustrate many Nigerians, to halt their development initiatives and to collapse their industries and investments, this blackout must stop. We cannot continue to exploit pain and suffering to force people to support and patronize the government or to surrender to the programmes and policies of the ruling elite. No one should wield power in and through darkness. Let there be light


Onagoruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria

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