By Joni Akpederi
No one knows what is happening in Nigeria’s absolutely opaque and riotously incoherent power sector. Not the successive governments – civilian and military; not the unresponsive, unfocused Federal Ministry of Power; not the disorganized, incompetent generation, distribution and transmission companies that replaced the old, despicable Leviathan, National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA).
And certainly not the mass of frustrated Nigerians wallowing in literal darkness and “powerlessness”.
This year alone, the crumbling power grid absurdly meant to serve Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy has collapsed over 15 times in less than six months, denying the populace and its industries even the minuscule 3000 MW of electricity the wobbly system manages to wheel out at the best of times. Comparing Nigeria’s power output South Africa’s 40 000-plus MW and Egypt’s 30 000-or-so MW is an exercise in national embarrassment to nationalists but not the country’s leaders interested only in pay and perks of office, far out-of-sync with the evident squalor in the world’s acclaimed Poverty Capital.
Now, there cannot be a more demeaning title than the World’s Poverty Capital. Juxtaposed with the odium-inducing title of “Giant of Africa”, Nigeria can’t look more ridiculous. That the country’s feckless leaders have awarded the country, the ironic title of “giant” only further delineates the depressing depths the country’s political economy has plumbed since the attainment of self-rule and self-determination in 1960 from colonialists.
The World Bank reckons that another one million Nigerians will join the 80 million already deeply mired in the poverty pool spreading all around the unstable country if current, dumb politico-economic policies are sustained: an unsustainable, corruption- fueled, petrol subsidy; a chaotic, manipulated foreign exchange market; an unbalanced, military-inspired, autocracy masquerading as a federalist system, and much worse, else.
That said, to most Nigerians, the power sector is far more damaging to the economy than the egregiously-run “Almighty” oil sector long considered a curse rather than blessing to the nation’s squabbling, disunited sub-nationalities.
In this month of June, many local government areas have not had more than three hours of power supply per day; some delivered in the wee hours of the morning when sleeping folks cannot derive any value whatsoever. In other areas, these three-hour “tantalizers” are delivered every other day in the inefficient utility companies’ bizarre load-shedding schedules.
All this translates to a celebration of national “unproductivity”. Not only is there no power to run the homes and lives of the citizenry, the pitiful electricity supply makes every economic activity an arduous, painful task. Commerce is stunted and industries are driven to source exorbitantly-priced energy alternatives that make production unprofitable. The result is the immiseration of the entire citizenry, where not even the relatively well-off are spared descent into despair.
Nigeria’s dismal macroeconomic indices tell a damning story. Inflation, which the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says hovers between 18 and 20 percent, is much more economically devastating than the agency’s figures suggest. The nation, in the International Monetary Fund’s opinion, is so badly indebted that it will be spending virtually all it earns on servicing odious debts by 2026, just four years from now, if current, horrendous governance trends continue.
Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) the nation’s flagship business body has been sounding the alarm over the slow death of the country’s industrial base mainly due to problems with power supply. Fed up with chronic, low capacity utilization, many of the productive companies in the Lagos business district have either relocated production facilities outside the country or are planning to move to neighbouring countries where power supply is guaranteed. This is causing havoc to the labour market as hundreds of thousands of workers are sent into already stuffed jobless queues. The NBS puts unemployment rate at a disturbing 35 percent, a figure many economy watchers take with more than a pinch of salt.
Mountains of words and analyses have been written over Nigeria’s open-eyed march into politico-economic doom and several factors have identified as the main causes of the impending ruin.
As the nation is enveloped in literal darkness with the repeated collapse of the ageing, rickety power grid and system, Nigeria’s glaring inability to power its homes and industries may well be the proximate cause if its ruin, without prejudice to the well known challenges of insecurity, rampant corruption, ethno-religious intolerance and an insufferable, unlikable, and ultimately unworkable constitution.