Friday, July 25, 2008

Power Sector Reforms Report Says Nothing!

THE 17-member Power Sector Reform Committee the President inaugurated on September 7, 2007 has submitted an important report that contains nothing new.

Under, the heading GENERAL, the Committee made the following observations, “The power sector requires urgent government intervention to save it from collapse. Immediate intervention is needed to optimise the existing infrastructure in generation, transmission and distribution”.

Is it not a waste of time and resources to inaugurate a Committee which makes findings, that only repeat what everybody has known for more than 30 years, and which previous reports have established?

Even when the Committee proceeded to list “the major contributors to the power situation in the country”, it was a catalogue of causes which have been identified more than 20 years ago and which successive governments did little to correct.

The Committee was an unnecessary distraction and, judging from the result, time as well as money wasting. These are resources we lack if we are to move forward rapidly.

With bureaucracy, the report is a long way from being used. It will go before another committee, a white paper follows, and an implementation committee appointed. Would the expected power emergency wait for all these?

Or will it go on without this report? This report is a major setback for the power emergency plans of this government. It was expected to raise substantial issues, in addition to providing insightful measures that could make the power emergency successful.

The collapse, which the Committee would want to avert, has already occurred. Today, Nigeria generates less than 2000 MW instead of the 3,000 at the peak of production. Various sources pick 8.7 million MW as the actual electricity demand in the country.

Nigeria’s power sector is not immune from the principles of “a stitch in time saves nine”. One of the major contributors identified by the Committee was “insufficient generation due to old and obsolete equipment”.

Equipment which is obsolete today will only become more obsolete tomorrow while in the interim it holds back progress. Replacement of old and obsolete equipment is easier done than building entirely new power stations. This would suggest a policy of incremental improvement which can add capacity everyday instead of waiting for giant leaps which take time and may be required at times of lean resources.

More than half of July is gone and the emergency declaration promised for this month is still pending. No date has been fixed for it. Beyond, the act of emergency declaration, there is the more urgent task of implementation of the government’s action plan. For the plan to be effective, there were expectations the President may require legislative backing from the National Assembly. There are no hints about this yet.

Equally unsettled is the funding for the power emergency. The National Assembly has rejected the proposed withdrawal of $5.3 billion from the surpluses from crude oil sales, which the National Economic Council, illegally approved.Where is the President expecting to get his funding?

The President should swing into action and implement existing reports that can result in reasonable restoration of electricity supply in the shortest possible time. This would also demand that he stays on his seat more than he is doing at the moment.