Thursday, January 15, 2009

wrong signal on power supply

The Federal Government’s promise to stabilise power supply has run into credibility issues with the news that key government agencies saddled with the responsibilities of fixing the power sector plan to spend huge sums of money on the purchase, fuelling and maintenance of power generating sets this year.
Reports indicate that the Presidency, the National Assembly, ministries and parastatals have decided to commit over N2 billion to power their services this year in the face of PHCN’s undependable services.
Figures gleaned from the 2009 Budget already passed by the Senate shows that the State House will spend N27 million to fuel its generators and N14.3 million to maintain them this year while the National Assembly will spend N233 million on generators and fuel; the National Assembly Service Commission will spend N63 million on fuelling its generators and N57.2 million on maintaining them.
Other government agencies and their power budgets include, Police formations across the country, N110 million; Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N37.4 million; Ministry of Defence, N89.5 million The Nigerian Navy, N63 million; The Nigerian Air Force N93 million; Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development, N48 million Ministry of Interior, N182 million; Ministry of Information and Communication, N43 million.
If the power generation expenses of the 36 state government ministries and agencies; all the manufacturing and industrial companies across the country, all banks, airlines, artisans, big traders and even millions of domestic users are computed, the annual bill on generating sets purchase, fuelling and maintenance would definitely surpass the N100 billion mark. This is just by conservative estimate.
Indeed, the generating set market is going through a certain boom at the expense of the overall health of the national economy. This situation is a clear pointer to the manifest collapse of the nation’s power sector with the bitter realisation that the Nigerian state is now virtually run on generating sets, which serve as our governmental, industrial and domestic life-support mechanism. Incidentally most of the generators are imported, and much of all the money leaves the country. It is certainly an avoidable leakage.
Sadly, this is a sector into which over $16 billion has been sunk in the last nine years and the fact that power sector reform is one of President Yar’Adua’s famed seven-point agenda. It is sad indeed that instead of making visible effort to fix the power sector once and for all, the government has settled for expensive alternative energy source. This, to say the least, is an unconscionable pandering to escapism. If government can afford that, certainly the average Nigerian does not have that option.
To be sure, the situation cannot continue like this. Something has to be done to remedy it as far as possible. This is where the Independent Power Project (IPP) becomes relevant once again. The IPP initiative by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration is a brilliant attempt to solve the nation’s power problem. The problem is that the notorious Nigerian factor would not allow the initiative to bear the expected fruit. That is why despite gulping over $16 billion within nine years (the IPP) not much progress has been achieved. So, zero corruption by those charged with delivering electricity power to Nigeria is the first step towards uhuru in this sector. That is why we call on the Federal House of Representatives to quickly consider the report of the probe panel it set up on the IPP scandal so that culprits can be brought to book to teach others lessons in accountability and probity.
It is a national shame that most of the South-East Asian countries that were at the same power generation capacity with Nigeria in the 1960s and early 1970s have surpassed our installed capacity by as much as 10 times at the moment. For instance, Thailand, which was in the same league with Nigeria in the 1960s, today has about 40,000 megawatts generation capacity as against Nigeria’s miserable 4,000 megawatts.
All efforts must be geared towards improving the nation’s electricity power generation capacity rather than incurring needless expenses on generating sets.