Ah yes… another failed sector in Nigeria’s economy that needs no introduction. As one of the largest economies in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is endowed with large oil, gas, hydro and solar resources, and has the potential to generate at least 12,522 MW of electric power from existing plants. Sadly, the country is only able to dispatch around 5,000 MW, an embarrassingly low number that is insufficient for over 200 million citizens. Ironically, Nigeria is an extremely energy-rich country, with the 10th largest reserves of oil and gas globally, consisting of 36.2 billion barrels of oil and 1.84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — facts that only serve to add salt to injury.
Successive governments have tried and failed to reform Nigeria’s energy sector, but it continues to experience many broad challenges related to electricity policy enforcement, decaying infrastructure, low investment, debts, gas supply, transmission system constraints, and major power sector planning shortfalls that have stunted growth the sector’s growth, keeping it from reaching commercial viability.
But we already know all this. Facts like these are nothing new, and one doesn’t have to look very far to see the negative effects of our erratic power supply and ever-collapsing National Grid. Thus, what Nigerians really want to know now is what the upcoming presidential aspirants have to offer us by way of solutions. Increasing access to electricity is important in poverty reduction in Nigeria, as this can improve the productivity and output of enterprises; create jobs, and free people from the burden of self-generation (which is usually more expensive). It will most likely take years for Nigeria to sufficiently deal with the problem of power or make the sector viable, and while most Nigerians are not expecting an overnight miracle, citizens are still curious to know what is being promised:
Against the backdrop of the long-running epileptic power supply in Nigeria, Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has had a lot to say about how he intends to proffer a lasting solution to the power shortage if elected president come 2023.
According to his economic agenda, Tinubu was quoted as saying that he would increase Nigeria’s power generation from 5,000 MW to 15,000 MW.
“On Electricity, I will embark on a renewed action-oriented focus and take immediate and urgent action on resolving existing challenges of power generation plants, gas purchasing, pricing, transmission, and distribution. My administration’s critical goal is to have 15,000 megawatts distributable to all categories of consumers nationwide to ensure 24/7 sustainable supply within the next four years,” he said.
That being said, if Tinubu does, indeed, become President in 2023 and is able to implement this economic blueprint on power, with the required maintenance and monitoring, it will most likely influence an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth as projected by him.
Verdict: At face value, Tinubu’s strategy looks promising and within reach. But seeing as implementation has always been a serious problem for Nigerian politicians, it has become even more important for citizens to interrogate the economic agenda of the presidential candidates from the point of view of realistic policy formulation, approvals and timelines. In this case, while it may be possible to meet the 15,000 MW target, there is no saying whether it will be done in the stated time frame. As for the promise of 24-hour power supply? Seeing is believing. But we won’t hold our breaths.
Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party has stated that one way by which he would fix electricity issues in Nigeria is to give states the power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity for themselves.
This came just as the Nigerian electricity workers had to end a strike that nearly crippled power last month. What Atiku has said:
“Having keenly observed developments in the power sector within the last 24 hours, I am again convinced that my solution to the electricity crisis, as encapsulated in my Policy Document, My Covenant with Nigerians, remains the most proactive plan to lead Nigeria out of darkness.”
He noted that any investment in additional generation capacity would only be procured after considering a viable mix of renewable (hydro, solar, wind and biofuels) and non-renewable (coal, gas) options for energy security.
“We shall incentivise private investors to invest in the development of multiple green-field mini-grid transmission systems to be looped into the super-grip in the medium to long term, while allowing the Federal Government focus on policy, regulation, and standardisation.”
According to the candidate, his aspiration to be President is to protect the interest of the average Nigerian in all circumstances, as he has assured Nigerians that he has no interest either directly or indirectly in any generator company, as has been publicly claimed.
Verdict: When it comes to well-articulated promises, Atiku fares quite well. Many analysts have said that as long as the existing Distribution Companies (DisCos) have an unwritten monopoly to supply electricity to Nigerians without any competition from other market providers, it is doubtful that the power sector will ever be efficient, regardless of how much the CBN injects into the sector.
In line with this rather salient point, Atiku seems to offer an alternative: new laws that will allow state governments to license and regulate private investors to generate and distribute electricity to their citizens as well. While this plan looks good in black and white, only time will tell whether it could yield the desired results in the long run.
Peter Obi has disclosed that his administration will lay special emphasis on critical infrastructures, especially Power, to ensure a clear measurable increase of generation, transmission, and distribution by 200% within the shortest possible time, through a public-private partnership.
We intend to lay special emphasis on critical infrastructures, especially Power, to ensure a clear measurable increase of today's generation, transmission & distribution by 200% within the shortest possible time, through public private partnership. -PO#POinToronto
— Peter Obi (@PeterObi) August 29, 2022
According to the Labour Party Presidential candidate, Nigeria can produce 16,000 megawatts of electricity within a four-year period. Obi, who said he brought home lessons from Egypt’s power system, noted that the North African nation increased its power generation, transmission, and distribution from about 20,000 to over 55,000 today, within a five-year period.
“All I can tell you is that what happened in Egypt can happen here. It is possible, but it just has to be holistic and followed religiously,” he said.
Verdict: Over the years, a number of studies have revealed that Nigeria can, in fact, meet its electricity, renewable energy, and emissions targets, specifically, through a “green transition scenario” where the government has successfully implemented all of its current plans to develop the sector. It’s not rocket science, and Peter Obi’s ambitions are, indeed feasible. But even the best plans are only brought to life through concerted and combined efforts of both off-grid and on-grid solutions.
As noble and proactive as it is to research, travel, and understudy, one cannot simply hinge Nigeria’s future on the success/development of other countries because, at the risk of sounding cynical, Nigeria’s woes are in a league of their own. In reality, the country will most likely need to restructure the distribution companies, review its electricity tariffs, and reduce investment risks through finance and policy measures, at the very least. As it is, Obi has not fully unpacked any concrete steps his administration will take to fulfill its promise.