IT must certainly be distressing, though not necessarily shocking, to realise that Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has overtaken the Democratic Republic of Congo with 25 per cent of people without access to electricity, making it the country with the highest number of citizens lacking access to power in the world. The latest damning figure on electricity supply was revealed by the World Bank Group officials during a virtual engagement with journalists in Abuja on the Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP).
According to the group, “Nigeria now has the largest number of unelectrified people globally and the trend is worsening. The supply is very unreliable with widespread blackouts.” It stated that electrification, which had been growing at 1.1 per cent yearly since 2010, had not kept pace with the population growth put at 3 per cent yearly. The WBG Practice Manager, West and Central Africa Energy, Ashish Khanna, said: “The power sector is operationally inefficient with unreliable supply exacerbated by high losses and lack of payment discipline. Businesses in Nigeria lose about $29 billion annually because of unreliable electricity while Nigerian utilities get paid for only a half of electricity they receive.” The PSRP, through which $1.25bn was approved between June 2020 and February 2021, is part of the World Bank’s efforts to revamp Nigeria’s power sector.
It is no coincidence that Nigeria, the global poverty capital, and one of the world’s most terrorised countries, is also the country with the least electrified population globally. There is no magic to these things: once you do not have reasonable power supply, you cannot develop. Industrialisation is impossible without power, and neither is quality standard of living. Nothing highlights Nigeria’s criminally dismal electricity situation more than its standing in the United Nations’ (UN) benchmark. The UN says that in order to have good quality of life, you need to make 1,000 kilowatts available for the use of a million people, but Nigeria’s over 200 million people have been stuck with nothing more than 7,000 kilowatts. That is a disturbing statistics, but what is even more disturbing is the fact that administration after administration has, since the return to civil rule in 1999, only pretended to remedy the situation.
The government cannot even provide electricity meters. For instance, on August 26, 2020, the chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Agency (NERC), James Momoh, said that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the mass metering of all electricity consumers in the country while waiving duty on imported meters to enhance the implementation of his directive, which he said was in response to the yearnings of Nigerians. Nigerians are still waiting for those meters.
It is trite to state that for years, Nigerians and Nigerian businesses have depended on electric power generators, with all the attendant environmental and other problems. The World Bank says that to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, Nigeria needs to connect over a million households yearly while devising means to ensure that consumers pay for the electricity consumed. Unfortunately, there is nothing to suggest that the government is intent on doing anything remotely close to that.
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