From Ejike Chinedu, Abuja
It was a piece of good news and it will gladden the heart of many hearing that Nigeria as at today, generates 5,500 megawatts of electricity. As part of his last lap of campaign and a strategic effort to showcase the perceived achievements of the administration, President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned some rehabilitated and overhauled units at the Egbin Power Station. As it stands, the station is functioning at full capacity of contributing 1,320 megawatts to the National grid.
The drumming and dancing following this “land mark achievement” may not last for long before someone wakes up to the reality that Nigeria and Nigerians are still in darkness. Before the break of day, when the news will have spread to far and wide, Nigerians may voice out their choice to the authorities: “Please keep the megawatts and give us electricity”.
Between 1999, when the country returned to the path of democratic governance and the end of the 16-year rule by one political party, the PDP so far, Nigeria has spent well over $50bn in trying to fulfill its major promise of lighting-up the country. As at that moment 16 years ago, the National Electricity Power Authority as it was then known was generating below 3,000 megawatts. One does not need to be an expert in any electricity related discipline to conclude that linking the amount so far spent, and the difference in power generation, this government should not celebrate at all.
Prior to the 2011 elections, President Jonathan was very categorical when he told the United Nations diplomats meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 31, 2011, that
“If I’m voted into power, within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make a significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything…”
May be, “significant improvement” as implied by the President will better be captured by weighing the 2,500 megawatts added to the generating capacity in 4 years divided by the $8.26bn he admitted to have spent on the sector.
By the end of November 2013, when the unbundling of the sector was concluded, many Nigerians were living with the hope that just like it happened in the telecommunication sector, electricity will now be available to Nigerians. More than a year after, the private companies who bought over the sector are deep in financial and technical mess. As much as technology is advancing all over the world, there is need for a structural framework and positively articulated mission for the operators to attract the correct expertise.
By September 2014, it was clear that the power distribution companies were broke. The Federal Government then provided a bailout fund of N213bn. What the privatisation of the power sector and the bailing out of the companies have achieved so far is in addition to darkness prevailing over the country, an unjustifiable increase in the billing tariff even as the companies have clearly refused providing the pre-paid meter.
Now, as the elections are weeks away, it is ok to talk about realistic and sometime imaginary achievements. It is fine to lay claims and take credit for results seen and unseen. That is the reality of politics, particularly where facts are usually not golden. In a clime where 16 is greater and more than 19, what more can one expect. It is only time that will tell as my people say “Everything eaten in secret will be made know the day the kitchen knife will get missing”.