By Oji Odu
Stakeholders in the nations are not happy with the huge amount of money spent by Nigerians to fuel their generators annually. But are Nigerians perturbed by the said amount? Based on the tight economic situation in the country, do Nigerians have such amount of money to spend on fuel for their generators?
At a recent workshop on energy in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital which was organised by TEDX, a global non-profit organization interested in spreading ideas for societal growth and development, participants raised an alarm that Nigerians were spending about one trillion naira annually to provide electricity for themselves as a result of the poor state of the power sector.
They expressed regret that had the Nigerian power sector been effective, such a huge amount of money expended on private electricity supply through the purchase of fuel, generators and for generator maintenance should have been utilized on other areas of need such as health and education.
In his speech, an energy expert, Eyo Ekpo, stated that Nigeria would not grow as far as the country did not have enough energy as individuals would not develop if the economy remained undeveloped.
“In the energy sector today, private persons generate 65,000MW spending about N1tn, whereas the national grid generates 6,500MW. The grid supplies 4,000 to 5,000mw. Less than 30 per cent of the N50bn charged the customers manage to get to the owners,” Ekpo said.
He lamented that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission had abdicated its responsibility to the National Electricity Bulk Trader on issues concerning market design while some consumers had refused to pay the correct tariff.
Speaking further on the problems facing the power sector, Ekpo said, “Oil may be pushing Nigeria’s GDP, but power ought to add value to ourselves because no idea works without power. There is N5bn payment gap, which the FG said it would close (pay). But this never gets paid, leaving the sector staggering due to unpaid subsidy. We have a rural electricity agency that concentrates in supplying power to urban universities and markets instead of the rural areas.”
He suggested that Nigeria should begin to use technology to fight energy theft and added that the country could learn from India. “Nigeria is nowhere close to India in energy theft, but they (India) used technology to fight it to a huge success. Citizens can take out law suits to compel Discos to do what is right. The nation should begin to arrest high net worth consumers or big men who openly use much, but pay little.”
The Magazine’s investigations reveal that MTN, the nations largest mobile telecommunications operator spends over N30.5 billion yearly on diesel to power its many generators in the country while the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria(MAN) revealed that its members spend over N130 billion to power their generators annually.
All these data and expressed fears are not new to Nigerians. In 2017, a similar alarm was raised by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara who said that it was unacceptable for Nigerians to be spending five billion dollars yearly to fuel their generators. The leader of the nations Green legislative chambers said the House will support the Executive to find a permanent solution to this. Over a year after, the situation remains unchanged. The House has not raised such bills, neither has the Executive.
In a chat with Segun Adeniyi, an energy expert, he said: “ Nigerians are no disturbed by such data showing that they spend so much to power their generators. The truth is that most homes do not have enough money to eat, talk less of buying fuel to power their generators when the lights go off. Where is the money?” he queried.
Adeniyi said that the money they must be referring to should be those by the manufacturers and the wealthy few in the society. “ Government is the worse culprit in owing electricity services. That is why they don’t want to enact laws to strength the power sector. They are always interested in their elections not on how to better the country,” he added.
In a similar chat with Okorie John who operates a cold room within the Ketu axis, he showed indifference to the fears of experts. “ They only express fears for us, and that is it. Of what good is their worry when it cannot change the situation? Of what benefit is it with a selfish government which does not think about the good of its people? They should fear for themselves and leave us alone to our faith,” he lamented.