By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
The absence of basic infrastructure fuels corruption and is a disincentive for selfless service, as our leaders in office, having tasted the allure of stable power supply through generators funded with the commonwealth, would want to perpetuate their lives of luxury when out of office, and so they use this as an excuse to dip into the public treasury to amass enough resources to help them secure and sustain basic infrastructure when out of office, all of which are out of the reach of the common man. Stable power supply is critical to life and existence, it is vital to economic growth and development and it is the foundation upon which all other development initiatives can blossom. We just cannot survive without power.
It was this terrible scenario that the APC promised to change when it was canvassing for votes in 2015, but now, six years in office, all we get is one story after another, leading to the usual blame game of failure of past regimes. From the manifesto of the APC, the federal government was to generate at least 5,000 MW of electricity yearly, with equal capacity to transmit and distribute it. Whilst commissioning traffic lights in Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos on 12thNovember, 2014, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, as Governor of Lagos State then, had asserted that any serious government will fix the power problem in six months. In clearly a matter of fate, Fashola was subsequently appointed minister in charge of power, after the 2015 elections. He could not fix it in four years. He had power but could not deliver power.
Not long ago, Egypt, an African country not as endowed as Nigeria, commissioned Siemens in 2016, to build a power plant that could generate 14.4 gigawatts of electricity and this was completed and commissioned in July 2018. The cost was a paltry $7.2b, less than half the money purportedly spent on electricity in Nigeria for eight years. We were later informed that Nigeria had engaged the same Siemens to transform the power sector but nothing has changed.
From all the foregoing therefore, I have reason now to believe that our leaders use epileptic power supply as an instrument of oppression, to frustrate Nigerians, to halt their development initiatives, to collapse their industries and investments, to the extent that they would have no other alternative than to surrender to the programmes and policies of the ruling government, however wicked and obnoxious they may be and thereby weaken the base of any possible opposition, invariably leading to dictatorship, totalitarianism and despotism.
Part of the solution to the power problems is to decongest the exclusive list of the Constitution and allow States, Local Governments, corporate entities and other players to intervene in the power sector chain. This is part of the restructuring that Nigerians yearn for and it is certainly not rocket science at all. Government should divest itself from active involvement in the power sector beyond regulation. This should be the major focus of this administration, in the light of the manifold benefits accruing from stable power supply. Beyond this however, consumers should embrace the reality of the economic implications of stable power. We cannot do the same thing and expect different results. The amount we all spend on diesel or fuel far outweighs the tariff increase that we are so scared of. In some estates in Lagos for instance, it has been the case of willing buyer willing supplier, by which arrangement some homes and offices do enjoy about 22 hours supply on a daily basis. So, we need to find some balance between a stable power supply and a realistic tariff regime.
In addition to this is the need for the power distribution companies to brace up for some revolutionary methods, such as massive investment in infrastructure, especially transformers. There has to be a change somehow, which translates such investment into substantial improvement in the power distribution chain. All that the average Nigerian wants is stable and efficient power supply. If Nigeria is supplying power to Niger Republic, then there can be no excuse whatsoever for failure at home, other than the fact that it may be a conspiracy against the masses of our people. The Buhari administration must crack this seemingly hard nut, urgently.
The campaign now for all Nigerians should be that of Power for Power. If you cannot provide POWER (electricity) to better our lives and develop ourselves, then you are not entitled to POWER (governance) to better your pockets. It is as simple as that. We have shown enough patience waiting for the promise of 2015. We are now tired of excuses and want value for our votes.
Adegboruwa (SAN), is a Lagos based human rights activist.
Source: The Guardian
Government in power without power – Part 2
By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa