AFTER about eight months of blackout resulted to losing all his customers, Abdurahman Ilyas, owner and operator of a grinding shop is counting his losses. The community where he located his machines was cut off from the power grid after a protest by residents against paying for darkness as against power supply.
The residents revolted against officials of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) who went on mass disconnections for non-payment of electricity bills. But aggrieved residents chased them away, complaining that they have had to pay for more ‘darkness’ than power. The AEDC officials then decided to disconnect their power source. To many of them, they prefer to live in darkness than to pay for the service they did not consume.
Already, Ilyas has relocated his grinding machines from Garam, an agrarian town in Tafa Local Government Area of Local of Niger State to another village where there is fair power supply. Many other artisans and other residents have since been relocating from the community as blackout persists and no end in sight.
“We have not been enjoying good power supply and they were giving us crazy bill,”Ilyas said. “Now, they have disconnected us and everywhere is in darkness, if they can’t give us 24hours light, we won’t allow them to reconnect us.”
Garam borders Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory, but it residents have been living with irregular power supply before February 2018 when they were finally cut off the power grid.
“Even before they cut us off, we could not boast of having light for eight hours,” said Smart Osagie, owner of dry cleaning and laundry outfit in the community. “I spend more on fuel to power my business and all the gains go into buying fuel. Imagine, the AEDC people are still giving us crazy bills when we didn’t enjoy electricity.”
inhabitants of the community had complained about the poor power supply to the area by the AEDC and the ‘crazy bill’ that they were being served but there was no improvement until that fateful morning around mid-February when AEDC officials were sent away and in retaliation they cut off the area from the power source.
Eight months on, the residents are demanding for 24 hour power supply but the AEDC is proposing to them eight hours. They are both unwilling to shift ground and the community has remained without power supply.
Despite claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that power generation has increased from 2000MW that he inherited to 8000 megawatts, many communities across the country have not witnessed improved power supply since May 29, 2015 that Buhari was sworn in as president.
From 2000 to 8000MW: Has power got better under Buhari?
Many rural and urban communities, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are still not enjoying uninterrupted power supply, three years into the administration of President Buhari. And the epileptic power supply keeps the cost of doing business high for both small and large scale business owners in the country.
Ahead of his election in 2015, Buhari, then a presidential candidate of APC promised Nigerians that he would increase power generation in the country to 20,000MW in the first four years of his administration if elected Nigerian president.
When he was making the promise as part of his campaign manifesto, power generation was hovering around 5000MW under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan. The national peak demand is estimated to be 19,100MW.
On Sunday, October 7, 2018 in his acceptance speech as the presidential candidate of APC in the 2019 election, the President told the world that Nigeria’s power generation has reached 8,000 megawatts.
“Power generation capacity has reached 8,000MW against less than 4,600 when we came into office,” he said. But this claim is not up to the half of what he promised Nigerians three years ago and there is no likelihood that the power generation would cross that line before the end of his tenure in May 2019.
Buhari also claimed that, “we are executing Independent Power Projects in 9 Federal Universities to deliver uninterrupted power supply and we intend to expand to a total of 37 universities.”
But The ICIR findings showed that after the official inauguration of these projects at the University of Ibadan (UI) and University of Calabar, the projects have not taken off.
In January 2018 alone, the system collapse experienced in the power sector cost the Federal Government more than N4.6billion revenue.
In addition to that, a total of 9,162.7 MW of power were not generated as a result of non-supply of gas to power generation companies (Gencos) from January 2 to 4 2018 due to the system collapse, according to analysis of statistics from the Advisory Power Team in the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The average power generation for that month stood at 3,723MW.
Due to another grid collapse in June 2018, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) announced that there was a drop in the electricity generated into the national grid by a total of 1,087MW.
The weakness of the Nigerian power grid came to fore as second collapse in two months was recorded on the 8th of June with only 41MW generated across the country. The collapse subsequently led to the shutdown of power plants nationwide. As of June, Nigeria had experienced a total of seven national grid collapses in 2018 alone.
Like Jonathan, Buhari yet to deliver on his improved power generation promise
Two months after the grid collapse, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, told top directors, heads of units and chief executives of agencies and parastatals that the nation’s power generation had hit 7000MW.
“Three years ago, the story was that power generation was the main problem of Nigeria. The story was that the distribution companies were complaining that they did not have enough energy to distribute to Nigerians,” Fashola said in Calabar, Cross Rivers State
“We were distributing averagely 2,690MW of electricity to Nigerians, but today, that story has changed. Distribution has risen to 5,222MW, an all time national high. Transmission has reached 7,000 while generation has reached 7000. The problem has not finished but all we can say is that we have made progress.”
Many Nigerians still contend that this has not translated to improved power supply for domestic and industrial use in Nigeria. Even if these claims of power generation by the Buhari administration are true. Buhari has not delivered on his campaign promise of 20,000MW in four years. Like his predecessor, Buhari is still far from meeting up the expectation of Nigerians whom he had promised uninterrupted 24-hour power supply.
In 2011 when he was campaigning to be elected the substantive president after the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, former President Jonathan also promised to improve power supply in the country in four years.
“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,” he told diplomats at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Union, AU, in Addis-Ababa.
Power generation under Jonathan in 2010 after the demise of Yar’Adua was about 3,000MW. However, power generation reportedly dipped to 2000MW in 2015 when he was handing over to Buhari.
Buhari had accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of wasting billions of naira on non-existent power and managing to add a yearly average of 87MW of electricity. He blamed PDP for massive failure to substantially raise power generation and distribution despite spending between $16 billion and $20 billion.
“Nearly 16 years of PDP administration gave this country a miserly addition of 1,400 Mega Watts against the expenditure of more than $16 billion. That translates to 18.5MW per annum,” he said.
Nigerians still paying more to fuel generator
According to a report by The Point, Nigerians spent about N6.5trillion in 2017 to fuel their power generating machines, despite claims by the Federal Government that power distribution increased from 2,690MW in 2015 to 5,000MW by the end of 2017.
The report pointed out that average hours of power supply availability to state capitals and major cities in the nation dropped by over 50 per cent within the period under review.
For instance, while average hours of supply to registered consumers in the Federal Capital Territory, Nasarrawa, Niger, Kogi (Abuja Distribution Company) dropped from 20 to 15. Supply to their counterparts in Edo, Delta, Ondo, Ekiti (Benin Disco); Lagos South (Eko Disco), Lagos North (Ikeja Disco); Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara (Ibadan Disco) dropped from 16 to 11, 13 to 8.4, 16 to 10 and 12 to 6 hours, respectively.
Others like Yola, Yobe, Borno, Taraba (Yola Disco); Kano, Jigawa, Katsina (Kano Disco); Plateau, Bauch, Gombe, Benue (Jos Disco), and Cross river, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa (Port Harcourt Disco), also witnessed a drop, from 10 to 5.1, 15.2 to 8.1, 16 to 13.1, and 23.1 to 20.2 hours, respectively.
Plights of private businesses
The manufacturing sector appears to be the worst hit in the country. Despite the claims by the Federal Government that industries benefitted more from the increased power supply in 2017, operators in the sector are aggrieved over the expenses incurred in fueling, maintaining of generators and provision of alternative sources of power.
According to a survey conducted by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), manufacturers (both Small and Medium Enterprises and large firms) spent over N4 trillion on fuel and maintenance of generators and alternative power sources in the last one year.
A further analysis of the yet-to-be released result indicated that manufacturers spent over N2 trillion on fuel, maintenance of generators and independent power generation in the first half of 2017 as against a little over N1 trillion spent in 2016, showing an increase of about N1 trillion.
This spending also increased by about N2 trillion at the end of the second half of 2017.