FG & Electricity: Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The last month or two have been one of the most troubling times for the Nigerian; the ordinary and the extra-ordinary. For the PMB supporter, it has been one of the most challenging times, where on one hand, the instinct is to support government, and on the other hand, the harsh realities of life are disturbing and grim, giving one ideas of a re-think, about what govt isn’t doing right. Certain key developments have given us a lot to celebrate in recent times. Nigeria has just been exited from the piracy list, by the International Maritime Bureau, following a significant decline in piracy attacks in Nigerian waters by 77%. This is a pay off to the Nigerian Navy’s increased counter security operations against maritime criminality. Nigeria scaled down from having the number one most lethal terror group, the boko haram, with the Global Terror Index recording the lowest terror in Nigeria this year, since 2011. Nigeria moved from 1st down to sixth in terror groups attack ratings. Counter insurgency had whittled down boko haram’s potency. Nigeria also relinquished the toga of being the poverty capital of the world, with roughly 20 million people taken out of poverty. Nigeria also entered the list of the 25 best performing economies of the world, recording a growth of 3.4% in 2021, which is the country’s best since 2014. Nigeria is no longer in the list of the 10 most corrupt countries in Africa. Investments by the FG in the aviation sector, have seen to a record high 7 year period without a plane crash in the country.

Enter 2022 and a congregation of maladies in the economy start to build up one by one. First is the importation and distribution of adulterated fuel. Then a scarcity that seems not to go away. Then diesel prices somersault and became unaffordable. So unaffordable that Timi Dakola, a Nigerian singer, says his estate which provides 24 hrs electricity, powered by diesel generators, has asked every tenant to buy his own generator, while terminating their subsisting power agreements! The mother of all is the breakdown of the National Grid. I have lost count as to whether it has broken down 2 or 3 times in the space of a week. The nation is in a black out, not forgetting the ASUU strike which has crippled tertiary education, adding the number of students to the jobless stream. In the face of it, the situation reeks of incompetence. Govt is suffering its citizenry and breaking the hearts of its supporters and well wishers, while also beclouding the success of aspirants under the ruling party come 2023. Is it really incompetence? Or sabotage?

Power generating companies (Gencos) are claiming a 1.6 trillion naira from the FG. This is unconfirmed. The situation of the distribution companies lays credence to this figure as the distribution companies (Discos) are unable to pay for the power generated, as well as recoup money from the power distributed. In other words, the Discos are not ‘dancing properly’. This is the bane of the power supply chain in Nigeria. Losses in revenue by the Gencos are usually absorbed by the govt as subsidy. This enables them to keep afloat and make money in the face of the ineptitude of the Discos. Since the privatisation programme of the power sector, capacities have not been improved by the private sector. Most investments we see are govt efforts to build capacity. A few days ago, govt stopped the payment of subsidy on power, as stated by a former Chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission. This coincided with the shut down of the National Grid. It means that the Gencos are refusing to generate power unless they are paid by the FG.
One of the owners of the power plants in the country issued a statement lamenting the power situation in the country. As usual, public sentiment was on his side, even though a lot wondered how a producer could decry a shortage in supply. I’m sure he is aware people know he is a power plant investor, he was perhaps just testing the waters to gauge public opinion. All of a sudden, celebrity voices too are congregating to lament this national shutdown. Is it co-ordinated?

People that benefitted from the privatisation of the power sector are mainly opposition party members and cronies. They have the govt by the jugular at a very inconvenient time. An election timetable year. But then, as a government, handling and dealing with issues are its prime responsibility. They must find a way of dealing with saboteurs and those that are working hard to see them fail. You cannot simply complain of sabotage or point at saboteurs, but should be able to handle them appropriately. A tradition where people operate with impunity and are left alone to relish their behaviours, only encourages more sabotage and damage. Owners of Gencos are probably looking at oil windfall and stepping out to make a kill, off of govt. I am sure govt has all the information it needs to tackle this mess it has found itself in. Govt is in trouble and it has been cornered. It is between the devil and the deep blue sea. How it will wriggle out of this will eventually define its competence. If it doesn’t, it will be summarily executed in the courts of public opinion.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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