The Energy Crisis in Nigeria: Can we stay Afloat or be Drowned by it?

Abstract
Nigeria has been known to produce below their productive capacity of electric power. Energy is very important for the progression and growth of this economy. Without steady power supply, investors are running to other countries with more promising return on investment. Experts have come up with various reasons as to the worsening energy crisis this country is experiencing. Although the consequences are visible around us, the decision makers have in some cases turned a blind eye and in others proposed lame ideas which only benefit their individual interests. For instance the proposal on the privatization of NEPA now PHCN. With privatization comes a higher cost for electricity and with 70% of Nigerian people living under poverty level, this is impractical. Researchers have come up with ideas on alternative renewable energy such as wind and sun energy, but only time will tell if Nigeria will decide to invest in these new ideas.

The Energy Crisis in Nigeria: Can we stay Afloat or be Drowned by it.

Since memories can permit, the electricity in Nigeria has been fluctuating. This is one of the major problems affecting the Nigerian economy. As published in Nigeria: Electric Power Sector Report 2008 by Olivia Phillip , Nigeria has installed a generating capacity of over 6GW but is presently having an output of 2.5GW. As a result there is inconsistency in the daily power supply. Blackouts are something that has come to be expected here. Olivia Phillip reports that by 2010, the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) would result in more than 10GW of electricity, but should we put our hopes up or are these one of the pledges that will go unfulfilled.

There have been empty promises regarding constant power supply made by the various ruling heads of a time. First it was said that the power outage problem will be fixed within six months, then 18 months and then it was concluded that by the end of 2007, there will be constant electricity. As published by the guardian editorial, Nigerians were assured 1000 megawatts of electricity by the end of 2007. President Yar’adua promised in his inaugural speech to make provision of electricity a major priority. He later went on to declare it a state of emergency, accusing the past government of wasting $10 billion of the Nigerian people. But by last week, the power had gone down by about 860 megawatts, a quantity that is insufficient for even a state like Lagos.

The origin of the Nigerian crisis can be linked directly to corruption in the country. It is not that the lack of infrastructure or lack of maintenance that is the key problem here. Nigeria has the resources to make the power outage a thing of the past, but the governments of the past and present are so bent on pushing the money to other sectors which eventually end up in their private pockets. Some might say the petroleum industry directly affects the electricity production and a change in the oil sector will bring about a change in the power sector, but the corruption engulfing this nation will not allow the change needed in the oil sector.

According to allafrica.com , the blame was placed squarely on Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), which had shut down its gas gathering and compression facilities for routine maintenance as well as Agip’s new Independent Power Plant (IPP) at Okpai. Agip had also shut down some of its generating units for maintenance. Given the penchant for not making provisions for any form of back up, PHCN went on to mention that the situation was further exacerbated by the low reservoir levels at the hydro power stations as a result of the dry season.

Although many experts have come up with different reasons as to the energy crisis in Nigeria, the effect of the constant blackout is something that remains visible and unchanged. Without electricity there can be no industrial development and all those grand visions of becoming one of the world’s leading economies by 2020 cannot be realized. This is completely true, because every sector ranging from health, education, agriculture, and many more need electricity to function efficiently in one way or the other. Statistics show in Kano for instance, that it has been estimated more than half of the 400 industrial establishments have been forced to close as a result of lack of power. This has rendered some half a million workers jobless. With people out of their means of livelihood, crime rates go up and this leads to loss of lives and a discomfort for the regular citizens.

Some young Nigerians believe that the solution to this energy crisis lies in solar and wind driven energy. Mr. Bunmi Ogundare , chief executive officer, Africa-Asia Global Services, assembled a team of researchers to come up with alternatives to the present methods of power production. The organization was particularly looking in the direction of water, sun and wind, which could be effectively deployed into generating electricity in the country.

According to him, virtually all the countries referred to as Asian tigers derive their energy supplies from the renewable sources mentioned above, most of them depend on solar and wind energy to power their heavy industries. It is peculiar that Nigeria with all its natural resources sticks to gas turbines as the main source of energy production. Many other developing countries have thrived in power production using these renewable resources.

Prof. Bruce Rittmann , a Biodesign Institute, United States, researcher in a Perspective article published in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, points the way toward developing bioenergy as the best realistic alternative to meet the current and future energy needs while cutting back on the use of fossil fuels. If Nigeria is to undergo such a project, the economy will no longer have to depend solely on gas and hydro generating plants for energy production.

Given the serious problems faced by the oil and gas industries in Nigeria, is it not time we really begin looking towards alternative energy sources. Should states not develop their own energy resource based on the availability of the raw resources around them? The north for instance, where there is an abundance of wind and solar energy. The harm caused by the lack of power in Nigeria is incalculable and the time to do something about it was yesterday. Maybe when energy goes down to zero and there is a total blackout in the country, crime is escalated, thousands or millions of lives are lost and property destroyed, then we will understand the gravity of the energy crisis and our decision makers will finally do something about it. Difficult to imagine isn’t it, but not too farfetched for reality with the way the energy crisis is becoming worse by the years.

References:
1 Bunmi Ogundare: Africa-Asia global services interview
viewed 18/02/09 allafrica.com
2 BUSINESSDAY, 2009: Nigeria’s energy crisis: Seeking alternative sources;
viewed 14/02/09 businessdayonline.com
3 Chukwuma Muanya: Microbes offer climate friendly solution to energy crisis; viewed 14/02/09 ngrguardiannews.com
4 Godwin Haruna: Energy crisis –wind solar to the rescue
viewed 18/02/09 thisday.com
5 Guardian Editorial, May12, 2008: Electricity: Crisis without end viewed 15/02/09 ngrguardiannews.com
6 Mfonobong Nsehe, 13 Aug 2008: Nigeria’s Power Crisis Should be Resolved
7 Olivia Phillip International Consulting Limited, 1 Aug, 2008: Nigeria: Electric Power Sector Report 2008

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