Nigerians should gear up for another mighty disappointment. But, considering the way this government had handled the affair of this country in the last 3 years, Nigerians should be used to it by now. This would be just the latest in a series of failures from successive administrations.
But this might hit hard. That would be explained soon enough.
Power generating companies (GENCOS) in Nigeria yesterday issued a warning about an impending nationwide blackout. This is because generating plants would be shut down to prevent a complete collapse of the system.
This warning came from the office of the Association of Power Generating Companies (APGC) of Nigeria. This is the umbrella body of the gencos.
The main reason for the shutdown is quite ironic for a country that, for a long time, was battling to generate up to 5000MW of power consistently. By the way, Nigeria’s power needs are about 10 times that figure.
The head of the APGC, Joy Ogaji, on behalf of the GENCOS, issued a statement to media houses that due to lack of capacity by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to evacuate all the electricity generated, GENCOS around the country might have to shutdown power plants to safe guard their investments.
TCN hardly gets a mention any time Nigerians discuss the power situation in the country thereby escaping the sharp criticisms of Nigerians.
When the power sector was unbundled into its components part, the TCN was created to serve as a vehicle for transporting the power generated by GENCOS to the distribution companies DISCOS, for onward distribution to end users.
While generating plants and the distribution network were completely privatized, TCN remained a publicly owned company managed by the government.
So for those who don’t know, the government still have their inefficient and sticky fingers in a very important part of the power sector.
The reason the power sector was privatized was to make it more efficient and hopefully solve the issue of persistent blackouts in the country.
But the framers of the power privatization policy somehow felt that the transmissions network should be controlled by the government.
Now, the GENCOS are indirectly letting the whole world know that in case of a shutdown of all power plants in Nigeria, it is the fault of the government.
The problem is not too complicated.
Gencos can produce over 7000MW of electricity. The TCN transmission infrastructure can only evacuate about 4000MW at the best of times.
And even at that, some distribution companies reject power allocated to them because they don’t have enough money to pay. At least, lack of money is the excuse the DISCOS are giving.
This situation is very unfortunate.
It is clear that the whole idea of privatizing the power sector had failed. And one reason is that government refused to be holistic about the privatization process.
In what world did the government assume that they can efficiently manage the transmission network after it has been proven time and time again that government officials excel at inefficiency and cluelessness?
The major reason Nigerians would feel more disappointed is the presence of Tunde Fashola as the minister in charge of the power sector.
His appointment was hailed at the time as the redemption Nigerians had wanted for a long time. If anybody could it, Fashola was the man. His track record as governor of Lagos State for 8 years showed the man had what it takes.
The import of this revelation by GENCOS implied that the nation’s power transmission infrastructure had not improved since Fashola became the Minister of Power.
To be clear, the TCN is under his ministry.
I like Fashola. Many people do. However, it seems he is spending too much time arguing with DISCOS for their failures instead making sure TCN infrastructure was upgraded.
In recent times, Fashola had engaged the representative of the DISCOS, Sunday Oduntan, in a media war about who is to blame for the so many problems facing DISCOS leading to non-performance as far as delivering electricity to consumers is concerned.
Nigerians know the DISCOS are using Oduntan, who is the head of the Association of Electricity Distribution Companies, ANED, to help them burnish their image.
So far he is pointing fingers in all directions apart from his employers. He recently claimed DISCOS have no business distributing prepaid meters in view of the MAPs policy.
Apparently, he has not read the policy to understand the timeline. At the moment, according to MAPs, DISCOS must work with private investors to install these meters.
That Oduntan is peddling blatant lies is a clear indication the DISCOS are not willing to improve. Make no mistake about that.
That aside though, the bigger issue now is what Fashola and the government intends to do about the concerns raised by GENCOS.
Though they are not saying it, GENCOS cannot continue to generate power if there is nobody to either buy what is generated or evacuate generated power to end users. It is bad business for them because they are operating at a loss.
Maybe it is high time the government takes a look at TCN again.
The government cannot keep shouting about increasing generation by X amount by so or so date when even the basic requirements are not in place. This is government by deceit.
Privatizing the TCN would be a good idea. But considering our experience with DISCOS, it might not produce the results needed. Well, Fashola is paid tons of money to find a solution to that. He should get on it asap.
As it is now, GENCOS would definitely not invest in generating more power. It is a waste of time and money for them to do so.
Fashola should do us a small favor, anytime he wants to go on about generating 10,000MW of power before the end of (insert the latest date), he should please inform us about TCN’s capacity.
Anything less than that, then it’s better to keep quiet and stop embarrassing himself.