Still a long shot to stable electricity

 

alt6000 megawatts of electricity by end of 2009. That is the promise. Everybody has been wishing and praying it comes true this time. But as the 2009 glides assuredly towards an end, it has become clearer than the day that the government’s promise of delivering stable electricity to the people by the end of

the year will be short in fulfillment. Another addition to a litany of broken promises! Though Vice President Goodluck Jonathan just a few days ago gushed with enthusiasm about government’s readiness to meet the self-imposed power target, it is difficult to see it beyond the usual gibberish of NIGERIAN politicians, who make so many promises he never intends to fulfill. Of course, there are no tell-tale signs that we are on course to a stable electricity output.

 

Agreed, the patient is definitely on the mend, he probably has not made it beyond the intensive care unit. The light still flickers and blinks, never staying three unbroken hours at a stretch – that is for those that are lucky to see it at all. The country remains a massive cacophony of noise, as power generating sets of different kinds and size make up for the inefficiencies and inabilities of the public utility provider. Jonathan promised that the use of generators will end with 2009. Believe it or no, if you do not keep your generating set properly you will have to regret at the turn of 2010. Of course, the leopard will not change its colours overnight.

 

The government has put the current figure of generated power at 3,300 megawatts, and says it is very sure to make it 6,000 MW before the end of the year. That is just less than a month away. It beggars all imagination how it would be able to push through such a massive increase in generated capacity within such a short period of time. What of the transmission and distribution facilities? It will be definitely break into the league of the Seven Wonders of the World for Nigeria to have a stable power anytime in 2010. It will be a pleasant surprise if they are right after all.

 

Is it not a national shame that more than 10 years and over $20 billion gone into this electricity challenge, we are still struggling with increasing capacity by just about 4,000MW? From 1999, between former President Obasanjo and President Umaru Yar’Adua, we have had more than seven broken promises on this all-important national agendum. All of them were broken, despite the huge sums of money frittered away in the guise of fixing the problem.

 

The resources committed to this problem in this period is more that the national budgets of many African countries, like Ghana and Botswana, which have achieved leapfrog growth in the past few years. Ghana, a pencil mark next door to Nigeria, has been able to achieve so much with little resources in the past decade, that it has become literarily a Mecca of some sort to affluent Nigerians who have included it as part of their investment destinations. Electricity which we still bellyache about here is already given in Ghana, just like in the Western countries.

 

What many may not know is that the same problem that bedevil our refineries and make us mass importers of refined fuel when we have four refineries is the same that has made our electricity utility unable to function. And it is the same that has made our roads to be in perpetual disrepair despite massive resources committed to them. The problem is, corruption of horrendous scale.

 

If Nigeria were really to be a serious country, most of our leaders past and present would be in jail. We all know it that corruption is holding this nation hostage and until the hold is broken it will be difficult for anything to work in this country. The Federal Government appeared surprised by the recent report of the Transparency International which showed that Nigeria is sliding in corruption index. But the truth is, the report was actually modest. We are indeed worse than what it showed us to be. And it is becoming worse under Yar’Adua’s watch. It is almost inconceivable of any country that more corrupt than this god-damned Nigeria.

 

Corruption is indeed at the bottom of most of Nigeria’s problems. Until a campaign in the proportion of a revolution takes place it will be difficult to get anything right in this country. Even if the government pushes up generation to more than 6,000MW, after massive costs that must hold a world record in wastefulness, it will relapse again. Why? Right people are never in the right places and besides right persons never get the right jobs. Those who are ready to play by the corruptive tendencies are the winners here.

The only hope for now for stable electricity anytime in the future is privatizing the public utility.

 

Chijama Ogbu

Managing Editor

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