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How Nigeria’s power sector reform can Change the story of Nigeria in 2020

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Nigeria’s infrastructure had come under scrutiny when the novel coronavirus forced Nigeria to go into lockdown after the order of Asia, Europe and the United states which first experienced the outbreak of the virus. The earlier experienced closure of business operations in the country some years back was due to a warning strike by the National Labour Congress (NLC). Unlike the Lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the interruption of normal order back then was prepared for, and subjected to dialogues as well as review of operational policies for the benefit of the people which later ended the strikes. The difference between the NLC warning strike and the coronavirus lock down is that the warning strike from NLC was a situation under control while the coronavirus lockdown is a circumstance beyond control.

The Covid-19 Pandemic which currently killed over 290,000 people across the world has not stopped taking lives. The control of the effect of this pandemic is primarily dependent on minimizing contacts with people and transition out of the normal order of human daily life. This has made staying back home a life saving decision having positive effects on family, community, society and the world at large as spreading of the virus is contained. While people stay at home, essential part of growth, survival and human development must continue in an unconventional way. Providing support for other team members, rendering service to clients, presiding over supply chains and getting children educated must continue. This is however subject to availability of Electricity, telecommunication services and modern banking. Nigeria’s power sector has been tested over the past six weeks as electricity is needed in a time now like never before. Children were given access to learning platforms on Gotv, DSTV and other online channels. Government officials less that level 15 were told to work from home and staffs of private organizations were compelled to work from home as well. Unlike the office environments where power is generated privately at very high cost and made available to staffs, individuals faced with epileptic power supply will have to generate power on their own in order to stay employed as there is also a plague of unemployment sweeping across the nation.

Nigeria’s power sector was privatised initially in 2001. The objective of unbundling and privatizing the power generation and distribution companies were met regards operational structure but the anticipated service delivery which was meant to significantly improve power supply to consumers in the country suffered series of setbacks due to vandalization, corruption, installation of substandard materials, reactive maintenance, and conflict of interest from different political parties in Government. The race for putting the country in a state of uninterrupted power supply became a competition amongst political parties rather than a general objective born out of compassion for the people and hunger for transition to an age of modern technology.

The power sector reform currently headed by Vice President Osinbajo consists of a team of experts working with him to improve power supply, which is a major requirement to rightly position other infrastructures needed to take Nigeria from a phase of promises to a phase of execution realities. The federal government had revealed the process in progress through financial and technical assistance it is getting from World Bank. Osinbajo who is known for his intelligence and advocacy for better life of Nigerians may have his integrity and intellectual muscles tested further. This is because Nigeria’s survival after the dire consequences of Covid-19 on the economy is majorly dependent of power.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Oil sector which is Nigeria’s major source of revenue is really devastating. This had further led to the need for request for loans from World Bank to sustain the economy. To that effect, the senate recently approved President Buhari’s 850 million Naira loan request.

Banking and Finance

Nigerians who use the services of various financial institutions have had to pay ridiculous amounts for maintenance. This is happening because of the extra charges that come from trying to keep the facilities in the industry running for efficient service to be made available to customers. This caused high running cost and high customer charges. This can be resolved when Nigeria’s power sector reform drives uninterrupted electricity. This in the long run can also make more funds available to the organizations to employ more workers and reduce unemployment significantly.

Security

The state of security in Nigeria was severely tested during the Covid-19 lockdown. Nigerians have been lamenting the bad state of insecurity in the country before the lockdown. This case ranges from kidnap, armed robbery, killings, sexual assault and gang attacks. The situation got worse during the lockdown as criminals were forced out of their hiding places in large numbers and pounced on innocent citizens. The absence of light on the streets at night is an advantage for criminals. The presence of security devices such as CCTV cannot work without power and some radio devices of security agents sometimes run out of power while they are on duty. These are the reasons why offices of power distribution companies and law enforcement agents sometimes power their offices with generators which could develop a fault at a very crucial time. Availability of constant power in Nigeria will automatically improve security as street lights and high way lights will reveal criminals from a distance. Security outfits will also function better when their power dependent equipments have access to stable power.

Telecoms

Telecommunication companies in Nigeria have had to spend more money on keeping their operational facilities functional because of electricity shortage. Most mobile phone networks depend on well cooled base stations, data banks and servers to work well. The base stations were initially managed by staffs of telecom companies until paying them became more difficult. Equipments developed faults more often and the base stations needed the presence of more engineers to work effectively. This led to outsourcing of this department of the companies that give them the opportunity to pay less for more. High end Diesel plants which cost millions for purchase and maintenance are also being changed subsequently due to overuse. The availability of constant power supply can help stop outsourcing of this department of telecom companies and increase employment. It can also reduce running cost, increase profit, improve service quality and eventually reduce tariffs.

Healthcare

Besides the fact that availability of constant power supply is a necessity in hospitals, clinics, diagnostic laboratories, pharmacies and surgical theatres; it also enhances mental wellness. Ventilators which are used for helping patients with Covid-19 complications cannot work without power. Medical facilities rely mostly on power supply to be at its best. The poor power supply in Nigeria has crippled the operations of many hospitals and medical facilities as not everyone can pay the price of running high end generators. The hospitals that have to generate power, add fuelling cost to the charges for medical services making the cost of treating sick patients generally more expensive. Some hospitals run on loans and put empathy aside when dealing with sick patients for these reasons. These are some of the consequences of lack of constant power supply. More prices are being paid to make power available to medical staffs at Covid-19 management centres across Nigeria. Constant power supply will definitely make healthcare more affordable and services more efficient.

Roads

The construction of road which involves mixing of sand and cement, extraction & preparation of bitumen as well as layer setting involves a lot of power. This is a more tedious task in Nigeria for construction engineers due to dependence on privately generated power. The actual construction of road and bridges are mostly done in the day time since the road is not well lit at night to encourage extended site work. Solving Nigeria’s power problem will make construction work easier and allow more projects to be completed within shorter time frames.

Education

Education is also referred to as the best legacy a parent can give their children. Interestingly good education is also the best legacy a government can give to its people. An illiterate populace will frustrate the objectives of good governance, reduce the Gross domestic product of a nation, make international competition impossible, blame setbacks on spiritual forces and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. One of the easiest ways to avoid these stream of woes is to encourage and facilitate good education in a society. Students are currently at home during this lock down. Many of them will get caught in the web of pleasure because of lack of infrastructures to encourage live online schooling. Most developed countries are running school sessions and following initial curriculum. They have research and exam oriented online degree, master’s degree, post graduate degree and professional course trainings steadily running in different institutions before lockdown. Online class was not their way of solving Covid-19 lockdown, but a previously existing technology driven way of getting more people educated without territorial barriers. If Nigeria gets it right with the power sector reform, education will be taken to another level and an enlightened people will be more useful to the society. One of the greatest investments is people development as it gives back what is gotten to the society in a bigger way.

Entrepreneurship

Most Nigerians have settled for engaging their skills to make a living. This is because of the increased rate of unemployment. These entrepreneurs however depend on constant power supply to meet targets and make more money. Tailors need power to work at all times. Barbers also need power to work. Content developers and digital marketers also need power to stay online and keep working. The efforts of many of these self motivated entrepreneurs can be frustrated due to lack of power supply. Some are yet to take the bold step to start something as they have calculated their losses before they start due to lack of constant power supply.

Climate Change

The large amount of Carbon dioxide emission caused by use of generators in Nigeria is contributing significantly to the level of impurity in the atmosphere. The pollution caused by this alternative means of electricity is doing more harm than good. Carbon dioxide which is known to absorb heat emitted from the earth’s surface is contributing to the global warming which is triggering extreme temperatures across the world. Reducing the use of generators for power generation in Nigeria can help minimize the risks accompanied with the harm being done to the atmosphere as well as human lungs. Nigeria is one of the highest importers and user of generators in the world. This is traceable to absence of stable power supply. The beginning of stable power supply in Nigeria may be the end of major air pollution problems in the country. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Lagos state had good air quality due to the large number of organizations and industries that have their generators off.

Economy

In view of the drop in oil price and demand globally, Nigeria will have to switch from procrastination of diversification to indeed engaging other channels to generate revenue. A successful reform of the power sector can be a great source of revenue if properly managed. Most Nigerians with access to electricity will pay for it due to its importance in everyday life either as organizations, families or individuals. The profit per prepaid unit will run into billions per month when there is stable power supply. This will return good profit to the country even after deduction of running costs. Agriculture and exploration in fields of other natural resources need power availability for effectiveness. The economy of Nigeria is at the mercy of constant power supply. Foreign Investors who are drawing back presently can be motivated by power supply due to cheaper labour in this part of the world and this will further lead to establishment of other infrastructure.

Light is life is the orientation developed countries run with, especially as power outage during winter season can actually mean freezing to death. A number of other things now revolve around power supply in view of the new trends of technology. The transition from NEPA and Power Holdings to the respective distribution companies today, are yet to change the narrative of Nigeria and the power outage struggle. There is however a ray of hope around the Power sector as the reform team headed by Vice President Osinbajo is strategically analysing the loopholes and working towards covering them up permanently that there may be Permanent Power Supply in Nigeria. This may be one of the fastest ways to forget the devastating effect of Covid-19 on the economy in 2020.

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