By Kazeem Shamsudeen
Nigeria, a country with a proven record of poor power supply both for citizens and critical infrastructure, is contemplating to connect The Republic of Chad to the Nigerian National Grid. This new policy direction is currently being hatched by the Federal Government through the government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Minister of Power Saleh Mamman, and the Chadian Minister of Energy, Mrs. Ramatou Mahamat Houtouin. A meeting between the three authorities was held on Wednesday the 21st day of October 2020 to discuss the possibility of connecting the Republic of Chad to the National Grid. This was disclosed by the TCN through its official Twitter handle on Sunday alongside pictures taken at the meeting.
This new policy contemplation is unreasonable in the light of recent challenges facing power generation and distribution in Nigeria. The total power generation fell to 3,474.5MW on Sunday from 3,776.5MW on Saturday according to data obtained from the Nigerian Electricity System Operator. The number of plants on the National grid that did not produce any megawatts rose to 11 as of 6:00am on Sunday from 8 on Saturday. The idle plants were Geregu II, Sapele II, Alaoji, Olorunsogo II, Omotosho II, Ihovbor, Gbarain, Ibom Power, AES, ASCO, and Trans-Amadi. Out of the total of 27 plants connected to the National grid, only 16 are currently generating megawatts.
According to data obtained from Nigeria Power Africa Fact Sheet produced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Nigeria has an installed capacity of 12,542 megawatts with thermal capacity at 10,142MW and hydro at 2,380MW. Nigeria’s current access rate of power generation is 45% which is significantly low with the urban sector taking a chunk of 55% and Rural sector access rate is 36%. A total of 20 million households are without power and many more are connected to the grid but power distribution never gets to them when needed( https://www.usaid.gov/powerafrica/nigeria).
A close look at the facts portend danger for sustained growth in Nigeria because of the key role power plays in an economy. Nigeria is the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa and therefore, her power needs are very high not only for the large population of consumers but to also sustain the large economy. Experts say that Nigeria needs about 20,000 megawatts of electricity to enable the economy to grow rapidly. It is so sad that we present these embarrassing figures in our power generation output side by side with our failure to distribute at optimum generation capacity. Sadly enough, Nigeria currently exports electricity to three neighbouring countries namely, Republics of Niger, Benin, and Togo. These countries also take a significant chunk of the meager power generated in the country.
Although it is understandable that we operate on agreements which bring in regular payments and also allow us unfettered territorial access to dam River Niger and other continental rivers that we share with our neighbours, it is still unreasonable to give priority to the electricity needs of other countries over and above the National need. And at a little above 3000MW generating capacity, it is totally unreasonable to enter into further exporting agreements which serve to put into jeopardy, our National interest. Although this new policy contemplation is at the behest of the Chadian government when it made a request that Chad be connected to the National grid, Nigeria should perhaps weigh the options correctly at a time like this. This is a terrible time for Nigeria that is experiencing the threat of another economic recession after just coming out of one. Effects of Covid 19 lockdowns are still taking toll on the economy and there is palpable fear of breakdown in law and order due to the aftermath of the suppressed EndSars uprising. With many properties under wanton destruction, there is little hope of improved power generation in the coming days.
Kazeem Shamsudeen is a Public Affairs Analyst.