The collapse for the umpteenth time of the national transmission power grid on Monday should jolt President Bola Tinubu into taking effective urgent measures to rescue the strategic power sector. Darkness enveloped the country on Monday when power conveyed on the grid crashed from 4,0332.8 megawatts in the afternoon to just 43.4MW and was only slowly and incrementally restored by late evening. Tinubu and the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, must shift from sound bites to concrete deliverables to resolve the power crisis.
Officials said that the national grid failed to convey adequate power to distribute to the 22 electricity facilities that serve as feeders for the distribution of electricity across the country. In the eight years of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the national grid collapsed 99 times up till May 2023. Cumulatively, it had crashed 138 times in the decade to May despite frequent funding interventions from the government.
Tinubu and Adelabu should move fast and provide a definitive road map for the power sector. This should include attracting competent international power firms, and licensing additional national, regional and mini transmission grids. The regulatory framework should be upgraded accordingly to attract the critical foreign direct investment.
Reviewing the existing inefficient operating environment is long overdue. Reforms should involve the Federal Government divesting from the generation, distribution and transmission companies in favour of established global operators with proven track records in the power sector.
There should be a review of the flawed privatisation of 2013; the existing investors that are obviously underperforming should be persuaded by way of a “carrot-and stick” strategy to unload majority equity to more competent operators. Divestment by both the government that holds 49 per cent in the DisCos, and the current majority stakeholders should pave the way for established global champions to invest in Nigeria’s power sector.
This is critical. The African Development Bank reckons that the sector needs about $1.5 trillion over three decades to match projected GDP growth and meet demand in Africa’s biggest economy. Since the sector was handed over to private investors in December 2013, successive governments have cumulatively injected over N1.7 trillion in the sector, including funding the acquisition of prepaid meters. This is money down the drain as private investors motivated by profit, are better placed to make investment decisions that would generate maximal outcomes.
The Ministry of Power said Nigeria spent N2.74 trillion between 1999 and 2015 on the sector, delivering little results but plenty of scandals. Most of the money simply vanished into private pockets.
Recent moves such as the mass metering programme, a solar power project, the Presidential Power Initiative, a $2 billion partnership with Siemens of Germany targeting generation of 25,000MW, and transmission upgrade have moved at a snail’s pace.
With power generation at a low 12,000MW and effective transmission at 4,000-4,400MW, the crisis is crippling businesses that are forced to rely on expensive self-generation.
State governors should seek private domestic and international partnerships to execute power projects to encourage SMEs, industrialisation, and entrepreneurship.
Nigeria needs to attract huge investment in power infrastructure, accompanied by an equal emphasis on accountability and transparency to end the long history of waste, abandoned projects, and corruption that have dogged power sector transactions in the country. There should be effective coordination of the myriad power projects with an eye on short- and long-term deliverables.
Tinubu and Adelabu should move fast accordingly to produce dramatic positive results in the sector.