Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Expensive darkness still envelops the nation

By Adeola Soetan

In line with his seven-point agenda which he called the compact programme with the people of Nigeria, President Umaru Y’ardua has declared a state of emergency on the crisis ridden power sector. The emergency declared, which at best still in the realm of conjecture as nothing concrete is on ground to suggest any serious departure from his predecessor’s ineptitude, is supposed to revamp the electricity sector and give Nigerians uninterrupted power supply for domestic and industrial use.

Presently, Nigeria generates below 2000 megawatts, a drop from 3000 megawatts inherited by the present regime, and after over a year in the saddle it is still only rhetoric on the way forward. Despite a huge sum of $16 billion wasted and embezzled by the Obasanjo regime and its gang of thieving contractors in the guise of National Integrated Power Projects, Mr Yar’Adua, during his visit to Paris in June, announced that the state of emergency to commence in July would gulp another colossal sum of $5 billion (about N600 billion) for the rehabilitation and expansion of Nigeria’s power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. With a warning not to expect regular power supply before 2011, Nigerians are again for the sucker and the vicious circle of hopelessness, promises and official corruption.

It will be recalled that the same unfulfilled promises and projections on regular electricity supply were made by various characters and actors in the Obasanjo regime. The assassinated minister of justice, Chief Bola Ige, as the then power minister at the inception of Obasanjo government promised six months timescale, then the projection shifted to two years and subsequent unrealized projections by different ministers and Obasanjo himself. At a point NEPA was unbundled to PHCN and other companies as part of privatization and deregulation policy ostensibly to pave way for improvement only for the situation to get worse despite huge money committed.

Already, lame excuses have been advanced for the future failure of Yar’Adua projection on regular electricity supply despite the huge amount to be expended. In a live television media chat with the president in May this year, Yar’Adua gave two major reasons for the unlikelihood of achieving regular power supply before 2011. The first was the absence of the enabling law to back up his self declared emergency and the other ridiculous reason is that Nigeria had sold all its gas for export, necessitating a need to renegotiate gas deals with international oil companies over the next seven years. (The Guardian Editorial, June 24, 2008) A case of a prodigal nation selling off her prime treasure for pittance only to repurchase at a fortune! Privatization is indeed at work. Yet, Nigeria is the sixth largest producer of oil and gas is flared wastefully daily in the Niger Delta oil region.

In its assessment of Nigeria,s dismal energy situation, the African Peer Review Mechanism, (APRM) a self-monitoring benchmark tool of the African Union, said the “power crisis in Nigeria can best be described as a paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty” and that “There is a strong feeling among Nigerians that the lack of energy is one of the major causes of poverty in the country. Sources indicate that the country loses about N66 billion annually through power failures” It posited further that “As a result of these challenges, Nigeria – nation with vast gas and oil reserves estimated to last 110 years and 40 years respectively – has stagnated, with a dismal power situation that has prevented its economy from achieving its potential growth” The APRM quoting from Yar’Adua’s 7-point agenda estimated that US$25 to US$30 billion is required to expand electricity production from 10,000MW to 30,000MW

Since regular electricity supply is fundamental to sustainable development, industrial as well as small and medium enterprises development it would be a wishful thinking to posit Nigeria among the top 20 emerging economies by 2020. As it is now, all aspects of our life are stagnated because of energy crisis which the regime and its pro-rich neo liberal policies can never resolve.

The working people should demand for improved funding of power projects from both the federal and state governments but such funding and projects should be put under the control and management of the communities, targeted industrialists and small and medium enterprises to stop this perennial waste and corruption by government and their front contractors. A campaign by Labour on these lines could engender enormous support and, if seriously conducted, could win some improvements, although these would be limited so long as Nigeria is held back by capitalism.