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Editorial

Making Power Sector Work

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The Managing Director of Schneider Electric for Anglophone West Africa, Mr. Christophe Begat, was recently reported to have said that about 90 per cent of Nigerians lack access to safe and efficient electricity.
Begat’s disclosure which was made at his firm’s 2019 Digital Innovation Day in Lagos, raises serious concern as it came from an expatriate who expectedly spoke from a professional standpoint rather than a politician whose argument is wont to be laced with unnecessary propaganda.
To be sure, Nigerians had previously bandied figures to illustrate the prostate state of the nation’s power sector but none has been as frightening as the latest rating from a firm that is deeply engaged in the development and management of minigrid power supply systems, especially in Nigeria’s rural areas.
It is sad to observe that Nigerians would find themselves in this near hopeless situation six years after the nation’s power supply structure was unbundled and privatised. As at the time of the September 30, 2013 privatisation, the country had six electricity generating companies (Gencos), 11 distribution companies (Discos), the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as the regulatory authority. Unfortunately, these efforts have only yielded a marginal improvement in the power situation.
Prior to 2015, the maximum daily power output across the country was said to be between 1,500 and 2,750 MW. This saw an initial push to 4,000 MW after a genuine attempt was made by the Federal Government to upgrade the existing power infrastructure. But it did not take long before electricity output and supply relapsed to about 3,125 MW, principally on account of a drop in water level, gas supply shortfall and weak transmission lines.
According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while commissioning a power project in his native Ogun State, recently, Nigeria currently has an installed capacity of 13,427 MW of which about 8,340 MW is available whereas the grid has the capacity to transmit only 7,000 MW. But some power sector analysts have quickly countered by saying that the nation currently struggles to produce an average of 5,000 MW out of which about 7.5 per cent is lost in transmission and 30 per cent rejected by the DISCOs.
The epileptic supply of electricity in Nigeria has led to many foreign industrial players relocating their activities to countries where power supply is more predictable. And this means loss of employment, taxes, rents, technology transfer, corporate social responsibility benefits and high cost of goods hitherto produced within. Those who chose to stay back are forced to rely mostly on private electricity generators for their power needs while having to cough out estimated monthly bills for whatever little supply (if any) that may come from the public power source.
The Federal Government was said to have realised $2.5 billion from the power sector privatisation, virtually all of which sum went into the payment of disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN); but we are also aware that there have been several government financial interventions in this industry. The latest being the Finance Minister’s announcement of the approval of a $3 billion loan by the World Bank at the just-concluded Bretton Woods institutions meeting in Washington, DC.
Of course, this is outside similar interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and foreign development agencies like USAID, JICA of Japan, GIZ of Germany, among others. In fact, the CBN recently revealed that it had advanced a total credit of N1.695 trillion to the nation’s electricity industry since the privatisation exercise. Where all this has gone into still beats the imagination us as there is hardly any evidence on the ground to explain such humongous outlay.
The Tide is also not unmindful of the fact that the nation’s power investors are operating under very difficult circumstances. These are businessmen who borrowed hugely at the prevailing foreign exchange rate of N155/US Dollar to pay for the acquisition of power facilities in 2013 only for the Federal Government to devalue the Naira to the level of N360/US Dollar in 2016. However, we think that embarking on a sustained metering process alongside the aforementioned government interventions would have enhanced their capacities to repay such loans than the option of estimated billing. Even their resistance to attempts at eliminating this billing method via the maximum demand customers’ option and the ongoing meter asset providers (MAP) has proved futile.
On its part, the Federal Government should endeavour to reduce its overbearing influence in the power sector. NERC is already a government agency, TCN is wholly owned by the government and NBET Plc is equally a state outfit despite its nomenclature. Let whatever tariff that is approved for the sector reflect the prevailing market situation in so far as every electricity user is metered as to pay for exactly what they consume.
Finally, government and, indeed, the private sector should sustain efforts at diversifying the nation’s energy mix from hydro and gas-powered systems to include solar, wind, coal, biomass/biofuels and nuclear. Off-grid clusters should continue to be developed for Micro, Small and Medium Entreprises (MSMEs). In fact, government needs to declare an emergency in the power sector if Nigeria must take full advantage of the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

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Editorial

Nigeria: Need For Accurate Population Data

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This year’s World Population Day serves as a poignant reminder of the critical importance of accurate population data in Nigeria. The theme for the year, “Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending Inequalities in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” brings to light the pressing need for the nation to address the repercussions of overpopulation and safeguard the fundamental human rights of all its inhabitants. It emphasises the necessity of implementing effective strategies and initiatives to enhance sexual and reproductive health services and ensure equitable access to these vital resources.
Population experts stress that the exponential rise in global population poses substantial challenges to human well-being and the environment. As India is on track to surpass China as the most populous country, Nigeria’s population of approximately 226.2 million underscores its significant demographic influence. However, the lack of recent census data since 2006 has left the actual figures subject to speculation, hampering efficient planning and resource allocation efforts.
The disparities in population sizes between India and the United States underscore the shifting dynamics on the global stage. With India projected to exceed China’s population by 2027, its expanding demographic weight will undoubtedly influence economic, political, and social relations worldwide. As the world’s largest democracy, India’s swelling population presents both opportunities and challenges, such as driving economic growth and innovation while also straining resources and infrastructure.
Conversely, the United States, with a smaller global population share, may encounter distinct obstacles related to an ageing population and diminishing workforce. Understanding and addressing these demographic trends are essential for policymakers and leaders in both countries to navigate the intricate issues of the 21st century effectively.
The unchecked population growth in Nigeria has engendered an array of socio-economic challenges that are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. Instances of extreme poverty, food insecurity, and environmental deterioration stand as stark indicators of the urgent need for intervention. With over 133 million Nigerians grappling with multidimensional poverty, it is evident that targeted interventions are imperative to alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable segments of society.
A study conducted by various organisations in 2022 has shed light on the harsh realities of poverty in Nigeria, with a staggering 133 million individuals affected. This comprehensive assessment not only considers income levels but also incorporates critical dimensions like education, healthcare, living standards, and economic stability. The findings underscore the pressing need for strategic interventions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of deprivation and uplifting the most marginalised populations.
The anticipated reverberations of ending petrol subsidies and merging the naira exchange rates in 2023 are expected to push an additional seven million Nigerians into poverty, underscoring the unintended adverse effects of economic policies on the most marginalised sectors of society. Given this scenario, it is obligatory for the Federal Government to collaborate with pertinent stakeholders to devise and implement a comprehensive population plan that addresses the root causes of overpopulation and poverty.
At the core of Nigeria’s population predicament lies a complex interplay of factors, including child marriages, limited educational access, misconceptions surrounding family planning, and cultural and religious norms hindering women’s reproductive health access. To counter these challenges effectively, concerted efforts must be concentrated on raising awareness about reproductive rights, advocating for girls’ education, and ensuring universal access to family planning services.
Empowering women with the necessary resources and information is high-priority in reducing unplanned pregnancies and child marriages, which are compelling obstacles to achieving a more equitable and sustainable population growth trajectory. This can be achieved through comprehensive education and accessible healthcare infrastructure, which not only alleviate poverty but also contribute to the overall well-being of the population.
Moreover, Nigeria should place a strong emphasis on environmental conservation and a shift towards renewable energy sources to counteract the adverse effects of overpopulation on the ecosystem. By embracing sustainable development practices, Nigeria can ensure a future where its population can flourish while preserving the health of the planet.
With the advent of a new era marked by the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, the accurate collection, analysis, and utilisation of population data should become central to national policymaking. Only through precise data and a robust population plan can Nigeria effectively address disparities in sexual and reproductive health, empower its people, and lay the groundwork for a prosperous future for generations to come.
Undeniably, Nigeria stands at a precarious juncture where obtaining accurate population data is imperative to tackle the multifaceted challenges associated with overpopulation. Prioritising the collection of precise demographic information, implementing targeted interventions, and fostering a culture of empowerment and sustainability, will pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for Nigerians.

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Editorial

Enough Of The Terrorist Threat

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For over a decade, Nigeria’s security forces have been fighting insurgent groups and bandits to restore peace in the country. The military leadership in Abuja regularly meets with stakeholders to discuss progress in their counter-terrorism efforts, highlighting successes such as eliminating insurgents, capturing perpetrators, rescuing hostages, and seizing weapons.
The Strategic Communications Interagency Policy Community (SCIPC), operating under the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in Abuja, has recently released a comprehensive report detailing the huge accomplishments made by security, defence, and response agencies within the past year. This report serves as a testament to the unwavering efforts and dedication of these agencies in safeguarding the nation and its citizens.
It highlights the remarkable progress made in intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities. Security agencies have deployed cutting-edge technologies and strengthened international partnerships, resulting in the timely detection and prevention of potential threats.
The Nigerian military has made giant strides in combating terrorism and other security challenges in the country, according to the Director of Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba. In the past year alone, troops operating in the northern parts of the country have neutralised over 9,300 terrorists and apprehended nearly 7,000 more. Additionally, over 9,500 Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters, along with their families, have surrendered to security forces.
In an update on the security situation, Maj. Gen. Buba highlighted the rescue of 4,641 hostages, demonstrating the military’s commitment to protecting civilians. Furthermore, authorities have arrested over 1,400 suspected oil thieves and recovered stolen crude oil products worth an estimated N91.2 billion, effectively curbing illegal activities in the energy sector.
Over 1,700 kidnap victims were successfully rescued by the police. They have recovered a substantial number of vehicles and motorcycles, as well as firearms and ammunition, effectively disrupting criminal networks and enhancing public safety. These achievements underscore the unwavering determination of the security agencies to ensure the well-being and security of the Nigerian populace.
The one-year report presents an overview of the ongoing efforts by security operatives to combat the pervasive threat posed by criminal elements in various regions of Nigeria. Particularly noteworthy is the diligent work being carried out in the North-East, where extremist groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Ansaru continue to sow the seed of crises and insecurity. In the North-West and North-Central regions, the proliferation of bandit cells has turned these areas into volatile conflict zones.
Also grappling with separatist violence orchestrated by groups like the Eastern Security Network (ESN), affiliated with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), is the South-East. This multi-faceted security challenge has prompted coordinated military operations across all 36 states of the nation, aimed at neutralising the diverse threats posed by criminal organisations and extremist factions.
However, the recent reports, detailing the activities of ISWAP in Borno State, raise serious concerns. In specific instances, ISWAP has been reported to have conducted open court sessions in villages near Lake Chad. During these sessions, the group attempts to recruit residents by propagating its extremist ideology and urging individuals to join their violent cause. Disturbing images have surfaced of masked terrorists addressing local residents and persuading them to back the establishment of a caliphate.
ISWAP members are promising potential recruits better governance, security, and basic amenities in their envisioned new state. They are also distributing welfare packages to households to recruit new members. These tactics show the dangerous nature of the organisation and the vulnerable situation of communities in the region. The spread of extremist ideologies and false promises are a serious threat to peace and stability in the area.
Numerous communities in Nigeria continue to face security problems as they are under the control of terrorist groups, despite the efforts made by the military in the fight against terrorism. Kukawa Local Government Area, known for its fishing and farming activities, is particularly vulnerable, with reports indicating that most areas in the region are currently under the control of ISWAP terrorists. In January, two fishermen in the Marte area of Borno reportedly had their hands severed by the terrorists over suspected theft.
In the North, farmers and fishermen have to pay taxes to terrorists to access their land or risk being brutally killed. Nigeria must address both the ideological and military aspects of the conflict to defeat groups like ISWAP. Simply citing numbers of terrorists neutralised or arrested will not end the prolonged insurgency.
Given the country’s current economic crisis and the difficulty in sustaining the ongoing warfare, the Office of the National Security Adviser, in collaboration with the military high command, should formulate a strategic plan with achievable objectives and deadlines to eradicate the terrorist threat. However, this task cannot be accomplished without disrupting the supply chain of the insurgents, including their sources of manpower and funding.

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