INCESSANT COLLAPSE OF THE POWER GRID DESPITE HUGE AMOUNT OF INVESTMENT
TIME TO END THIS INEFFICIENCY BY THE CALL FOR THE RE-NATIONALISATION OF THE POWER SECTOR
By Lateef Adams
The collapse of the national power grid an interconnected network for delivering electricity from producers to consumers for the fifth time in 4 months is shameful and shows that the capitalist elites in government have no plans to improve the power sector in the country. It is now obvious that the privatization of the power sector by the government over thirteen years ago has further worsened the supply of electricity in the country while consumers are exploited by paying more for darkness.
The power grid according to the information from the Nigeria Electricity System Operator crashed from 3703 megawatts to 9 megawatts. This crash of the power grid has become so incessant that in March and April this year the grid collapsed four times, twice in March and twice in April. This crash in electricity on the day ruling elites were celebrating “democracy day” left a widespread blackout in the country causing huge economic challenges to the ordinary working masses and leaving so many petty businesses that rely on electricity suffering during this period of economic hardship.
The Movement for a Socialist Alternative (MSA) condemns this incessant crash in the power grid and we blame the President Buhari-led federal government for its unproductive management of the power sector. It will be difficult to point out any part of the country which enjoys 12 hours of uninterrupted electricity consistent in the country, despite the government’s claims to have spent billions of naira to improve the electricity sector. After the grid collapsed in March, the FG through the Minister of Power, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu expressed a false optimism to Nigerians that various funding arrangements amounting to about $4 billion were put in place to boost power transmission capacity (vanguard newspaper March 28, 2022).
The Minister said that the FG had spent more than N125 billion between 2015 to 2021 for the utilization of energy generation on the national grid. The budgeting and spending in the energy sector have been enmeshed in gross mismanagement and corruption by members of the ruling elites, who sold the electricity sector to themselves and cronies and have since then continued to access one fund or the other from the coffers of governments, translating the privatization of the electricity to merely mean a “come and chop” carting away of the fund with little or nothing whatsoever invested in the sector by the owners of the DISCOs and GENCOs. The collapse of the national grid on June 12, 2022, is an indication that the current Buhari regime has further plunged the country into a serious energy crisis thereby crippling many business activities.
Huge Investment in the Energy Sector with Mirage Expectation on power improvement
It is no doubt that a huge amount of resources has been expended on the power sector by this administration with nothing to show for it. Funding in the sector is not only by the FG but also by the imperialist agents. The Minister also emphasized the Development Finance Funding through the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), French Development Agency (FDA), Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and others have committed up to $1.7 billion for “better utilization of energy generation”.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also injecting $250 million for the funding of the rehabilitation of transmission and distribution to “increase power delivery”. Another huge fund to the transmission grid is the Siemens Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) which will see about $2 billion invested. The result of all these huge investments in the electricity sector is a total blackout across the country. For several years the sector has not been able to generate above 5000 megawatts despite all the huge investments made to this sector. Over the years the ruling elites campaigning for political power always capitalize on the poor state of the electricity supply to make fake promises to improve power.
In preparation for the 2003 election, former President Obasanjo promised to increase power generation to 10,000 megawatts if re-elected to power. His government letter claimed to have spent $16 billion on a power project with absolutely nothing to show for it. The Buhari government that threatened to probe the failed project lack the political will to carry out its threats. The Goodluck Jonathan administration despite enormous spending went ahead to privatize the sector in 2013, yet the sector has remained worse than it was before the privatization. The privatization of the power sector has only made it possible for their capitalist cronies in the name of investors to continue to milk the rest of the working masses it hard earns money in the guise of electricity tariff.
Persistent Tariff Increments with Epileptic Power Supply
With the poor state of electricity supply, the hike in the cost of electricity has become persistent. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has continued to direct the electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to hike tariffs despite poor electricity supply. A few weeks ago, the NERC affirmed its approval for the electricity tariff hike by the DisCos at a rate of 10%. The call for the increment came just a few weeks after the total blackout in the country in March and April over the collapse of the power grid.
Before the 2013 power sector was privatization, the government and some pro-privatization analysts have argued that privatization of the power sector will bring about lower tariffs and efficient power supply. Several years after Nigerians continued to witness the worst in supply and now pay more for darkness compared to the past. Almost every year, the power distribution company and the NERC have not relented in tariff increments that will guarantee them huge profits despite continuous abysmal power supply, load-shedding and poor power distribution.
The FG has continued to enrich the owners of the distribution companies with bailout funding despite its abysmal performance in improving the power supply in the country. Since the privatization of the power sector, the FG has so far approved over N1.6 Trillion in various intervention funding. According to calculations carried out by the Business Day newspaper, this amount (N1.6 trillion) is over three times what the federal government earned by selling the assets (N471 billion).
The capitalist ruling elites are quick to use government resources to bailout sectors where they have a stake or interest. In 2021, the federal government was also quick to approve a bailout for the aviation sector.
The same bailout was given to the banking sector some years ago but when it’s the turn of other vital sectors of the economy like the education sector, the resources are said not to be available. The problems in the power sector are not only the mismanagement by the ruling elites but also by the capitalist system which promotes profit-making ahead of the needs of the people. To correct this anomaly, the working masses need to come forward into the arena of struggle to end the system of capitalism.
Time to Demand for the Re-nationalisation of the Power sector
With the federal government’s humongous spending on the power sector without any meaningful achievement to show for it due to its bureaucratic and undemocratic management, we in the MSA call for the reversal of the privatization and demand for the re-nationalisation of the power sector and placing it under the democratic management and control of the working masses.
We call on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to support the call for the return of the power sector into public ownership, but not under the management of a capitalist as it was before, but under democratic management and control of the working people to judiciously manage investment in the power infrastructure and protect against inefficiency and corruption.