As FG Licenses Power Firms
News of the issuance of licences to 20 independent power producers by the Federal Government recently came as a pleasant surprise and provoked the hope of possible transformation in Nigeria.
According to our source, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) was also finalising a new set of regulations that would allow state governments to generate and distribute electricity in their states by January 2012.
To reassure the independent producers, who are expected to add 6,358 megawatts to the National Grid in 36 months, the Federal Government is said to have issued a special trading licence to the Nigerian Bulk Trading Company Plc to ensure that every megawatt they produced was bought off.
Although more independent producers will be required to enable Nigeria attain the level of electricity needed to jump-start the economy, the formal clearance for the private sector to participate in the provision of this important national asset is most commendable.
Until now, Nigerians have had to contend with an impossible power situation, because the constitution of the Federal Republic forbids private sector involvement. Being placed on the exclusive list, successive governments have failed to find a way out, even when the public power company failed repeatedly to satisfy the power needs of the country.
Because of the epileptic and often zero supply of electricity in the country, the cost of doing business soared and served as the reason many companies closed shop. The effect of this on artisans and society as a whole can never be quantified. The drawback it exacts on the economy is enormous.
That is why this initiative and courage by the present government to take the bull by the horns carries a lot of hope. Indeed, whatever the Goodluck Jonathan administration is doing to by-pass the constitutional blockade in this area should be extended to other areas of national good, as Nigeria cannot continue to retain retrogressive laws in her statute books.
Nigerians cannot forget too soon how the nation became a laughing stock across the world. We cannot forget how the pitiable electricity situation became the major reason for every imaginable failure and how trillions of naira were spent on power with no visible change.
Desirous of taking light to the people, the Federal Government came up with a policy to extend light through the national grid to every local government headquarters. How that has been achieved is there for all to see. But if the current effort is sustained, there would be no reason why every community should not access electricity.
Clearly, Nigeria can grow her electricity capability and attain the level where actual industrialisation can begin in this country. This in turn can reduce unemployment, insecurity and crime as well as give the average Nigerian a sense of pride.
It is, therefore, imperative for every well-meaning Nigerian to support the current effort by the Federal Government to re-oil the wheel of business in Nigeria. More states will need to embark on power programmes to help build the national total to at least 50,000 megawatts in a few years.
The country and indeed every Nigerian stands to benefit from the steady supply of electricity. If for nothing else, the elimination of the use of personal generators and its cost implication on the budget of every family will be a welcome situation. But the effect the use of thousands of generators has on the environment can be very devastating.
Even as government opens the way for private participation, very close supervision will be required to avoid the use of fake and cheap equipment as the consequence can be grave. Recently, the importation and use of substandard cables and transformers caused avoidable fires and destroyed lives and property.
As leaders struggle with environmental challenges across the world, the Federal Government must ensure that those they approved licences for have consideration for this concern. It is important that they use either gas, coal, wind, sun or dams to produce electricity.
Beyond that, government should begin to support researches on alternative fuel as well as encourage the use of solar or wind by individuals or firms to power their operations. At least, the consideration of tax cut can go a long way.
As the Federal Government removes the hurdle to adequate power supply in this country, we can only hope that every Nigerian finds something to do with the provision to the extent it becomes the asset that begets others for this country.