Regarding power, Nigerians need better quality not a tariff hike


The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) recently announced that Nigeria’s power supply had dropped  by almost half in the past 2 weeks. It had announced, last month, that the country’s power supply had attained a peak value of 5000 megawatts. However, two weeks later vandalism has allegedly allowed to it to drop down below 2800 megawatts, its lowest since May 2015 and since Buhari became the president.

Nine months ago, just before Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, handed over to incumbent Buhari, power supply was low, at a value of 1,327 MW. However, after President Buhari came into power, supply increased, eventually reaching a peak value of 5000 MW two weeks ago. Many attributed the increased power supply to Buhari’s “body language”, meaning the DISCOS (electricity distribution companies) were wary of offending “strict” Buhari by supplying erratic power supply. The former Minister for power Chinedu Nebo suggested in the last administration that Nigeria needed 160, 000 MW of electricity to really satisfy the power needs of all Nigerians. And when the present minister Babatunde Fashola was eventually appointed, he promised to work towards reaching that value though not immediately, giving Nigerians the notion that many projects were in the works to achieve that aim.

Therefore, it was surprising to many Nigerians that electricity tariffs were increased by 45 percent on February 1, even though they were not really being supplied adequate power. It angered Nigerians and there was serious backlash at that decision. Nigerian workers went on strike to protest the hike, a move which got the attention of the Nigerian Senate. The Nigerian Senate ordered the reversal of the hike in electricity tariffs. It seemed like Nigerian DISCOS were putting the cart before the horse.

The major need of most Nigerians right now is a stable and cheaper power supply. There are many businesses in Nigeria that rely on electricity, but have been hampered by its unpredictable nature. Most businesses in Nigeria now have diesel generators as back up for when power is off, an option which is expensive in itself and unhealthy. A hike in electricity tariff would further increase their burden and cripple businesses. Many have pointed to the fact that improving power supply is more important than putting a hike on electricity tariffs. An improved power supply means there would be less use of generators, which then leads to more money being saved for business owners.Then they would be able to afford a hike in electricity tariffs.

However, now, Nigerians would only see the increase in tariff as a reason to cancel their subscription to the power grid at least temporarily and rely on their generators, or resort to vandalism. Yesterday’s announcement further emphasizes that the people in charge of power are getting their priorities wrong. Except if the major target customers are Rich people, Nigerians need better power supply and not a tariff hike.

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