Blackout Nigeria! This is why you’ve not had light in weeks and shouldn’t expect it soon


From long queues in gas stations and increased fare prices, to crowded bus stops and persisting nationwide power cut, could things get any worse in West Africa’s most populous nation? Last Thursday, following a long period of unstable power supply, things took a nose dive when the country’s power generation completely crumbled to zero megawatts at mid-day and remained at that level for hours. Since then the country has remained in perpetual darkness and to make matters worse, the ongoing fuel scarcity somewhat rules out the option of using a generator.

Why the blackout?

Although there has been a lot of speculation regarding the nationwide blackout, the most repeated, and defensible reason appears to be pipeline vandalism. On Monday April 4 2016, the System and Market Operation Departments of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) told THISDAY that the persisting blackout is due to the shortage of gas to thermal power plants as a result of pipeline vandalism. Recent vandalism of gas pipelines has “disrupted supply of feedstock to gas-fired power generating plants, which account for over 78 per cent of power supply in the country.”

According to the CEO of one of the electricity distribution companies, all 11 distribution companies were on “station supply” last Thursday and therefore could not supply power to customers. There also exist a weak transmission network which is partly responsible for the current state of electricity supply in the country, and which only the presence of a super grid would solve. The CEO, who chose to remain anonymous, told THISDAY that issues of transmission will persist save the country builds a super grid “to reduce system collapse.”

However, a top official of the Nigeria Electricity System Operator maintains that vandalism, not transmission, is responsible for the current power cut. Reiterating the account of the TCN, the official said a cut off in gas supply to power plants last week caused a system collapse.

A month ago, the Trans-Forcados Pipeline which accounts for 40 to 50 percent of Nigeria’s gas production was shut down due to oil spills inadvertently caused by vandalism as Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) declared a force majeure on crude liftings. No doubt, this action led to a major drop in power generation.

Going forward, or not, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum stated last November that the repair of vandalized pipelines, which is also partly responsible for the current fuel scarcity crisis due to deferrals in production, could last a while. Hence, it appears Nigerians would have to endure as conditions are less likely to improve anytime soon. Perhaps, the country should only look forward to the ‘not-so long-term’ year 2019 10,000 megawatts electricity generation promised by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.

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