One of the biggest complaints Nigerians have about public service delivery is the irregular and inadequate power supply in the country.
But if data by the World Bank is anything to go by, there are a lot of Nigerians who are not even connected to the power grid, let alone experience irregular power supply.
Perhaps, the worry of this situation is the reason behind the power ministry’s recent pronouncement about rural electrification in the country.
During a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Rural Electrification Agency last week, the junior Minister for Power, Mr. Mohammed Wakil, stated that there was a need to improve rural electrification in the country.
According to him, this process would be driven by renewable energy as a result of its sustainability.
The minister said, “Now that privatisation is completed and we are addressing the teething problems associated with past privatisation, the administration is determined to focus on rural areas where we have close to 70 percent of our people.
“Most of these areas are not connected to the national grid, renewable energy provides an alternative and this is what we have started doing.”
He said the new process would involve a mix of wind, solar, biomass and hydro energy alongside the conventional source of power, which is already in use.
However, with an estimated 170 million people in Nigeria, Power Talkback learnt that the problem of access to electricity is worse than many people may know.
According to a World Bank’s data on access to electricity across countries of the world, only 48 per cent of Nigerians had access to electricity between 2009 and 2013, ranking it among the lowest in the world.
Other countries with lower percentage of population with access are as follows:
Sudan – 29 per cent
Tanzania – 26.5 per cent
Uganda – 14.6 per cent
Zimbabwe – 37 per cent
Yemen – 39.9 per cent
Zambia – 22 per cent
However, few developing countries like Nigeria have much more higher percentage of access to electricity. Some of the countries are Philippines (70.2 per cent) Pakistan (68.6 per cent) Panama (88.2 per cent) Nicaragua (77.7 per cent) and Nepal (76.3 per cent) among others.
Singapore has 100 per cent access to electricity. On the way to achieving one hundred per cent access are countries like Morocco (98.9 per cent) Mauritius (99.4 per cent) Malaysia (99.5 per cent) and Libya (99.8 per cent).
Perhaps, this is why Nigeria’s economy has been dubbed ‘generator economy’ as a result of the fact that most industrial activities in the country depend mostly on the use of generators for power supply.
The World Bank states that over 1.4 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity with Nigeria’s 48 per cent representing about 81 million out of that number.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, also admitted that much on Tuesday in Lagos, stating that many people had erroneously believed that only 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population is not connected to the national power grid and thus, live without access to electricity.
“The question now is how to quickly reach these communities, these homes, schools, hospitals, markets and farms. There is no faster way than through distributed power,” he said.
The ministry has not revealed how much the planned rural electrification in the country would cost.
In the 2014 budget, about N8.2bn is allocated to the National Rural Electrification Agency. Also, while N461m is allocated for “Renewable energy for electricity generation” in a breakdown of the budget, N20.5bn is budgeted for the “construction and provision of electricity.”
In spite of the amount budgeted for rural electrification in the country, residents of many areas spend huge amounts of money to electrify their communities while many more still live in darkness.
Power Talkback learnt that most places affected by this situation are mostly newly developed areas where electrification projects have not been extended to. In the face of delay by the government to electrify these areas, residents are forced to pay huge amounts of money to electricity distribution companies to facilitate purchase of electrification equipment and materials like transformers, poles and cables.
For instance, residents of Mercyland, Ipakuro, a new estate in Ogun State, had to jointly contribute money to purchase electrification equipment to ensure that they are also connected to the national power grid.
A resident of the community, Mr. Kayode Aboluade, said each household contributed over N41,000 to get a transformer and other necessary materials needed for electrifying the estate in the absence of government support.
He said, “There was no electricity in the area for a long time until we residents decided to contribute to ensure that we have power supply. We practically did the electrification in the estate because we bought everything ourselves. Government did not do anything for us. Till now, residents that move into the community have to pay into a common purse as their contribution towards the electrification project.”