Nigerians have rejected the Federal Government’s apology for the deplorable supply of electricity and fuel across the country.
A consistent decline in the nation’s electricity supply has led to a blackout nationwide, causing Nigerians huge economic hardship in their efforts to provide electricity and water to their homes.
The Federal Government had on Friday apologised to Nigerians for the blackout and the inherent hardship it had caused them.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, in a statement on Friday, had said all efforts were being made to rectify the situation and ensure a gradual improvement in the power situation.
According to Mohammed, a combination of different incidents, including gas shortage, vandalism, sabotage, protests by power and petroleum workers, are responsible for crashing the power supply.
Mohammed said, “Due to these factors, only 13 of the 24 power stations in the country are currently functioning. It is this same kind of unsavoury situation that has affected fuel supply and subjected Nigerians to untold hardship.
“We admonish all Nigerians who may be agitating for their rights in whatever form to refrain from any action that will further hurt the same people they claim to be protecting.”
But several Nigerians rejected the apology on Saturday, while they lamented the economic challenges experienced daily.
In a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, a former Governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said, “Nigerians don’t accept apologies under such circumstances. We want action and solution and if we can have this problem of fuel scarcity at a time when the executive President (Muhammadu Buhari) is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, then, it means we can expect the worst on the economy and a whole country.
“This whole thing is under the President and yet we have this crisis. It is a serious implication, which means we can experience worse in other sectors of the economy, if the president is not directly in control of the ministers and other top officials.
“We want reasons why this should continue, especially while the President is the minister for oil.”
A Niger Delta activist, Ms. Annkio Briggs, also stated that apologies given when one is genuinely sorry over an issue.
Briggs told one of our correspondents that when an apology is given, it gives an indication that things are going to get better and the reason for the apology will not happen again.
She added, “But does that mean we are going to get better power supply? Today, I got fuel for about N160 per litre; not at the black market but at the filling station, and the government said we are to buy it for about N87.
“People are buying fuel for over N100 per litre to have fuel in their vehicles and light in their homes. We need fuel to give ourselves light. The question here is, what is the apology supposed to do to Nigerians? Is the apology to stabilise the price of petrol back to what it used to be? Are we going to have constant electricity?
“The solution is to find a way to solve the situation and not about an apology that won’t bring about change to the country. Meanwhile, there’s no use for the apology if we don’t have power supply; if the price of fuel is not back to the normal price.”
Also, the Chairman of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Mr. Ledun Mitee, in a separate interview, described Federal Government’s apology as a publicity strategy.
He said, “It is good public relations for them to say they apologise but are those explanations plausible? I do not readily buy into accusations directed towards crime as the reason for fuel scarcity, instability of fuel price and lack of constant power supply.
“I do not value the explanations; if there are issues we should know, it should be brought out for public discussion, rather than be blamed on things like vandalism. It’s not a matter of apology, what Nigerians want is delivery on power supply to turn the economy around. This issue affects all people.”
He added that the level of economic downturn in the country was on the increase and that something should be done immediately after the apology to help Nigerians fight the issue of blackout
Several Nigerians also rejected the apology on PUNCH’s social media platforms. On PUNCH’s Facebook page, Bobby Brown said, “Nigerians do not accept your apology. You’ve failed the nation.”
Omisore Kunle also said, “I have always said these government people are not sincere with us any longer! There is no petrol to operate our generators and still no electricity. God help us!”
Similarly, Mobola Adesola said, “After 50 years that is the best that they can come up with? Come on!”
Olugbenga Oyesanmi also said, “When will this blame game stop? Every infraction since Buhari resumed office has been blamed on someone else (a boogeyman). The buck stops at his desk. I overwhelmingly supported Buhari. However, this is looking more like ‘a bridge to nowhere.’”
In her submission, Abiola Kahdijat said, “When GEJ (former President Goodluck Jonathan) said this, they called him clueless and boasted that they would do differently, but the situation is even far worse under the All Progressives Congress-led government.
“Since the APC government has continued to deny all its electoral promises, all we ask from them is to maintain the little infrastructure they met on ground. But it seems that’s also an impossible task for the government.”
Another Nigerian, Peterson Nzube, also stated that electricity supply was better under Jonathan, despite the threat posed by vandals.
“APC, you had solutions to all Nigeria’s problem, while you were not in power. Now that you’re in power, you have no single idea again. In less than a year of your regime, you cannot even maintain the megawatts you met, let alone increase it. Rather, it depreciated by 1,000MW. God save Nigeria,” Nzube added.
According to Samuel Bello, it is only in Nigeria that government knows all the problems facing the country but has no solution.
“These were the same stories we heard before the sales of the electricity companies to themselves. Now it has changed from bad to worse. It exhibits the ignorance and ineptitude of those in power. Nigerians have yet to see anybody arraigned in courts of law for sabotage, so, please sing another song. We are tired of excuses; fix it!” Bello said.
Similarly, Bello Eshiofune, asked the Federal Government to swing into action and stop giving excuses.
On PUNCH’s website, Clippers12 said, “So the apology means to sit back do no action? Instead of wasting money on government cars, let’s import solar panels for those who need it, then build from there; at least, start somewhere or do something and not shout ‘we are sorry.’”
Another contributor, Trouble, said, “Excuses, excuses and more excuses. When will Nigerians ever enjoy the God given resources with peace and joy? At every turn, it is just worries and woes for us. Maybe we should change our name. The suffering is too much.”
Earth Voice said, “That is what we get, 50 years sold oil yet no steady electricity in a country. Other countries of the world ruled by military men are far better than Nigeria; at least, they have steady electricity.”
The Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, also berated the government for its inability to fix the power problem.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said, “Apology is good but it won’t power the homes. We need to see concrete steps being taken to increase power generation and distribution in our country. We should not be asked to pay more for darkness like the power ministry has done lately.”
Despite the decision by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), to increase electricity tariff by 45 per cent from February 1, 2016, Nigerians have remained in darkness.
The situation had been worsened by fuel scarcity and price hikes nationwide.
The nation achieved its peak generation of 5,074.70MW on February 2, when 4,541.85MW was generated and 4,447.88MW was sent out. But a partial system collapse on Tuesday, in addition to the continuous drop in electricity generation owing to vandalism of pipelines that supply gas to the power plants, led to the highly pronounced power failures across the country.
As a result, power generation dropped to 1,580.6 megawatts as of Wednesday.
The partial system collapse that occurred on Tuesday reportedly happened at the Shiroro Power Plant and dragged down electricity generation to as low as 1,233.4MW from a peak of 3,207.7MW recorded on the same day.
The drop in generation caused severe reduction in load allocation from the national grid to the distribution firms.
Alternative power sources become costlier
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the prices of alternative means of electricity had increased.
The price of Tiger generators, popularly referred to as ‘I better pass my neighbour’ generators, which is the smallest in the range of petrol-powered generators, has increased from about N15,000 to about N25,000 in the last one month.
The Elepaq generator, which is next in terms capacity, has also gone from N35,000 to N68,000 since February. Another category of generators, which used to cost N59,000, now goes for N80,000.
It was also learnt that the cost of diesel-powered generators had increased over the past one month. The retail price of 20KVA generators increased from N1.25m to N2.4m; 60KVA, N2.5m to N3.4m; and 500KVA, N11m to 14.4m.
Before, a carton of candle was N6,200. Now it is N8,000. In some parts of Lagos, a 25-litre keg of water, which used to cost N10, now costs N30. It is worse in some parts of Ikeja where the price of a 20-litre gallon has increase by 100 per cent, from N25 to N50.
It was also learnt that a middle-sized torchlight which used to cost N90 is now N160.
‘Nigerians likely to face more blackouts’
Indications have emerged that the blackout being experienced across the country may not end soon, as electricity power generation from gas-fired and hydro plants are increasingly threatened.
It remains unclear when repair works would be completed on the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline System and the Forcados export terminal, as the continued shut-down of the facilities affect affect gas supply to power plants.
A platform on the ELPS was recently sabotaged, while a pipeline leak on Forcados export terminal forced Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limitked to halt production into the terminal in February.
It was recently reported that it was likely to take until early April before the pipeline is repaired and oil production and flow to the export terminal resumed.
An energy expert and Technical Director, Drilling Services, Template Design Limited, Mr. Bala Zakka, in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Saturday, said, “We are foreseeing a likely energy crisis in the country,” considering the imminent fall in power generation from hydro power plants.
“We are going to have issues with gas supply. The Escravos pipeline has been tampered with. Definitely, most of the thermal power plants that are being supplied gas through that pipeline are likely to be affected. So, there will be supply issue for the next one month or slightly more than that.”
Noting that it had been forecasted that rainfall may be low this year, Zakka said, “That means the quantum of electricity we normally get from the combination of Shiroro, Jebba and Kainji dams will be very low, and that means we have to rely seriously on the thermal stations.
“So, there is a need for us to do something about supplying gas to the generation companies, and a need for proper regulation so that the distribution companies can effectively distribute.”
“The shortage of power supply has led to a high demand for petrol and diesel by households and businesses, and this is not supposed to be so.”
The Special Adviser on Gas to the immediate past Minister of Power, Mr. Frank Edozie, described the current state of power supply in the country as bad and unfortunate.
“The start of it was the gas facility that was blown on the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline System, and then the closure of the Forcados export pipeline that resulted to condensate build-up, which meant a number of gas producers had to shut in,” he said.
Edozie added that he expected an improvement in gas supply to power plants in coming days following the suspension of the strike “until the Forcados pipeline is repaired, and then the ELPS, which will take a little time to repair.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Transcorp Ughelli Power Limited, one of the generation companies in the country, Mr. Adeoye Fadeyibi, told our correspondent that “gas supply continues to be a major constraint.”
“We are having issues because of the pressure of the line for NGC (Nigerian Gas Company); they are not building up enough pressure for us to run our plant. So, that’s the problem we are having.
“We are engaging the gas suppliers to make sure we able to get the gas. They are responding and we are hoping that we can come to some solution quickly.”
An energy law and policy expert/Senior Associate at Lagos-based law firm, Banwo & Ighodalo, Mr. Ayodele Oni, also noted that the strike by electricity workers in connection with the termination of the contract of employment of some staff of Ikeja Electricity Distribution plc and the sabotage by some workers had affected power supply in Lagos.
“There has also been the vandalism of some gas and some other power sector installations. Repairs are now being undertaken and supply should improve soon,” he said.
The Special Assistant, Media to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Segun Adeyemi, however said Nigerians would expect an improvement in power supply this week.
He said, “Power generation is expected to inch towards a 4,000MW mark and then rise to 5074MW.”