The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) notes with dismay the recent revelation that the General Olusegun Obasanjo administration “spent” about $16.00 billion on energy and power with no appreciable impact on Nigeria’s energy and power sector. We recall that at the inception of the current civilian dispensation in the year 2000, the former President raised the genuine hopes and yearnings of the average Nigeria when he said:
“On my honor, by the end of 2001, they (Nigerians) would begin to enjoy regular, uninterrupted power supply”.On the heels of that solemn promise came the creation of the Liyel Imoke Technical Committee on Energy & Power. However, today the problem of endemic power outages still pervade as the nation remains in darkness. The Electricity Power Sector Reform Act 2005 was promulgated on March 5, 2005, to liberalize the energy sector and break the monopoly in the industry. The Act also established the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). The legislation was passed in a bid to resuscitate the power sector. Inspite of all these Committees and legislations, the sector remains comatose.
Current and ongoing investigations by the legislature highlight an unfortunate scenario of allegations and counter pandering on the part of government officials. To date, there is no agreement on the actual figure expended in the energy sector between 1999-2007.This in itself is very worrisome. Equally, recent revelation that due process through public tender of energy contracts was never followed is regrettable when such contracts were solely awarded between the minister and General Olusegun Obasanjo’s (rtd) presidency. We have equally taken note of the award of electricity contracts to blacklisted companies by the former President which amounts to a betrayal of the trust of the Nigerian people still saddled with the torture of continued epileptic power supply and broken promises.
Energy is the engine that drives industrialization, which improves communication, helps innovation in science and Technology, provides sound healthcare delivery system and improves citizens’ standard of living. Since energy is the engine that drives industrialization, a sound energy policy would indirectly create jobs even in unexpected sectors. Considering the central and pivotal role electricity plays in an economy, we at NAS fully endorse President Musa Yar ‘Adua position that,
"we must solve this problem because until we do that, we cannot address the fundamental problems of our economy like poverty and unemployment. Even while the circumstances may be different, we may need to follow the telecommunication formula in order to solve the nation’s power and energy problems. Our ultimate goal is to achieve what we did with the GSM or I declare a state of emergency in the sector…Power is a key priority of this administration and we all agreed that our efforts at developing the nation cannot succeed unless we solve the power problem.”While Nigeria’s power grid’s installed capacity is 6,000MW, the country generates less than 50 per cent of this amount. Experts believe that with a population of 140 million, Nigeria’s energy needs should be 30,000MW. In addition to our domestic needs the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) counsels that as a responsible sovereign nation, Nigeria should continue to honor her obligations of 80MW under the regional electrification project, 1982 pursuant to which Nigeria gives 80MW of power to Benin Republic, Ghana and Togo.
The Energy Commission of Nigeria Amendment Bill, 2007, now at the committee stage in the National Assembly seeks to grant priority to the promotion and development of alternative sources of energy for the country. Addressing the electricity crisis is one of President Umaru Yaradua’s seven-point agenda promised Nigerians while on his 2007 campaign trail. An Energy Council was set up. In addition an 11-man Committee for the Accelerated Expansion of Nigeria's Power Infrastructure was inaugurated on Tuesday, February 19, to deliver 6,000 additional megawatts over the next 18 months and add an extra 11,000 megawatts by 2011.
We hope that these promises and targets are real and genuine and that the government can deliver this time around. Nigerians can no longer bet on government promises because of monumental failures to keep promises made in the past. Any real moves must be bold, private sector-driven and devoid of bureaucratic bottlenecks. There has to be time lined Electricity Development Plans backed by statutes. The Nigerian Society of Engineers ought to be directly involved at all levels.
NAS believes that a sound Energy Policy is not and should not be limited solely to electricity production from fossil fuel – Oil & Gas and/or Nuclear Energy Sources. There are of course better, and more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity. The following sources must be tapped – Biomass, Geothermal, Hydro Power, Nuclear (fission and fusion), Ocean waves, Solar, Wind, and other pollution free renewable sources.
As a responsible corporate citizen NAS encourages the Nigerian government in conjunction with other stakeholders to focus her energy policy strategy on areas such as Solar, Wind, Ocean waves and Biomass. These are energy areas that most developing nations like Nigeria can exploit safely and efficiently. They are also environmentally sound.
Biomass is simply energy generated from our every day garbage (rubbish) which we have in abundance. Some sources of biomass are dead trees, tree branches, and yard clippings, left over crops, wood chips, and bark and sawdust from lumber mills. Biomass sources also include used tires and livestock manure. By recycling biomass for fuel and other uses, we are indirectly cleaning up our environment and cutting down on "landfills" needed to hold garbage. Nigeria will benefit tremendously from Biomass energy technology. Biomass can be environmentally friendly because it goes through a process of use and recycling. It is also a renewable source because plants which supply Biomass can be grown over and over again and because Biomass has so many advantages, it should form the bedrock of Nigeria's Energy Policy Initiatives.
Another renewable source of energy is geothermal. Geothermal is earth heat. A geothermal power plant is like the regular power plant except that no fuel is burned to heat water into steam because the earth heats the steam in a geothermal power plant which goes into a special turbine. Nigeria will benefit from geothermal technology since we have areas with natural springs such as around the Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State.
Other than Biomass, Solar is perhaps the most viable alternative source of energy for Nigeria. Nigeria is endowed with abundance of almost 12-hour day of sunlight year-round. Solar energy is not new to Nigerians because we depend on sun's energy to dry clothes and crops. Plants use the sun's light to make food and man and animals eat plants for sustenance. Nigeria needs to tap into the solar technology now more than ever.
Many Middle Eastern nations such as United Arab Emirates and Qatar have parlayed their petrol-dollars to convert their desert lands into amazing structural wonders. Nigeria must borrow their trailblazing example. She must rebuild her industrial capacity, rebuild her middle class, encourage entrant of new entrepreneurs into the market in order to generate real technology-base jobs.
The nation must challenge Nigerian professionals, just as President J.F. Kennedy in the 60s challenged Americans when he said:
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”President Musa Yar'Adua has a chance for a new beginning and a renaissance to building a proud and industrial nation. He must tap into the entrepreneurial spirit and bring on board “the can do attitude” of his fellow citizens.
In the meantime, we urge the National Assembly to step up its oversight functions so as to find answers to the whereabouts of the $16 billion that the last Administration claimed to have invested in the power sector and move the nation forward by ensuring that recent promises by the current administration remain a marked difference from previously failed promises. The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) believes that uninterrupted power supply is a right and not a privilege.
Professor Olatunde Makanju
National Association of Seadogs, NAS
Monday, March 17, 2008