As the 2019 general elections approaches, it is expedient to call on our political aspirants to soft peddle in the use of the current electricity situation of the country in making campaign promises.
Electricity in the country is predominantly in the hands of private investors who are in it for business purposes. Presently, these investors may not be where the system was envisaged to be, but they have significantly left where it used to be. Aspirant should be fully placed in the know that the federal government acts majorly as a regulator than a participant, and so should be mindful of statements that might put undue pressure on these investors, because when the chips are down the investors are the closest to the consumers and would most likely feel the impact first hand.
The Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) 2005 served as the legal backing for the power sector reforms. The act was essentially aimed at breaking the monopoly of the Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA) -a government parastatal. This was necessitated after several calls for change in the operational and managerial module of the then monotonous power authority.
The 2005 act, give rise to a break-down module of operations and a platform for private sector partnership in the power sector. The act broke down the Nigeria Electric Power Authority which was solely in-charge of power generation, transmission and distribution into 6 Generation companies (GenCos), 1 Transmission Company and 11 Distribution Companies (DisCos). The federal government retained only the transmission company (TCN) and sold other assets to private investors. Subsequently the act made provision for the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to act as a company that would hold the assets of NEPA prior to the full actualization of the reform act.
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Similarly, the government also planned to restructure itself by becoming a regulator for all the investors. This function was initiated through the enactment of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC)
In 2013, the privatization became fully birthed and the government lost monopoly and ownership of some of the nation’s power infrastructures. This clearly states that the government could only regulate, create an enticing investment field and ensure that licensed stakeholders perform their roles to make the power system more efficient and reliable.
In time past, several governments have promised stable/24-hours supply nationwide amongst other promises relating to the power infrastructure of Nigeria. These campaign promises have literally at different point in time emanated from the mouths of our leaders, and many a times, these promises have gone unfulfilled. This is not to judge the intentions of our leaders in past, but to state clearly that when the infrastructure was completely in the grip of the government alone, these promises seemed impossible to achieve. Presently, the sector comprises of various key stakeholders- both private and government, whose specific roles cannot be undermined by any other parties involved.
Conversely, aspirants are free to come up with better regulatory policies that would bring succor to both investors and consumers, rather than promise constant power when it’s obvious that our generation capacity is far below our demand.
In summary, the same reason our leaders have not being making exorbitant campaign promises on the telecommunication sector of the country, should be same reason why statements regarding our power sector should be well polished and thought through. It is no longer in the hands of the government, it’s not business as usual, it’s now business. This is not to say that we should all sit, watch and fold our hands and let the private investors make or mar the sector, rather we should come up with policies that would make the sector thrive seamlessly.