Though it finally came, this admission can be said to have taken a long to be made. This week, the Federal Government said that the Distribution Companies (DisCos) have failed to distribute 10,000mw being generated, despite the N1.7trn spent on them in three years.
The Minister of State for Power, Mr Saleh Mamman, who made this admission at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, said DisCos are only able to distribute about 3,000mw, out of 10,000mw, generated in the country.
But, if Nigerians are surprised by the minister’s admission, their surprise may easily have turned to anger when the minister said that out the 3,000mw the DisCos collect, they are only paying for 1,000mw.
If the DisCos have any reason or reasons for not paying for what they get, the minister did not reveal. But, from his statement, it became clear why, in many towns and villages, some Nigerians feel reluctant or not obliged to pay for the electricity they consume.
Why should they pay the DisCos when the DisCos don’t pay the GenCos? Of course, everyone, companies and individuals and even governments must do the right things in order to have right conditions prevail.
Thus, the warning handed to the DisCos by the minister that they must show capacity to distribute power to Nigerians or surrender to more competent companies to do the job, in a way, therefore, can be said to be appropriate. But, in another way, it is not chiefly because many consumers of electricity, including government offices and houses, don’t pay the DisCos for the power they consume.
Ideally, Nigeria should, by now, distribute and recoup expenses incurred in the generation of the 13,000 megawatts of electricity the minister says the country produces but it cannot because it cannot transmit all. To survive, however, Nigeria must be able to do so and more because the economy of any country thrives directly or indirectly on the availability of electricity in the country.
Nigeria has been battling with the problem of power for too long, prompting many to resort to the use of alternative sources of power supply such as generators and solar panels while the vast majority continue to wallow in darkness and are at the mercy of the DisCos.
Of course, there are reasons why the country is where it is when it comes to the issue of electricity. From the GenCos companies to the DisCos, the components used to supply electricity are old and outdated, hence, they perform poorly, do not supply the expected amount of electricity and hardly get paid by consumers.
There is also corruption in the sector. The presence of corruption within the system contributes to a stall in development. Electricity workers who collect money for illegal connections and electricity theft do so to the detriment of other consumers who choose to do things the right way.
There are also bad electricity policies. The policies made by the government relating to the power sector is not supportive enough or flexible enough and, though hard to believe, but it is true, Nigerians pay very low electricity tariffs. This does not encourage investors to make further investment in the power sector as the returns are quite low.
Another problem is that of rampant illegal connection. People who connect their houses or businesses to power lines without the knowledge of the concerned power companies consume what other people have paid for and further reduce the supply of electricity to the appropriate areas.
Again, there’s the problem of vandalism of components such as underground cables and other power equipment that usually lead to fault in the power supply and, eventually, blackouts with the power companies always reluctant to rectify such faults.
Other than these problems, the manpower available at the generation, transmission and distribution stations are not kept abreast of recent trends in power engineering. They have little or no knowledge on how to deal with new or unfamiliar situations on the field. Of course, with this situation, workers resort to old techniques in solving power issues.
However, to develop, Nigeria must get its acts together electrically. And to achieve that, policies made by the government should be flexible, clearly spelling out punishment for those who engage in corruption and or electricity theft, directly or indirectly.
The problem of under-utilisation of generated electricity must be curtailed. New and up-to-date components should be installed to ensure greater performance and power increased supply to consumers and, hopefully, with an increased electricity supply, development and progress will follow suit as the availability of electricity affect most, if not all other sectors.
Essentially, it is heartwarming to hear the minister say that though there is much to be done in transmission to make things work better, the government is now willing to take up the matter and do the needful through, mainly, tackling corruption and provision of infrastructure.
As Nigeria gets agric processing zones…
This week, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the establishment of agricultural processing zones in each senatorial district across the country and there are 109 of them.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Adeniyi Adebayo, in Abuja.
Already, the minister said: “We have employed consultants who are now going round and looking at each of the Senatorial Districts, with a view to knowing what agricultural processing zone will be set up in each Senatorial zone.”
The minister said government intends to provide credit to investors through the Bank of Industry, with 10 million medium and small-scale enterprises expected to benefit from the proposed credit scheme.
The minister said the country intends to raise $500 million from the African Development Bank for technological innovation in the country. And, truly, that is the way to go. With the advent of various commercialised seeds, agriculture is moving towards becoming more and more artificial.
Other than that, pesticides and insecticides also add to the chemical composition of the crops resulted from such seeds. Unfortunately, organic farming is not the norm here but a luxury. Agreed, organic farming is quite expensive, but Nigerians must be able to embrace it, especially with the size of the country’s population and the need to have food security.
Of course, it is gladdening that the government intends to provide financial incentives to farmers because while in many developing countries, like Nigeria, agriculture is the main occupation of a majority of people, it is not given its due importance. Farmers in such countries are hardly given any financial benefits, and the schemes designed in their favour rarely get to them.
Insects, poverty and lack of irrigation facilities are only a few of the issues that farmers face on a daily basis in Nigeria. In fact, only farmers know how difficult it is to engage in agriculture activities without adequate financial support from the government.
Thus, investing in good quality seeds, fertilisers, chemicals and irrigation facilities all need to be funded by the government and it is when that is done that the country can expect considerable development in the agriculture sector.
No doubt, it is true that agriculture is the most important of all professions. However, the problems faced by farmers are many and hardly, maybe until now, did remedy seem to go to the way of farmers. Before now, farmers were overlooked by the governments while different policies enunciated to supposedly help them were promulgated and implemented to further weaken agriculture activities.
At the same time, the Nigerian agriculture sector has also suffered low output which has led to the massive importation of food items that could easily be produced locally in order to feed the ever-increasing populace.
All the while, however, some officials of the government, through corrupt ways, became stupendously rich to the detriment of real farmers and agriculture.
Yet, the agriculture sector In Nigeria is undoubtedly the highest employer of labour, employing about 70 percent of the Nigerian labour force.
Therefore, the recent patriotic and viable measures outlined to be adopted by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration need the support of all and we all must give agriculture its due importance and attention if we must survive as an independent and food-sufficient country.
The machinery for farming also needs to be upgraded if one intends to see agriculture growing as a capital sector.
Until all the problems of agriculture sector are solved, or at least the crucial ones are addressed, we cannot expect agriculture to gain its due status even a couple of decades down the line.