In the last couple of days, the Ikeja Electric has been battling to restore power supply to my area, Journalists’ Estate, Arepo, on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, simply as a result of a faulty transformer, which is as old as the estate itself. The transformer develops faults every other week while sometimes it will take the Ikeja Electric’s engineers days to rectify the fault.
This was a localised problem and notwithstanding the general malaise plaguing the entire power supply chain in the country. After 57 years of independence, Nigeria has not been able to generate enough energy to meet the need of its teeming population. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Nigeria currently has the capacity to generate an estimated 7,000 megawatts of electricity but only is able to distribute 4,000 megawatts at the peak period.
Our economic problems as a nation revolve around our inability to do what is right and just to propel us to achieve all-round development that will bring good life to the citizens.
In other climes where things work as they should be, planning is at the core of their developmental agenda. The power sector is just one of the areas we, as a nation, are lagging behind. In Ghana, the government has projected to secure 3,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020 to the already installed capacity. The same thing obtains in South Africa, which currently produces around 53,819 megawatts and still aims to increase generation capacity through other means.
But in Nigeria, huge resources have been deployed to fund power generation since the start of the present democracy, yet we have not been able to progress beyond the so-called 7,000 megawatts.
Apart from the aging equipment, which has continued to frustrate stable power supply, millions of Nigerians in the rural areas are cut off completely from power supply because they are not even connected to the national grid.
The same story is our lot in the petroleum sector of the economy, where fuel supply for local consumption depends largely on importation because all the refineries built years back are already obsolete and are performing below the optimal installed capacity.
With billions, in both local and foreign currencies, expended to carry out turnaround maintenance on the refineries, we have yet to get the right value for the money spent. This is so unfortunate because as an oil producing country, we are compelled to swap our crude oil for finished products to enable us to meet domestic needs. Our nation should have been a major supplier of finished products to the West African coast if we had properly put in place plans to maximise the advantage of our status as an oil producing country.
Again, as a nation, we are falling short of all expectations to find an end to fuel importation to meet domestic consumption. Our best bet to stop huge foreign exchange being lost to fuel importation is the ongoing Aliko Dangote’s 660,000 barrel per day capacity refinery when it finally comes on stream in 2019.
Our capacity to leverage our abundant landmass to produce enough food both for domestic consumption and export has also been challenged as a result of government’s lack of foresight to plan for the future.
In spite of the noise by government agents on improved rice production, millions of tonnes of rice are still being imported into the country, both from direct and directly, through our porous borders. One of the major yardsticks to measure our progress on food production is our consumer inflation index. While the figure has slowed down for the last six consecutive months to around 15.98 per cent on annualised basis, the food index has persistently remained high. This means that all the efforts at increasing capacity for local food productions have not yielded the right results.
We are being left behind by the whole world simply because we operate the so-called African time in our planning. While the rest of the civilised world is setting target dates on their development goals, we are still struggling to even keep up with the little that was achieved by our forefathers.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, the city of Oxford has set a target for all new vehicles to be electric or ultra-low emission by 2040. What this simply means is that by the target year, the major city in the UK would have done away with vehicles using petrol and diesel to reduce the level of emission. Already, all hands are on deck to achieve this aspiration.
In Nigeria, even though we have what is termed the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy, which captures our spending plans at the federal level, the question is how much of it we do religiously follow in execution.
Aside from the fiscal policy, how much of research from our tertiary institutions is going into our national policymaking process? What is our national goal for the petroleum industry, which lays the golden egg that keeps our economy going for instance?
The whole world is already on the road to phase out the use of petrol and diesel consuming vehicles with a set target date. Yet, here in Nigeria, we have not been able to fix our refineries to even keep the petrol supply for our local consumption let alone join the electric car revolution.
In Germany, energy supply is predominantly sourced from fossil fuels, followed by nuclear power, biomass (wood and biofuels), wind, hydro and solar.
According to Wikipedia, “Key to Germany’s energy policies and politics is the ‘Energiewende’, meaning “energy turnaround” or “energy transformation”. Germany intends to eliminate current use of nuclear power by 2022. Some plants have already been closed ahead of their intended retirement dates.”
Across the globe today, many countries are setting targets to realise their goals on food sufficiency, economic growth, population, cleaner environment and good governance. To them, the targets being set are sacrosanct and they are tenaciously working towards the set goal by deploying all needed resources to attain such.
But we are left behind by the whole world today because of our focus as a nation and the lack of priority to develop as fast as we could. Our educational institutions that should have been our fulcrum of development through research are in a shambles. The research institutions set up to galvanise our development strategy have been left in ruins due to underfunding and corruption. Large numbers of our best hands have migrated abroad in search of the green pastures because our politicians have hijacked the instruments of power for their selfish interest.
The sitcom television drama produced by the late poet and environmentalist in the 1980, Ken Saro-Wiwa, with the refrains, “To be a millionaire, think like a millionaire”, reminds me of our lack of thinking as a nation. To be like the developed world, we must start thinking like them.
Our people should learn to put our best into public offices and ensure that self-seeking politicians are not the one ruling us.
Our institutions of governance should be overhauled to make sure that merit supersedes nepotism and favouritism in our appointments in institutions of government.
If there is any lesson to be learnt from the Vision 2020 produced during the late Gen Sani Abacha regime, the present government should not hesitate to dust the document up and start implementing relevant portions and modify others to suit our present development needs and goals.
The attitude of throwing money at every challenge must stop, while proper planning to actually determine which direction our nation should pursue must hence take the front seat.
We have the resources, both the personnel and materials, to attain the right developmental goals for our nation if indeed we would like to reverse the order and be counted among the nations of the world that are moving forward. A clearer picture of a desirable future that will bring peace, prosperity and justice and fairness should be developed and pursued by the government if indeed their change mantra means anything to them.
It is time for us to deploy our best hands in all sectors of the economy to help tackle difficult areas of development and help draw the blueprint to take our nation from the Third World country to the developing one in the shortest possible time.
Mayowa is a Lagos-based international financial journalist