Another “Failed States Index” report from Fund For Peace was released a few weeks ago. Unsurprisingly, Nigeria was present in the list of the world’s failed states. Ranking 15th, Nigeria is listed amongst countries who are either at war or under tight military or civilian dictatorship. The first time the report was released with Nigeria among the list of failed states, I thought to myself: “westerners are at their gimmicks again”. After going through the criteria used in determining the countries that made the list, I couldn’t help agreeing since Nigeria met all the criteria, unfortunately. A nation powered by generators is without doubt a failed state.
One thing you cannot miss on your visit to Nigeria is the presence of varying sizes of power generators. From the micro-sizes used by road-side barbering salons to the giant power plants used by factories, generators play a vital role in the daily lives of people in Nigeria. This is because the state-owned power generation/distributing company, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), is very useless. The little power they generate is haphazardly distributed across the nation to those who are unfortunate enough to be connected to the national grid.
The core of the matter is simple: Nigeria’s power generation is less then a quarter of its electricity needs. Even the little generated is not shared by a timetable. No. The power company switches off/on the power without warning, several times everyday. I am yet to decipher the exact reason behind this chaos.
It is no better in any part of Nigeria. The last time I visited the national capital Abuja was June 2008. I had been under the illusion that power supply would be somewhat better in Abuja. I was very wrong! The number of generators running around the business centres I visited was enough proof. I enquired from residents who told me power supply was just as bad as it is elsewhere in Nigeria. It gets worse to know that some areas in Nigeria go without power for weeks. Emergency institutions like the Police, hospitals, fire service etc do not receive any priority. Even the seat of government is not spared. The Presidency shamelessly included cost of acquiring & maintenance power generators in their 2009 budget proposal – a clear admittance of failure!
On a lighter note, when NigComSat-1 (Nigeria’s first communications satellite) was forcibly shut-down and “parked” somewhere in space due to battery problems, I concluded that Nigeria has been cursed with power problems.
The negative effects of the poor power supply are countless:
- Poor lighting on roads at night resulting in poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians. The danger is obvious.
- Lack of lighting for residences, shops and offices at night emboldens petty thieves as they hide under the cover of darkness to perpetrate their evil trade. Armed robbers (older cousins of petty thieves) in Nigeria are far too bold to be deterred by light. Some rob in day time!
- Businesses that rely on electricity for production are forced to offer their goods and services at higher rates as they have to pass-on the cost of buying a power generator, fuel and other associated costs. Such businesses by default cannot compete effectively with foreign companies that export goods & services to Nigeria. Some factories are already relocating to neighbouring countries as Nigeria is getting too unfavourable for their respective businesses.
- Many lose their lives in hospital as there is insufficient electricity to power machines used in performing surgical operations and even critical life support systems are rendered useless.
- Traffic in heavily populated cities is chaotic as traffic lights (where they exist) are dead and a human being (traffic warden) has to stand in the very hot sun to control traffic. Chaos rules after 6pm as these traffic wardens “close” in some parts of Nigeria. They simply abandon the motorists to their fate. I have witnessed this madness at Iwo Road in Ibadan before.
- Power generators have killed thousands of Nigerians over the years. Out of ignorance, some leave the generators in an enclosed area. A fatal dosage of Carbon Monoxide gas (part of the fumes from the generators’ exhaust pipe) soon sends them to the world beyond.
- All electronic gadgets are powered by electricity. How Nigeria can compete in a global village powered by computers and communication networks is obvious to all.
- The list is by no means exhaustive but contains only a few of the negative effects that come to mind at the time of writing.
It is against this back-drop that I join the voice of Nigerians to demand that the President of Nigeria fixes the power problem. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, you should consider reducing your “seven-point agenda” to just one: Let there be light!
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN at lightupnigeria.org