Light Up Nigeria!

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!


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Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. Niyyie at it again! I love your passion to see a better Nigeria.

    Since I was born, now am 24yrs old, I have never enjoyed 24hrs power supply before.

    We Nigerians are used to it already.

    It’s a leadership problem that is waiting for the right.

    I hope it’s me someday.

  2. As for Yar’adua’s 7 point agenda. It’s a Yar’adua’s agenda and not Nigerians.

    So there is no motivation from Nigerians to actualise any of the agenda. But Obama’s blue print uncovers how Americans can together with him change America for good. Yar’adua should learn his lesson on time before its too late.

  3. Mr President, pls face power and every other aspect of the economy will naturally take shape. Power is the pivot of the industrialisation that you dream to see in reality before you round up your administration.

    I wish your administration what she wish herself!

  4. David,

    Nigeria needs a soul searching action. Our problem stems from deep seated corruption ruthlessly embedded into our culture and body politics. If somehow we manage to root out just a few corrupt soul the power supply will be more than adequate to spread around. remember we give out money to power grid that are never built, parts that are never bought and worse of all average citizens like you and i who somehow manage to connect to the power grid, but notoriously refuse to pay when the bill is thrown in our face.

  5. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, you should consider reducing your “seven-point agenda” to just one: Let there be light!

    absolutely right. Even if it means doing nothing else. We nigerians will surely reap the benefits in the long term.

    God have mercy.

  6. Mr president, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get it right. We Nigerians all over the world are asking you and your” do nothing” administration to light up Nigeria. If it means seeking outside help please do it. All those power holding staffs going around collecting electricity bills that Nigerians never had should be arrested. Let there be steady light supply in Nig or at most 3 hrs a day.
    Giant of Africa indeed!!! Mr president no more speaches we need action. If it means getting expatriates to do the job… Nigerians will be just fine.

  7. All we have been seeing in Nigeria is just a drama. I’ll say it is a shadow compared to greater things yet to happen.

    We as a nation has spent all our lives in somewhat darkness. Generators which are substitute and now the major player.

    I believe in a New Nigeria. If we must create a New Nigeria, then Light must be our first call. God began creation by calling forth light – “Let there be Light”

    All we need do is Light Up Nigeria and as we do so, we consciously give others the permission to do the same.

    I have left the talking group, now i am in the talking + action group.

    Thanks for this David

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