Heart of Arts

Let There Be Light!

Toyin Falola

From time immemorial, electricity has played a significant role in fostering economic development and growth in both industrialized and developing nations. It has become a social glue that ties capacities to intentions. It is, first and foremost, crucial to the general developmental strategy of every society, sine qua non, developmental possibility would be a mere fuss.

After the Industrial Revolution, economic and social activities were built around the electricity supply, and it gradually became the force behind the actualisation of the state blueprint. It is an essential part of the manufacturing process for many companies ranging from all levels of the economy and, most importantly, micro-businesses that satisfy social, immediate needs.

Despite the importance of electricity to the survival of the economy, Nigeria has regretfully suffered from a lacklustre power supply for many years. According to Tracking SDG 7’s Energy Progress Report 2022, the nation has the lowest access to energy internationally, with over 92 million of its residents living without a power supply. It goes to the root of their existence and survival, as long-sighted logic suggests that it contributes to the country’s poverty rate. Where there are means to survive and the power to successfully discharge services and minor productions, the buying capacities increase and the economy flourishes in the long run.

Aside from business and economic survival and development, it also tells about the building of human resources that would engineer the progression of the nation. It is rather inconceivable that Nigerian students are expected to study effectively for exams when there is a complete blackout for several weeks leading up to the exams. The epileptic power supply prevents them from performing their regular activities. It discourages intentional research and studies and tells about their academic performance in the long run. The situation worsens as the incidents of epileptic power supply become predominant during examination periods and cause poor performance. More importantly, it makes it impossible for electronic-based medium of learning and educational sectors. This presupposes that the epileptic power supply is a step backwards while students, citizens, and working classes try to take two steps forward. On November 2, 2023, the lamentation of the ASUU chairman of the Kaduna State University was reported. Peter Ademu had lamented about the months of lack of electricity supply that had led to “total system collapse.”

The health sector has been one of the sectors that have been badly affected by Nigerian society. From the middle of March till April 04, 2024, University College Hospital (UCH), a medical legacy in the whole of West Africa, had about 16 days cut off from the general grid and power supply. This may be attributed to the supposed inability to pay its bills, but it has become a national habit that has caused health facilities to become disadvantaged in power supply. Modern healthcare facilities and equipment and state-of-the-art medical advancements can not work or function without adequate facilities. I wonder what the death rate caused by these people with epilepsy would look like if anyone cared to inquire. Hearing the tearful account of a seven-year-old boy’s mother who described the severe difficulties her son’s birth was caused by a lack of power supply in one of the top hospitals in Nigeria was truly depressing. The baby was born in the dark, in need of oxygen, but was unable to get it since the hospital’s generator was not working when the lights went out during the delivery. The child finally passed away after a protracted illness caused by delivery complications.

This erratic and epileptic power supply has also forced many industries to generate power themselves by mostly using diesel-run generators as an alternative. According to the World Bank, this costs over $29 billion annually. Numerous international corporations, including GSK, Sanofi, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever, among many others, have left the nation because of the stringent difficulties in maintaining business in the country. The Nigerian Employers Consultative Association also revealed that more than fifteen international corporations, some of which employed more than two thousand people, had either completely or partially ceased operations in Nigeria. The effects of these widespread, massive job losses will include increased insecurity, a rise in child labour as children are compelled to work as wage earners, a negative impact on families’ disposable income, a decline in people’s purchasing power, and a sharp decline in the output of the economy.

One would wonder why imported goods maintain close-range prices with locally produced goods. The fancy and benefits of local production have always been the reduction in the cost of importation and ease of production processes. Epileptic power supply, coupled with other mundane complications, have made the cost of production necessitate fixing prices almost at the same level as their imported counterparts. So, if the price difference between Nigerian-made fabrics and imported ones is not too large, then the efforts towards promoting local manufacturing and production are just wishful thinking.

It seems that many parts of the nation are in the theatre of the absurd, with suspense, darkness, fear, and the blasts of whatever could come to your mind. This situation is quite dangerous as it contributes to the rate of insecurity in the nation. I mean, that’s why the perpetrators are called the “children of the dark.” There have been publications on hotels complaining about customers becoming stranded in lifts because of power outages and printing presses charging much more than they normally would because they have to pay outrageous costs for fuel and diesel to run their machines. In reality, every industry in Nigeria is negatively impacted by the breakdown and inefficiency of the energy sector.

One would ask what efforts the nation and its leaders have been making year after year to resolve this problem. After every form of political promise and wasted resources towards the supposed sustainability of the power sector, the national grid still falls like Olympus, and the people wait, wait, and wait for any modicum of hope. It is said to have fallen for the fifth time in the previous four months.

Amidst this greatly distressing situation, Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, has announced that the government may not be able to continue funding electricity subsidies and has announced an increase in tariff for some parts of the country known as Band A, although there has been outrage that the policies affect others. Band A is supposedly enjoying 20 hours of supply with increments from 66/kWh to 225/kWh. The policy could rather be seen as more of an administrative strategy to make the rich pay for the poor, but the disruption in supply would neutralise the motivations. More so, there are people of low earning standards who reside in these Band-A areas. The right approach should have meant categorisation by the purpose of consumption. Commercial and industrial apartments should pay more, while residents should pay less.

More importantly, these policies would not be favourable to environments that are not metered, wherein the power-distributing companies bring arbitrary bills every month. This snowballs into the undermining of the importance of providing pre-paid meters to every household, especially with the new era of privatisation. Pre-paid meters suggest that you only charge the power that power used from the power supplied. Hence, if the distribution company fails to supply power for a month, it gets almost nothing for that month, and as such, it would be obliged to supply electricity so as not to run at a loss.

This should be the first step to be taken, even if there is any need for subsidy removal. It circles back to these private institutions looking for solutions when there are problems with power supply. In the current situation in many places in the country, the companies do not feel the effect of these people with epilepsy as they make their money notwithstanding.

Do not get me wrong, Nigerians are not asking for a 24-hour electricity supply. They are simply looking for reasonable supplies that would meet their immediate commercial and residential needs. A consistent and reliable supply of power is a first step towards strengthening the Nigerian economy.

According to stakeholders, economists, and industrial experts, the increase in tariff would result in a significant decline in consumers’ disposable income, high prices for goods and services, high utility bills, and high business operating costs, all of which could have a detrimental effect on Nigeria’s low and high-income earners. Even as the effects of inflation and the foreign exchange crisis persist on consumers and businesses, it may force more people into poverty. A growth in poverty also means a rise in security risks, such as kidnapping, armed robbery, and online fraud, which puts the lives and properties of vulnerable citizens in jeopardy. Where there must be tariff increment, there must be commensurate consistent supply.

The government must see beyond the present and keep going to the roots of Nigeria’s problems, one of which is the erratic power supply. It is a fundamental phenomenon, and a reasonable government should not hold it with levity if there is any desire for economic growth. So, “let there be light” is let there be “economic growth,” “individual sustainability,” “security,” and “lower cost of living,”


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