Economics, News

The Dark Side of Power Outages and Energy Crisis In Nigeria

Ogunbiyi Kayode


March 3, 2024

Dear Beamers,

Greetings! In adherence to our dedication to providing comprehensive insights and updates, we are pleased to delve into the matter of persistent power outages, a crisis not confined to specific regions but rather a pervasive issue across Nigeria.

In developed nations, widespread blackouts may be viewed as rare occurrences, but in Nigeria, they have become a recurrent phenomenon. The insufficient reliability of electricity in Nigeria is significantly impeding the nation’s economic growth. Both households and businesses grapple with unscheduled and unpredictable power outages that can endure for days, and at times, even extend to months.

“It’s a whole different story when you’re at home, trying to catch some sleep, and the temperature hits a blazing 30 degrees. That’s the regular life of an average Nigerian. To make things worse, with the spike in fuel prices, the idea of buying fuel for the generator isn’t even on my mind when there are a bunch of other bills to deal with. Those who can afford it might be sleeping like babies, but the rest of us are stuck enduring unbearable heat for weeks, sometimes even a whole month, with no relief in sight. It’s a Nigerian thing – some other African countries know that this is our predicament.” Says Pamilerin

Power outages pose multifaceted challenges for entire communities and the economy. They disrupt essential services such as communication, water supply, and transportation, resulting in issues like food spoilage, water contamination, and potential closures of retail establishments. For ordinary Nigerians, power outages make every aspect of daily life difficult, necessitating meticulous planning to accomplish tasks that rely on electricity within the unpredictable timeframe until all homes across a neighborhood are engulfed in darkness.

The brunt of power outages falls disproportionately on lower-income and historically marginalized communities, where the absence of light extends to homes, schools, and workplaces, creating pervasive hardships. This is an inescapable reality for many Nigerians, especially the economically disadvantaged who cannot afford generators.

Kolapo Memunat, a trader, attributes many of these challenges to government underinvestment and a lack of transparency. In her view,

“Here we are in 2024, still stuck in this mess. Is Nigeria ever going to fix its energy sector? Blackouts hit us hard, messing up everything from hospitals to schools and businesses, even when the national electricity grid is supposed to be fine. And when it all falls apart, the government points fingers at faulty infrastructure, vandalism, water supply issues to power plants – you name it. How many more excuses are they going to throw at us before they run out?”

To mitigate unforeseen events such as grid collapses or sudden power outages resulting from system overload, Nigeria employs the widely adopted concept of load shedding in power supply scheduling. This entails users in specific locations enduring scheduled and controlled electricity shutdowns. The rationing is often unpredictable, with details communicated in advance in some regions. However, the uneven allocation of load shedding makes it challenging to implement equitable electricity rationing across all areas.

Wole Benson asserts that, although load shedding has proven instrumental in averting the breakdown of the power supply in Nigeria, its intended purpose is to function as a provisional measure rather than a enduring reality. According to him,

“No doubt, the constant load shedding might spare us from hearing about grid collapses, but it’s driving everyone in Nigeria crazy – citizens, businesses, industries alike. Regular and long power cuts are hitting households and businesses where it hurts the most – their pockets. Businesses are feeling the heat with increased operational costs, lower productivity, and shrinking profits, all thanks to this unpredictable electricity mess. Depending on load shedding as the government’s main solution is not cutting it; we need a power system that’s reliable and top-notch, not just a quick fix.”

A system once predominantly overseen by a singular federal entity, NEPA, underwent a transition to multiple layers of private authorities and companies driven by profit maximization rather than prioritizing reliability. Advocates of privatization and deregulation contend that competition enhances efficiency, stimulates technological innovation, and reduces prices.

The objective of encouraging private firms to generate power is to alleviate strain on the national grid during frequent electricity shutdowns and blackouts. However, instead of reducing costs or enhancing the grid, these policies led to a surge in energy prices in numerous areas.

Since the privatization of the national grid in 2013, the country’s electricity system has experienced more collapses than one can fathom, emblematic of the most formidable and entrenched challenge confronting the nation. Despite enduring prolonged periods without electricity, citizens are obligated to settle exorbitant electricity bills. It is disconcerting that we inadvertently contribute to corruption within the electricity sector through our financial support.

The current electricity crisis is a culmination of several decades of challenges. While securing widespread electricity access remains a primary concern for Nigeria, equal attention is warranted for ensuring the reliability of supply, sustainability and enhancing the operational efficiency of utilities. It is essential that policymakers conduct comprehensive research to gain a nuanced understanding of the issues, challenges, and potential solutions. This research will empower them to devise innovative strategies to pinpoint the origins of power supply problems and enact effective solutions.

The resolution to the persistent power outages in Nigeria has long been overdue, and the enduring reality of ongoing challenges in electricity supply is lamentable. While certain individuals can navigate these challenges through financial means, particularly by acquiring generators, it is crucial to acknowledge the environmental consequences stemming from the gases emitted by these generators. Both the government and health organizations need to play a pivotal role in educating citizens on maintaining health while using generators and addressing the broader implications of their environmental impact.

Advice from Okpara Munachi, a graduate in mechanical engineering, is as follows:

“When using generators and fuel, take it outdoors and keep it at least 20 feet away from windows, doors, and garages. It’s a must to have working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor – that gas can be lethal, and you won’t even notice it. Keep your generator dry to avoid electrical shocks, and use sturdy extension cords when connecting it to appliances. Don’t rush into refueling; let the generator cool down first to avoid any accidental fires. Your safety matters, and you definitely don’t want to add more trouble to your life while dealing with the usual challenges.”

The significance of power is paramount, and without its assured presence in Nigeria, genuine progress remains unattainable. Electric power is indispensable for societal functioning, with the modern lifestyle and energy demand placing an inherent dependence on the power system, akin to the necessity of air in our lungs.

The absence of reliable power supply results in severe consequences for daily life, ranging from disruptions in public transportation systems and traffic congestion to computer outages and standstills in essential facilities like factories, shopping malls, and hospitals. Therefore, in the course of planning to revitalize our nation, it is crucial to acknowledge that power supply is an integral necessity that should never be relegated in any priority chart. Nigeria requires uninterrupted power throughout the day and year, not limited to a few hours per week.

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