Let there be light! – By: Fatima DAMAGUM
The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void; and darkness was over the face of the abyss. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said: Let there be light! And there was light. Genesis 1:1-3
Over the past few weeks, and for some very strange reason, this verse has become ingrained in my mind and has become something to pray for me. Ya Allah, I pray there is light today. That there is electricity at work so that I can be truly productive. That there is electricity to mitigate the extreme temperatures we are currently facing in the North. That there is electricity, so that our EMR (Electronic Health Records) can work. So that the lab and radiology machines can work. So that there is water flowing from the taps. Dear God, let there be light so that patients can pay for their services at the checkout without any problem. So that the medicines in the refrigerator are kept at the required temperature. So that health workers on night duty do not have the embarrassment of using torches and mosquito coils. So that the hospital does not have to pay the exorbitant price of diesel at 750-800 N/litre.
Ya Allah, may there be light at home so that things in my fridge don’t go bad. So that I can sleep peacefully with the air conditioner on and do not have to calculate the amount spent on diesel. Ya Allah, let there be light so that I can remove my generator and the cost of living and business can be reduced. So that the goods and services I pay for may depreciate or at the very least stop appreciating due to the cost of diesel.
Ya Allah, let there be light, Kawai!
Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed with the heat (which I guess is the root of my epileptic weakness of faith) and the frustration of being able to achieve my goals, I ask myself: is that too much to ask? Permanent electricity?
Nigeria’s electricity generation is primarily thermal and hydro with an installed capacity of approximately 12,522 MW. The country is part of the Economic Community of West African States and is part of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), a specialized agency of ECOWAS which brings together 14 of the 15 countries of the regional economic community. The WAPP was launched to promote and develop electricity generation and transmission infrastructure as well as to coordinate electricity exchanges between ECOWAS Member States. Nigeria currently supplies electricity to the Republic of Benin, Togo and Niger.
In 2013, the Nigerian government privatized 11 electricity distribution companies (DISCO) and six generation companies (GENCO) while retaining 100% ownership of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) as part of a strategy aimed at reforming the sector and stimulating growth. The comprehensive electricity sector reforms underway in the country aim to increase capacity, increase access to electricity and improve transportation.
It is no secret that the Nigerian electricity sector requires much more investment to obtain a reliable power supply. Industry operators estimate that the country will need $100 billion in investment over the next 20 years for the current mainline service. Currently, the World Bank is financing a $486 million International Development Association credit for the Nigerian Electricity Transmission Access Project (NETAP), which is part of the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Program ( PERT). TREP’s objective is to support the rehabilitation and upgrading of substations and power transmission lines in Nigeria. This will expand the grid and power transmission capacity, allowing distribution companies to improve reliability and supply to consumers.
As a Nigerian who considers the glass half empty, it just means constant electricity might not happen in my lifetime. Maybe, in my children’s generation.
The importance of power for socio-economic development, creating myriad opportunities for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive, cannot be overstated. For a nation like Nigeria where MSMEs constitute a significant percentage of its economic activities, the power sector must be well positioned in its desire for economic prosperity.
I’ve lost count of the number of businesses that have failed and packed up due to bad electricity. Water sellers have raised their price because there is no electricity to supply the community boreholes from which they draw their water. A 25 liter water jerrycan now sells from N70 compared to the previous price of N20 – N25. Water which is a necessity of life has now become unaffordable. Lack of drinking water leads to diseases associated with water scarcity. And just like that, the vicious cycle of disease and poverty fueled by lack of electricity continues.
Private hospitals, despite increasing their tariffs, spend over N50,000 on diesel per day. A friend who owns a sedan said she spends N38,000 a day on diesel. Please tell how many heads can be washed or how many pedicures will she do to cover that extra expense in a month? Businesses all around us are struggling and shutting down due to bad electricity. And what does that translate to? Poverty. The death of a business, especially a small business, means that many employees, including the business owner, will lose substantial income, thus pushing them into poverty. Breadwinners who take responsibility for their immediate family and sometimes extended family members suddenly find themselves without a source of income. And all because the government has failed to provide constant electricity 62 years after independence.
I’ve lost count of the number of times the national grid has “collapsed” this year alone. At this rate, I’m surprised he wasn’t admitted to intensive care and put on a ventilator. I’m tired of hearing all the usual reasons: low water levels in hydroelectric dams due to reduced rainfall, vandalism, insecurity, lack of transparency, corruption, poor governance, blah blah blah. These reasons have been flagellated too much!
I am also increasingly tired of all the many solutions so far: renewable energy, energy savings, public-private partnership, better staff training, ati be lo. Can all Nigerians afford solar inverters? How much solar energy is needed to power a basic 64 slice CT machine or a 1.5 to 3 tesla MRI machine? How much are we willing to invest in renewable energy to ensure that all sophisticated equipment in intensive care and operating theaters is supplied with electricity 24/7?
These days when I hear of people buying 100 million naira presidential forms all I think about is how all that money could be used to remedy the stingy electricity supply in this country. Or do those who have the opportunity to buy these forms have no idea of the light situation of this country? Is it like the case of Queen Marie-Antoinette who, when the peasants protested against the rise in the price of bread in the kingdom, asked: “Why don’t they eat cake?”
Are they really unaware of the suffering caused by poor power supply?
These days, whenever the erratic power supply bothers me, I wish that God would once again extend His benevolence to Nigerians and say, “Let there be light!
And just like that, our electrical problems will go away.