Monday, September 27, 2010

Nigerians Need Electricity Now

President Jonathan declared his intentions for the 2011 election on Facebook two nights ago, and will formally announce it on Saturday, September 18th. His actions have been loud and clear in terms of what he believes should be his priority for Nigeria, namely, electoral reform, electricity, and Niger Delta. I am not sure in what order those priorities are, but if I were one of his advisers, the order will be electricity, electricity, electricity.

This is my premise: once you have electricity, the other two will quickly fall into place. For example, Nigeria recently approved close to $500 million for the Independent Electoral Commission to purchase 120,000 computers and other equipment to register Nigerian voters.

Even if the computers are battery operated, the batteries may need to be recharged at some point.

The people of Niger Delta want to make progress and succeed, but they are handicapped by lack of infrastructure, specifically electricity. If everyone in Niger Delta has electricity, the problems will begin to disappear fast.

Nigeria, a country of 150 million people generates 3,500 megawatts of power while the city of Los Angeles, generates 7,200 megawatts for its 4 million residents; yet, most Nigerian leaders, except President Jonathan have been aiming for 10,000 megawatts for the last 10 years. Nigeria needs 150,000 megawatts now, and if you build it, the demand will be even more.

Nigeria’s telecommunications has grown from 500,000 lines to 70 million lines in less than 10 years, and the industry has attracted over $12 billion in private investments, according to a statement made by President Jonathan. Ten years ago, most people could have argued that Nigeria should not dream of having 70 million lines, but now we know 70 million lines is not enough. If we aim for 150,000 megawatts, the possibility exists that we can attract over $100 billion in foreign investments during the build out.

Jonathan was quoted as saying, “South Africa, a nation of some 47 million people generates about 50,000 megawatts. For Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people to realise the ambition of becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020, we should be thinking of producing some 80,000 megawatts as soon as possible.”

The operative word used by the president, is “as soon as possible”, that is why complete privatisation and emergency measures are needed. Our first objective should be 24/7 power for every Nigerian household immediately, by any means necessary, regardless of vision 20/20. This is why Capital Investment Group is offering to build, finance and deliver 4,000 megawatts within the next two years. We understand the urgency of the situation.

We plan to use distributive generation to provide power across Nigeria faster than it is currently being done, by focusing on simultaneous build out in each state. It is a lot easier and faster to build 10 megawatts of power in one locality than it is to build one power plant of 1,000 megawatts. So, if each local government concentrates on building 5 to 10 megawatts, it is even possible to deliver our 4,000 megawatts in less than a year.

Eventually, Nigeria may decide to build the 1,000 or 3,000 single power plants, but right now we need power, and since the 1,000 or 3,000 megawatts plants take at least 3-4 years to deliver, we must explore the fastest alternative now, while we plan long term mega plants. Let us generate power now for our people and give them the opportunity to build and manage the plants themselves.

The recommendation of the President’s task force may be on the right track, but it needs to go further. It is okay for the federal government to have some say in transmission, but having one entity control all transmission throughout the country is courting the same disaster that has plagued us for the last 30 years. Every state and every locality must be given the opportunity to generate their own power by law.

Transmission should be split up among three or four groups of independent public utility commissions that are governed by specific laws. The members of the commission may be appointed by the president or the state governor, but neither the president nor the state governor should have the ability to fire members of the commission, so that they would be able to discharge their duties faithfully without the fear of termination or the desire to favour any government policy that may be detrimental to the stability of the industry.

To achieve stability and succeed with the privatisation initiative, Nigeria needs to attract investors, especially foreign ones. How do you attract foreign investors when your country has just been declared the “13th worst country to operate business”?

So Nigerian leaders need to ask themselves, what can I do today to make my country more stable. Is zoning more important or political stability?

Time is of the essence, and the rest of the world is moving on; therefore, I say to Nigerians, make your voices heard, and force the government to listen to you.

Don’t just pray for electricity, demand it. Don’t just pray for good leaders, help elect some. Join our movement by logging on to “Nigeria let there be light.”

Send us an email if you want to make a contribution or have ideas on how we can deliver power faster. We need you and Nigeria needs you.

Let’s go.