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As our minds are daily
flooded (by the print and online media) with the statistics concerning the
increasing spread of the pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19) across
the globe and the attendant decimation of the global economy, it is the responsibility
of the Nigerian Government and relevant stakeholders to ensure that the
Nigerian economy is kept afloat and doesn’t capsize, due to the negative impact
of the virus. Just as an iceberg sunk the RMS Titanic vessel (which was
hitherto considered unsinkable)
in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912,
the  Nigerian economy has been brought to its knees by the lockdown,
induced by the pandemic. In essence, our economy would be sadly groping in the
dark for the foreseeable future, with no light at the end of the tunnel, except
a vaccine is found to checkmate the spread of the novel virus.  

It is no longer news that
going forward, COVID-19 is going to change the way companies, SMEs,
individuals, and governments at all levels engage in business. Due to social
distancing,
a lot of reliance would be placed on the internet, as the
majority of business transactions would be conducted and concluded online, with
little or no physical interaction between contracting parties. However, the
question agitating my mind is: how would business transactions be conducted
seamlessly via the internet, with the state of Nigeria’s power sector? It is
pertinent to state that a vibrant power sector is a sine qua non
to a highly viable and productive economy. The importance of  
power/light to any economy is underscored if considered from the Biblical
perspective. The first thing the Almighty God pronounced/commanded (upon
creating the universe)  in the Book of Genesis 1: 3, when He
observed that the earth was formless and desolate, was: “Let there be light.

Unfortunately, successive
governments in Nigeria have not succeeded in putting the power sector on the
right track despite the investment of funds running into billions of Naira in
the said sector. A visit to the website (and a click of the side menu “Generation”)
of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the independent
regulator established by the Electric Power Sector  Reform Act 2005
to regulate the power sector, it was stated therein that: “…By implementing
reforms, Nigeria targets 40, 000 MW generating capacity by 2020 and will need
to spend approximately $10bn per annum on the power sector for the next 10 years
to achieve this…”

Regrettably, according to a Newsletter
dated 22nd April, 2020, published on the website of nigeriaelectricityhub.com,
with the caption- Power Generation Falls to 3, 757MW, Six Plants Idle: “…Total
power generation in the country fell to 3, 757.9MW as of 6 am on Monday from 4,
287MW last Thursday according to the system operator. Six of the nation’s 27
power plants, including three built under the National Integrated Power Project,
were not generating any megawatt of electricity on Monday… The sector is
plagued by problems of gas supply shortages, limited distribution networks,
limited transmission line capacity, huge metering gap, electricity theft as
well as high technical and commercial losses, among others.”

As can be deduced from the
above quotation, it suffices to state that the generation of 3, 757.9MW
is a far cry from the target (as published on NERC’s website) to
generate 40, 000MW by this year 2020. However, it must be pointed
out that the Federal Government had largely reduced its participation in the
power sector by unbundling the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)
into eleven electricity distributing companies(DisCos), six
generating companies (GenCos),
a transmission company (TCN), with NERC
as an independent regulator. Furthermore, the Federal Government has fully
divested its interest in the six GenCos, while 60% of its shares
in the eleven DisCos have been sold to private operators, though retaining
full control of the Transmission Company of Nigeria. Notwithstanding the
significant divestiture of its interest in the power sector, the present
administration, as at 2019, had invested 900 billion Naira in the
power sector with no significant improvement in the said sector.

Flowing from the above, it
is essential for the Federal Government to rearrange its scale of preference
by prioritizing the power sector, alongside the education, health, and
agricultural sectors in the post COVID-19 era.
  The Government must
work hand in hand with the relevant stakeholders in the power sector to ensure
the said sector is functioning optimally. While I must admit it is not going to
be a tea party for the Federal Government to grapple with the various problems
besetting the power sector, I believe that with tenacity of purpose and shrewd
management of scarce financial resources, the power sector would be up and
running in no distant future to meet the needs of the Nigerian economy in the post
COVID-19 era
.  Fortunately, the Federal Government can resort to its 149-
page Roadmap for Power Sector Reform (A Customer-driven sector-wide plan to
achieve stable power supply)
put together in 2010 to assess the
performance of the power sector vis-à-vis the set targets contained in the said
roadmap. Once again, I must emphasize that a vibrant power sector is a
condition precedent to a highly viable and productive economy, especially in
the post COVID-19 era, where social distancing will be the new norm and
business transactions would be conducted and concluded via online mediums.

I will conclude this article
by referring to the postulation of a highly revered, distinguished and cerebral
legal potentate, Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN, on the importance of a
vibrant power sector to the Nigerian economy. The said postulation was made
during the delivery of the 22nd Convocation lecture of Ekiti
State University in 2017 titled: “Breaking the jinx: The cyclical nature of
Nigeria’s problems”
, wherein he stated thus:

“Any nation, whose energy
needs are inadequately satisfied, prolongs her development and risks losing
potential investors. In other words, electricity is the propelling force of any
economic or industrial thrust. Any country that desires rapid development will
ignore the power sector at its own peril. It is needed in residences to power
domestic appliances and for lighting purposes; in the industries to drive
various machines, equipment and processes; and by commercial and institutional
consumers for the provision of services and driving various devices.”

Debo Oladinni, Esq.