Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan unveiled what he described as the roadmap for the reform of the comatose power sector in Nigeria. During the grand ceremony which took place in Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, Jonathan made a lofty promise to Nigerians that there will be uninterrupted electricity supply by 2012 by which time the reforms would have achieved the envisaged transformation of the power sector.
However, a barrage of reactions has trailed the event. While some are of the view that it is a mirage and an ambitious project that would go the way of past reforms that didnâ€™t yield any dividend, others have expressed optimism that the Federal Government should be given the benefit of doubt in the belief that it would get its act right this time.
The conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, which came down hard on the reform roadmap, described it as â€œa mirage and dead on arrival.â€ According to the National Publicity Secretary of CNPP, Osita Okechukwu, the reform is not workable because it will depend on privatization to generate additional 5,000 mw between now and 2013.
However, Mr. Bart Nnaji, the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Power and the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power, PTFP, does not share the pessimism expressed by Okechukwu andÂ the majority of Nigerians who have adopted the wait-and-see approach to the envisaged reforms. He insists that the President has put in place a mechanism to ensure holistic transformation of the power sector.
Although the roadmap appears to be a bold move to tackle the power supply challenge head-on, one area that has always been critical to turning the situation around is the issue of efficient transmission of the power generated. It is one of the problems critics want the government to address in order to achieve the needed result.
The problem in the power sector would not have degenerated to this abysmal level if the independent power projects executed by some states were able to transmit the power generated. The Federal Government has been blamed for failing to create an enabling environment for the power generated by the state owned IPPs, like that of Lagos State, to be transmitted to the end-users.
Some have argued that the mess we are in today was as a result of the failure of Jonathan, when he was the vice president, to conclude the bidding process of Power Transmission Grid Signed by Power Grid Corporation of India on 12 September, 2007.
We expect the Federal Government to tackle the grey areas critics are complaining about and even go beyond all the issues in the roadmap by eradicating corruption that has bedeviled electricity supply in the country for decades. The $12 billon the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration invested in the power sector yielded no positive result because of corruption in the sector. The money went into private pockets and coffers of a few individuals. We are all paying for the corruption with a battered economy and staggering unemployment and inflation rate.
Jonathanâ€™s promise to revamp the sector should be matched with concrete action in the days ahead if Nigerians must take him seriously. Too many similar promises had been made in the past only for Nigerians to remain in darkness since then.