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Endemic corruption in the public-sector-managed power sector is the major contributor to Nigeria electric power crisis – Prof Bart Nnaji

Prof-NnajiNigeria NewsDay: Nigeria has gone through previous efforts to solve the country’s power shortage. How is your current approach different?

Prof Bart Nnaji: The current approach, unlike the previous ones, is holistic. It aims at a comprehensive upgrade of the power infrastructure in the areas of generation, transmission and distribution. It also involves fundamental reforms that will usher in private sector investment, ownership and management in the power sector. All this is contained in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005, and on the basis of which President Goodluck Jonathan's administration drew up the Road Map for Power Sector Reform, which shows in a comprehensive manner the short-, medium- and long-term steps, including the costs and timelines, that will see the electricity problem consigned to history.


NND: What have you identified as the major causes of Nigeria’s power crisis and the impediments to resolving them?

Nnaji: For the causes, there had been perennial lack of investment in the sector leading to stagnation, in fact shrinking, of generation. Then demand of electricity has continued to increase in inverse proportion to the decline in generation capacity, worsening the country’s power crisis. Endemic corruption in the public-sector-managed power sector is also generally agreed to be a major contributor to the crisis. And for the impediments, so many individuals and groups corruptly benefit from the dysfunctional power sector that trying to turn it around is almost comparable to trying to clear the Augean stables. Put otherwise, the inefficiency in the power sector is the lucrative business of some people, and naturally such people – like generator importers and those who award contracts in the sector as it is – will attempt to sabotage or resist the reform of the sector.

NND: How does the erratic power supply affect the nation’s economy?

Bart: It is the greatest contributor to de-industrialization in our country and to the low output of most of our surviving industries. By extension, it is to blame for job losses, the shrinking prospects of employment, and the social ills that result from both.

NND: As a well-known academic, what impact does inadequate power have on research and intellectual activities?

Bart: Cutting-edge research, such as goes on in advanced countries, is powered by electricity, as are other intellectual activities. Obviously the laboratories that are the centres of such research cannot function without power supply and so the intellectual output expected from them will suffer with inadequate power supply.

NND: What would you estimate as cost to the nation of Nigeria’s lingering power problems?

Bart: In financial terms it runs into trillions of dollars annually. But there are other costs in terms of the toll on citizen well-being, and that is enormous considering our population of 150 million.

NND: What are your projections for the cost of guaranteeing regular, dependable power?

Bart: About $10 billion will need to be invested in the power sector annually for about ten years to guarantee irreversible constant and reliable electricity for our citizens. In fact, one of the justifications for the reform is that the government cannot afford to provide such an amount with the required consistency, so private investors must come to our aid and in return be allowed to manage our power sector efficiently and for improved profitability for all stakeholders beginning with the Nigerian people.

NND: Does your task force face any pressures from interest groups not to address the problem?

Bart: Yes. For the most obvious example, we are still trying to convince organised labour in the power sector to buy the idea of the reform and end their opposition to it.

NND: Is there the political will to tackle the problem?

Bart: Yes.  President Goodluck Jonathan is the greatest apostle of the power sector reform. Vice President Mohammed Sambo is equally committed to the success of the reform agenda. The entire federal cabinet and state governments are fully supportive.

NND: Nuclear power has received negative publicity following the recent earthquake in Japan and the damage to some of that country’s nuclear power infrastructure. Can a country like Nigeria afford to invest in nuclear energy?

Bart: Of course, Nigeria may someday wish to invest in nuclear energy; but I do not consider it a priority for now.

NND: What would it take for you to look at Nigerians and say, “You will have regular power”?

Bart: The will, courage and commitment to see the power sector reform to a logical conclusion.

NND: What motivates you in this job—and in your life generally?

Bart: In this job, it is patriotism; in life generally, it is the desire to help create a happier and more humane world.




0 #1 Monday Samali 2012-08-03 16:52
I belief that the time has come for Nigerians to begin to experience power stability in this country. I am seeing the changes already in my street; at least we do enjoy six hours electricity in a day. That is tremendous (better than before) (what is your own experience)
I so much admire this man called Prof Bart Nnaji and i belief God will used him to reposition the sector. What we Nigerians should be doing right now is to remain focus and be positive about the sector rather than criticising them.

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