BASIC as electricity is to modern living; there is a basic misunderstanding about reflecting this importance in the lives of Nigerians. The people are unimpressed about government trumpeted gains in managing the challenges of electricity supply.
Last year, government admitted that only 40 million Nigerians, about a quarter of the population, have access to electricity supply. It was meant to be an indication of progress. Nigerians wonder who the 40 million are and regularity of supplies.
Many have electricity that is useless, even for ordinary lighting, as the supply illuminates below the level of a candle flame, what is technically called a brownout. In the Nigerian experience, a brownout is worse than a blackout, as the sufferers are reckoned among the supplied. Abuja, once famous for its regular electricity supply is in darkness. Government offices and its streets share the darkness. Some offices have resorted to generators, or rationalised their activities to save valuable equipment from ruination.
Since the statistics were about people, do the 40 million users include heavy users like industries, whose consumption in days could be what a sizeable community would require for months. Were rural Nigerians counted?
We acknowledge that concrete steps are being taken to ameliorate the deplorable power situation. However, government must understand that Nigerians are not interested in titillating statistics that still leave them in darkness. Their understanding of improved electricity supply is light in every bulb and equipment they switch on, longer presence of electricity and in a quality that serves their needs. With the billions they are spending in generating their own electricity, Nigerians can find the means to pay a little more for better electricity supply.
A chunk of the stupendous revenues of fuel marketing firms can be adduced to the power situation as virtually everyone buys petrol or diesel to generate power, generate noise, and increase the level of carbon in the environment. High levels of carbon harm the environment.
Concerns for damages to the environment and the clearly stated prospects stable electricity supply holds for Nigeria are enough for government to target practical results in electricity projects.
More challenges lie on the long road to improved electricity. More stable power supply would increase demand as many who run on private power would patronise public supply. Has this been factored into electricity demand?
Nigerians find no comfort in celebrating statistics and approximating them to action. The number of distribution companies, the length of transmission lines or the megawatts of electricity generated are mere efforts. Nigerians have spent decades listening to these lines. They understand improved electricity to mean uninterrupted power supply.
If government had similar understanding, it would be more sober in assessing its efforts.