•Nigerians express frustration, reveal bitter experiences

 

By Merit Ibe

Manufacturers, small business operators and residents across the country have continued to agonise over the near total power outage which has almost paralysed business and social activities.

They said the development has impacted negatively on both their economic and social lives. According to them, they can no longer make ends meet as it has become difficult for them to cater for the needs of their families.

From Jigawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Kaduna, Lagos and other states, the story is the same. The power outage which cuts across almost all parts of the country has lingered for over two months.

Minister of Power, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, had attributed the blackout to low supply of gas to the power generating companies. He, however, assured that the Federal Government was working to ensure outstanding payments were made to the companies to resolve the blackout. According to him, the payments will ensure improved gas supply and increased power generation.

“This will also enable distribution companies to supply more electricity to Nigerians. We acknowledge the current unsustainable situation, and we expect a turnaround immediately,” he said.

Adelabu had also met with some chief executive officers of Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) over worsening power supply in their regions.

Mr. Sule Abdulazeez, managing director, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), also attended the meeting. According to the minister, the management of other non-performing distribution companies would also be queried over non-performance as reports continue to filter in on the situation in their regions.

“The ministry expects power supply to have improved across the country, as opposed to current experience in some regions.

“Findings revealed that some distribution companies are deliberately not taking up power supply from TCN, while some power lines have also been damaged by vandals in Abuja, Benin, Port Harcourt and Ibadan regions,’’ he said

Speaking with Daily Sun in Lagos, yesterday, former chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Frank Onyebu, decried the situation.

“I find it difficult to understand why the country should experience this embarrassing situation at this level. It’s something I can’t understand. I think we have passed this stage. Suddenly everything is just going back like 100 years back.

We still pay whatever bills we are given. So, I see no reason we should be suffering this. It’s very frustrating.”

He lamented that the epileptic power supply is forcing a lot of manufacturers out of the country, while some are closing shop.

“What ever needs to be fixed should be done on time. The association is losing people and industries we can rely on.  As an industrialist, it’s painful we have been talking about supplying power not just for industrialists but for the entire nation. I think we should be getting better and moving forward but it looks like we are moving backwards. There is absolutely no reason why we should be experiencing incessant collapse  of the national grid.”

Given the humongous sums of funds the country has spent on electricity generation and transmission, he is of the view that Nigeria should be having topnotch power generation lines.

“Unfortunately the lines are not up to what they need to be. We just want power. I don’t know how we can continue this way.  A lot of manufacturers are leaving in droves to other countries for a better business environment and steady power supply. Government needs to act fast. Whatever needs to be fixed should be done on time. The collapse is destroying the economy and  reducing productivity which is almost zero. Its consequence is inestimable. 

“The endless power crisis rocking the nation and the series of complete collapse of the national grid have brought consequential socio-economic hardship to the people, hitting manufacturers even harder and speedily facilitating lock up of the gate of manufacturing in Nigeria.”

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He said government must create and implement deliberate policies to ensure a reversal of the current trend. “Emphasis should be given to provision of adequate electricity supply to factories as well as an upgrade of dilapidated infrastructure and improvement in the operating environment for manufacturing. Apart from multinationals exiting and new ones not coming in, smaller local manufacturers have been shutting down quietly.”

Similarly, Daniel Dickson-Okezie, an SMEs expert, said lack of adequate power supply is  strangling the growth of the sector.

“Government should do more in the area of providing basic amenities such as electricity, as SMEs are key drivers of the economy in Nigeria. MSMEs’ development is of critical importance to productivity and realisation of the country’s economic diversification. We can increase our GDP today as we are all aware and it accounts for 94 per cent of global businesses. And it also accounts for 85 per cent of global employment. SMEs burn so much fuel for lack of power, which eats deep into our capital.”

In Dutse, business owners said they were almost losing their businesses. Some of them said they had to rely on generators to run their businesses.

Mr Aminu Inuwa, said: “The situation is getting worse by the day. For some weeks now, many of us have actually lost hope.”

According to him, with the excess heat in Dutse and environs, people are finding it difficult to cope without cold products, especially ice blocks.

Mrs Regina Markus, resident of Mopol Base in Dutse, who operates a grinding machine, also decried the blackout, saying she had been out of business for over a week. She lamented that diesel was costly and so she only relied on power supply.

An engineer, Salim Tijjani, advised the government to provide alternative sources of energy to address the situation.

In Gombe State, many residents said the almost total blackout had affected their businesses, thereby, causing them more hardship.

Mrs Ijeoma John, a resident of Yelenguruza, who sells drinks and ice blocks, said power supply in recent times had been poor and she hardly sold her drinks.

John said the power supply challenge should be addressed to help cushion the economic impact of fuel subsidy removal and to help businesses to thrive.

Hauwa Hassan, who sells ice blocks said in 2023, she made nearly N40, 000 from selling the commodity during Ramadan fast but now, “I doubt if I will get supply to keep the business up.”

Ms Nancy Bitrus, a tailor in Nasarawa community said she loses an average of N6,000 daily as a result of poor supply. “We need light to iron and do designs as we sew but we don’t get power regularly. In fact, before you iron one cloth, the light is out.”

For Mrs Comfort Ola, a kunu and zobo drinks seller, it was a tale of losses and temporary suspension of business until supply improves.

Ola said she normally makes N2,000 profit daily from selling her commodity which according to her, remained her major source of income to support her household.

“Last week, my drinks got sour because of poor power supply and I lost my capital in the process, so for now, I have suspended the business.

A staff of Kano Electricity Distribution Company in Jigawa who pleaded anonymity, assured residents that stakeholders in the power distribution sector were working hard to resolve the situation, and urged Nigerians to be patient and show understanding.

Reacting to the complaints, Mr Abdullahi Hussaini, Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JED)’s Regional Network Engineer, Gombe State said JED was as concerned as its customers.

Hussaini described the situation as a national issue that had nothing to do with JED, adding that customers could only get supply based on what was allocated to them.

He said that whatever they got in terms of allocation was what they distributed to numerous customers in their franchise area.


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