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EDITORIAL

Nigeria’s Power Crises

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Danusa Ocholi

Electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria cuts a very pathetic picture. Nothing has underlined the failure of this country in its quest for socio-economic advancement more than the failure, the collapse of its power sector.

In the last couple of days, weeks, the power grid collapsed severally, thereby putting the manufacturing sector, in short the private and public sectors, the ordinary consumers in dire strait.
 

The national power grid collapsed a couple of days ago, after a similar occurrence, causing a nationwide outage as the entire system crashed due to the loss of 1,100 megawatts from a 3,700mw peak generation earlier  as recorded. Earlier it was worse, collapsing to as low as 1,000 mw.

If the present  Federal Government   under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari should leave office next year without fixing the power sector, the already disappointed Nigerians would not forgive him and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the failure.

And from the look of things, they will require miracle to do that.

Not many, including this writer, believe in such a turnaround. It is sad that power supply and distribution remains  one of Nigeria’s greatest challenges. And the solution appears not to be in sight because those put in the administration of this sector have come to reap fortunes from it, at the expense of Nigerians and the progress of the nation as a whole.

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According to Power Africa Fact Sheet Report, Nigeria with a population of about 200 million, and a GDP of $397.27 billion is the largest economy in Africa, but has limitations in the power sector with  constrain growth. The tragedy of the nation is that it has not been able to harness it potentials to meet its power requirements. The report said: “Nigeria is endowed with large oil, gas, hydro and solar resources, and it has the potential to generate 12,522 MW of electric power from existing plants.

On most days, however, it is only able to dispatch around 4,000 MW, which is insufficient for a country of over 195 million people. Power Africa technical support to distribution companies in Nigeria helped them increase revenue by over $250 million – money that can be reinvested into the distribution network, improving service and expanding access.” The Nigerian power sector experiences many broad challenges related to electricity policy enforcement, regulatory uncertainty, gas supply, transmission system constraints, and major power sector planning shortfalls that have kept the sector from reaching its desired height.    

In comparison with Ghana, while Africa’s largest nation has not been able to increase its people’s access to electricity,  access in Ghana leaped  by  500% between 1991 and 2000.   Nigeria’s own was mere 62 per cent access within the period. However per capita consumption actually fell over the same period, suggesting electricity usage was unaffordable.

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Ghana was also one of the primary countries to develop an energy action plan, in response to the initiative for Sustainable Energy for All. My country, your country, our country Nigeria is not making the required progress, instead it is regressing because it is  of faulty government policies and implementation, which will occupy another edition. Then not to leave out the master of them all, corruption. There are other sources of electricity generation which we have not tapped, especially coal and solar.

 Nigeria and indeed West Africa  have some coal reserves , approximately 10 percent of coal in Africa, particularly Nigeria. The sub region  also exhibits some nuclear resources. In addition to coal reserves, Nigeria contains natural gas and oil resources. On the other hand, Central Africa has abundant hydro-electric resources due to the multiple rivers that run through this region. The publication Energy Economics estimates that replacing South African coal power with hydroelectric imported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo could save 40 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

On its part the  Federal Government has stated that  it has upgraded the Okpai, Odukpani and Alam VI power plants as part of efforts to improve power supply in the country.The government said this  last weekend  following the recent collapse of the national grid, resulting in nationwide blackout. Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, said the government has also directed the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) to begin negotiations with Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) to establish the new Okpai 11 power plant on the grid.

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The new power plant, it is hoped,  will add 400 megawatts of generation capacity, the minister said in a statement.

He said the Presidential Power Initiative has been put in place to mitigate future occurrence of a grid failure. Of course many  Nigerian cities were thrown into darkness last week after the national grid collapsed. Coming at a time of severe fuel crisis, the outage left homes and businesses without electricity. Successive Nigerian governments have promised but failed to turn around the country’s power sector which on average produces about 4,000 megawatts for a population of 200 million.

The Buhari administration signed a deal with the Germany’s Siemens to overhaul the sector, but there is yet little to show with the government having a year to complete its two terms of eight years.

The Minister  said the recent outage and collapse of the national grid were linked to poor maintenance and shortage of gas.

According to him: “The gas pipeline affected by acts of vandalism has been restored and the Okpai power plant has resumed power generation and currently contributing an average of 300MW,” he said. Good talk no doubt by the Minister. Nigerians are waiting for its workability.

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EDITORIAL

Imo Illegal Refinery Tragedy

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Nigeria as a nation witnessed one of its worst human tragedies in recent time when an explosion in an illegal refinery in a community in Imo State burnt to death no fewer than 200 people.

Nigerians from all walks of life have been expressing outrage over the monumental tragedy.

Their mass burial was conducted  late last week,  as villagers from Abaezi community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area and neighbouring towns in the  State watched in pains, agony as no fewer than 100 out of close to 200 victims were buried after the previous  Friday’s explosion at the illegal refinery in Abaezi community.

The mass burial took place eventually at Abaezi forest in Abacheke community in Ohaji/Egbema area, where some locals dug three graves for the mass burial. 

Chairman of Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area, Marcel Amadioha, alongside security agents and officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) supervised the mass burial.

Mr Amadioha simply said: “The victims buried were those bodies that were burnt beyond recognition.” One of the youth leaders, Ben Marcus,  told a correspondent: “Some of the victims were identified by their relatives and were allowed to carry them for burial. Most of the victims came from far and near.”

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In a related development, top operators of over 150 illegal oil refineries between the forests of Abaezi and Abacheke communities in Ohaji/Egbema local government area of Imo State with boundary with Rivers State, have reportedly abandoned their sites after the Imo State government had declared one Okenze Onyewoke wanted, after linking him with the Abaezi illegal oil refinery that exploded and killed about  200 lives and damaged vehicles the fateful Friday night.

Not only that, landowners who offered their land in exchange for money to be used for illegal oil refineries had disappeared to nearby states, Rivers State and Bayelsa to take refuge. Accounts have it that many people have abandoned their sites.

In its reaction to the tragedy, the Imo State government through the  State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, said the government has declared one Okenze Onyewoke wanted so as to use him to serve as a deterrent to others doing the same business. According to Opiah: “The governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma has declared the owner of the illegal bunkering Okenze Onyewoke wanted. Anywhere he is seen, he will be arrested and used to teach others doing this business a big lesson.

We sympathize with the families of those who lost their lives in this unfortunate incident. Most of the people who are engaging in this act are from Rivers, Bayelsa and other neighbouring states and it is sabotage for our people to allow this illegal activity to continue.”

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Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the nation’s security and intelligence agencies to intensify the clampdown on illegal refineries to safeguard the lives of citizens. The president’s directive is contained in a statement by his media aide, Malam Garba Shehu.

The presidential spokesman  said the directive followed the reported deaths of scores of people on Friday night after an illegal refinery exploded at Abaezi forest in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo.

In  what he described as a “catastrophe and a national disaster,” the President said responsibility for the loss of lives and property must squarely lie with the sponsors of the illegal refinery who must all be caught and made to face justice.” The President conveyed the condolences and the full depth and range of the nation’s shock and trauma to the families of the victims, the Ohaji Egbema community and the government and people of Imo State.

He urged community leaders, police, and the secret service to never allow the occurrence of heart-breaking incidents in any part of the country again. We equally share  in the outrage and concern of the government and people of this country over the monumental tragedy in Imo state. We attribute what happened in the state to the failure of the governments to cater for the citizens.

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Callous businessmen have taken to illegal refinery which is a thriving business in the oil-producing states because over the years the Federal Government failed to put the nation’s four refineries  in place to meet the oil needs of its people. The repair of the refineries has become a conduit pipe for those in government to rip off the nation. Added to this challenge on hand is the trillions of Naira in budgetary provision for oil importation.

All these underscore the failure of government to meet the basic energy needs of its people. As long as these inefficiencies and waste in governance continue, illegal refineries will boom with attendant disasters. 

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EDITORIAL

Resurgence of coup d’états in West Africa

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Burkina Faso joined a couple of West African nations that have been experiencing coup d’état, of recent. Within the last one year, Guinea, Mali, and Chad experienced one form of undemocratic change of government or the other.

Barely a week ago, January 23–24  President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was detained and deposed by a junta led by Lt Col.Paul- Henri Damiba.

Before then gunfire  had erupted in front of the presidential residence in the Burkinabé capital Ouagadougou and several military barracks around the city. Soldiers were reported to have seized control of the military base in the capital. Several hours later,  President Kaboré was reported to have been detained by the soldiers at the military camp in the capital.

Meanwhile, the new military leader of the country  has promised a return to the normal constitutional order “when the conditions are right”.

Lt. Col. Damiba  who led the  mutiny that ousted President Kaboré last Monday blamed the ousted leader for failing to contain violence by Islamist militants.

He made his first national speech since taking power on the eve of an emergency summit of West African leaders, called in response to the coup. Wearing a red beret and army fatigues in his national address last  Thursday evening, Lt-Col Damiba, 41, said: “When the conditions are right, according to the deadline that our people will define in all sovereignty, I commit to a return to a normal constitutional order.”He said he will meet representatives of various sections of society to agree on a roadmap for reform.

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He added that Burkina Faso needed international partners “more than ever”, following condemnation of the coup.

 The coup came at a time Russia is competing with France to help West African countries tackle the  growing Islamist insurgency. France has thousands of troops in West Africa helping its former colonies Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger tackle jihadist forces. But the French presence is proving increasingly unpopular in the region and President Emmanuel Macron has started to reduce French troop numbers. Mali has already turned to Russia to fill the vacuum, sparking a bitter row with France, and a group of Russian mercenaries has offered their services to Burkina Faso’s new leaders.

To show its indignation towards the change of government in Ouagadougou,  ECOWAS last Friday suspended Burkina Faso. The 15-member bloc also called for the immediate release from house arrest of the ousted president and other detained officials. ECOWAS agreed to send a delegation to meet the coup leaders in the capital, Ouagadougou.

At the commencement  of the virtual summit, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo had complained that  “The resurgence of coup d’états in our region is in direct violation of our democratic tenets. It represents a threat to peace, security and stability in West-Africa.

“Burkina Faso is the third West African country to witness a military takeover in the past year. Guinea and Mali have both had sanctions imposed on them by ECOWAS to press them to return to constitutional order.

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The recent coup in Guinea is part of a resurgence of “coup culture” in West Africa. It is unfortunate for the third time in only five months, violence has facilitated a transfer of power in West Africa, with Guinea, Mali (twice in the past thirteen months), and Chad seeing new leaders rise from their respective militaries. West Africa’s post-colonial history has been punctuated by coups. But, there was hope for growth of democracy after regional powerhouse Nigeria moved from military to civilian rule in 1999. 

Especially during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria was active diplomatically against coups; West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS  strongly condemned coups, imposing sanctions until they were reversed. That positive trajectory has now been reversed and what could be responsible?

In Guinea, Mali, and Chad, heads of state removed from office had enjoyed dubious legitimacy. In Guinea, President Alpha Condé had been elected to a third term in less-than-credible elections. In Chad, Idriss Deby had been all but “president for life” until he was killed by rebels, only to be succeeded by his son in an extra-constitutional process.

In Mali, the current bout of instability dates from the 2012 coup against longtime political strongman Amadou Touré. Current Malian President Assimi Goïta in June removed the country’s interim head of state, less than a year after Goïta initiated a coup against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and installed himself as interim vice president.

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French President Emmanuel Macron aptly characterized the most recent Mali coup as “a coup within a coup.” To show its indignation towards the change pf government in Ouagadougou,   ECOWAS  last Friday suspended Burkina Faso because of the military takeover. The 15-member bloc also called for the immediate release from house arrest of the ousted president and other detained officials.

ECOWAS agreed to send a delegation to meet the coup leaders in the capital, We align ourselves with the position of ECOWAS on the change of government in Butkina Faso. While we condemn the change of government by the junta in Ouagadougou, we cannot however dismissed one of the issues raised by the soldiers: that of growing Islamic insurgency in the region, including Nigeria and the need to tackle the menace headlong.

Apart from the need to ensuring  peace and stability, we are calling on our leaders to observe tenets of democracy by  promoting good governance by ensuring  free and fair elections; freedom of the press and the judiciary, ensuring economic prosperity, addressing poverty among others. It is by  observing and promoting these that coup d’états can be minimised or eliminated in the region and the continent as a whole.

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EDITORIAL

Ex Eagles player blasts Team over poor AFCON outing

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By Danusa Ocholi

Africa Cup of Nations 2000 edition silver medalist, Benedict Akwuegbu, has taken a swipe at the Super Eagles over “their poor showing” at the ongoing championship in Cameroon.

After amassing maximum nine points from their group stage, the highly rated Nigerians were knocked out by Tunisia, which managed to qualify for the Round of 16 among the best three losers from their groups.
He expressed sadness at the Eagles loss adding that “the Eagles played that game as a team without focus and mission.

Akwuegbu said Eagles greatest problem was “their over-confidence which they carried into the game against Tunisia” stressing their performance at the group stage gave them  the false impression that they were already favourites for the Cup, and would not require much effort to win the Cup and also “forgetting that each match in competitions like this requires different approaches.

Akwuegbu lamented that having studied the Nigerians with their predictable formations, which evolved round 4-2-4, it was easier for the more tactically disciplined Tunisians to contain the Nigerians and win the match, while Coach Austin Eguavoen, his assistants  and his players were rendered mere spectators.

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He said instead of blaming only  Eguavoen for Eagles poor outing, his assistants made of  high profile former internationals equally deserve knock for not making the required input that would have saved the day.  He criticized those who have been employing the social media, and other platforms to accuse the Nigerian leader of culpability in the team’s loss because of his video call with the players while they were in Cameroon. He described the critics of the President as “irresponsible and unpatriotic” adding the President made video calls to the players with good intention, to encourage them to win the game.

“His[ the President’s} call was to motivate the team. And he did noble thing with that.Should Buhari be the one to enter the field and score  for them? He asked rhetorically. The former Nigerian international advised the team  to change their attitude positively in their World Cup play off against Ghana in March, if they are to make it to Qatar. “They [Super Eagles} will get the shock of their lives if they think they will easily prevail over Ghana. What happened to them in their game against Tunisia, and the Cup of Nations as a whole, should guide them against underrating any team.I wish them best of luck in their matches against Ghana.”

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