#IssuesForBuhari: The Road to 40,000MW and the Change Mantra (4), By Victoria Ohaeri
Alas, someone is listening. The All Progressives Congress (APC) has now made its manifesto available, unfolding the party’s lineup of programmes and strategies for realizing specific social and economic policy objectives if voted into power on February 14, 2015.
In Section 4 of its manifesto, APC specifically promised to take steps to increase the country’s electricity generation capacity to 40,000 megawatts (MW) within four to eight years. For those looking to see if there is anything new in APC’s manifesto, a glance through its energy sector blueprint shows nothing substantially different from previous power generation and transmission schemes. APC’s proposed target is quite similar to the modest generating target of 40,000MW which Nigeria set for itself under the Vision 20:2020. Under the Vision, realizing this target with investments in the power sector of at least US$ 3.5 billion per annum in 10 years will situate Nigeria among 20 leading global economies in the world by 2020.
Whether this target were to be met under the Vision 20:2020 or under APC’s four to eight year timeline, Nigeria – a country that holds itself out as Africa’s biggest economy – would still lag behind its peers like South Africa with a current generating capacity of more than 40,000MW. Within the same 4-8 years period, South Africa’s electricity generation capacity is expected to rise up to 85 000 MW.
As of August 2010 when the Road Map for Power Sector Reform was designed, the government’s medium term expectation was that over 14,000 MW of power generation capacity will be available by December 2013. That date has come and gone, and the current capacity has not exceeded 4,700mw even at peak production. At its peak levels (rainy season), Kainji power station, the biggest hydro station in the country generates about 800 MW, while Shiroro, Jebba and Zamfara dams generate 600MW, 540MW and 100MW respectively.
To translate this promise of jumping from 4,700MW to 40,000MW to reality, APC promises to “liberalize the monopoly of the Federal Government in power generation and supply through the devolution of powers to the private sector. In the last two years, the liberalization of the power sector has been progressively achieved, with the privatization of PHCN’s assets concluded on August 2013 following bidding processes that were adjudged to be fair and transparent. Does this mean the privatisation of the power sector will be reversed?
Promising to achieve 40,000 megawatts within four to eight years is quite ambitious. One had hoped to see a matching ambitious plan that makes its implementation feasible and sustainable. One had hoped to see the innovative plans for strategic development of power generation assets and the financial architecture to back them up. Apart from the liberalization of the sector, all other strategies elucidated for achieving the target of 40,000MW are consistent with those outlined under the August 2010 RoadMap for Power Sector Reform, revised in August 2013. Duplicating these strategies could mean either of the following: First, it could mean that APC is giving the current Jonathan-led government a pass-mark in power sector reforms.
Secondly, it could also be an acknowledgement that improvement in the sector requires long-term planning, investment and execution, and therefore, a policy shift for closing the gap of 60 to 70% of Nigerians that do not have access to energy, would be unnecessary.
Take another look at APC’s manifesto on the oil and gas industry (Section 12). The espoused plans to modernise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by unbundling and commercializing its constituent units; to end gas flaring; to bolster local content development are all fine points previously articulated under the yet-to-be-passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). Nothing new! Promising Nigerians that it would speedily pass the PIB also sounds like an overkill.
The passage of a federal legislation like the PIB is a legislative activity that requires the assent of majority of parliamentarians most of whom are not even members of the APC. So many contentious issues under the petroleum bill such as the Petroleum Host Communities Fund and the fiscal regimes have not been resolved and are still mired in deep controversy and messy regional politics. Nothing was said regarding how the mounting obstacles to speedy passage will be surmounted.
The plans to end gas flaring could benefit from an integrated approach of cross-country investments in energy generation assets and the connected markets they offer. This is particularly in line with APC’s proposal to make “regional integration a priority within ECOWAS” as the main thrust of its foreign policy. Regional cooperation and pooled investment schemes provide important leverages for expanding the national revenue base through the supply of often-flared natural gas to other countries to boost energy production within the region.
This idea of regional cooperation and integration in energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa possibly informed the design of the first regional natural gas transmission project, called the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) aimed at supplying natural gas from Escravos region in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria to Benin, Togo and Ghana.
One cannot but draw the conclusion that the 2015 presidential poll is an electoral contest in pursuance of mere transfer of political power and nothing more. There is no marked distinction between the ideologies of the two political parties. So, whichever side that wins, its really about continuity, not change! Nigeria will very likely, remain between the rock and a hard place.
The presidential election might usher in a change of baton from one party to the other, but not necessarily a drastic change of policies and actors. Once the election fever and the euphoria of post February 2015 victory are over, defections or cross-carpeting – a favorite pastime of politicians – would resurface with unprecedented regularity because many of them survive by staying closer to the “national cake”.
If social and economic infrastructural development were to be used as a basis for assessment, the APC governors have for the most part, performed better than their PDP counterparts. What is probably different is that the presidential candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, absolutely played no part in whatever progress that may have been achieved. There is particularly no successful political or developmental feat recorded in any of the APC States that could be attributed directly to his mentorship, or intellectual capital or political and spiritual direction. That is why many undecided voters persist in querying Buhari’s electoral credentials so that their doubts may be assuaged.
They want to be sure he clearly understands contemporary models of social and economic development. They want to be sure he understand the thick lines between civilian rule and military rule. They want to be sure that he understands that Nigeria of the 80s is substantially different from Nigeria of 2014. They want to be sure he is in tune with latter-day approaches to democratic governance around the world, and can proudly put Nigeria’s name on the global map where innovations and advancements in science and technology are recorded and celebrated on a regular basis.
Instead of canvassing the issues, the electoral campaign spaces have for the most part, been riddled with cheap mudslinging and hate speeches. This is the time for a leader promising change to stand tall, and show voters the refreshing difference between the past and what is to come.
Answering legitimate questions – no matter how annoying they seem – that citizens ask will shine brighter rays of sunlight on the right candidate. Let the worried and the confused seek information. Let the undecided ask questions. Let answers be provided. At the end of the day, voters will support and vote for whom they so choose based on these strong impressions.
Victoria Ohaeri is the executive director of Spaces for Change (www.spacesforchange.org), a youth-development and policy advocacy organization based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is currently a post-graduate student of Harvard University in the United States of America. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org