Let there be light

In Genesis 1:3, God said, let there be light and there was light. And guess what, that light has been on for the past billions of years since creation. It runs on nuclear fusion but that is by the way.

What is actually on my mind has to do with Nigeria. The presidential election results have come in and President Goodluck Jonathan has won. Whether the losers would contest at the Supreme Court is not actually my problem now. My real problem is how do we get power to work in Nigeria? Someone was asking about the two biggest problems we have and I said electricity and infrastructure and the rest are symptoms. I could be wrong but I know it is easier to turn to crime when you are poor than when well off even though rich people tend to pull off some spectacular heists (Think Madoff).

So if the new government can deal with one of these two problems, I would love whosesoever is the president to fix the power problem.

The figures look ominous indeed. Nigeria with a population of 150M (I don’t believe that number but there is nothing else to work with) has a measly 4,000MW power output. To put it in perspective, that is a 60w light bulb for every 2,250 Nigerians. South Africa down south has 50.5 Million souls with 44,000MW output. If we are ever to match SA, we need to ramp up to 130,000MW. Now, that is almost impossible to reach with few years but what if we strive for just 50% of that, can get the extra 61,000MW in 7+ years? At a nominal cost of $1M per MW, I know the government can’t build this out even with a sincerity of heart. Where can they pull $61B from? That figure is almost equal to the total annual amount we would make in oil revenue if we export our normal 2million barrels of oil per day at the benchmarked $85 per barrel but I don’t know if our Senators can starve for Nigeria. And that is for generation alone: We need a new transmission grid and a distribution network. All these could cost even more than the cost of building the new power stations.

Maybe it is not as bad as it looks. Prior to 2001, Nigeria had serious communication problem but when government exited the scene and liberalized the market, the transformation has been tremendous. It’s 10 years since that magic happened and today we are the largest telecoms market in Africa. 10 years ago, we had less than 400,000 working lines which is equivalent to 375 Nigerians sharing a working phone. If each line is used to the fullest, each person can make only 4 minutes of call each day. But as of February 2011, 90,583,306 mobile lines are active in the country. Last year alone (2010), MTN raked $5b in revenue with $3 of that in pure profit.

Currently government has a liberalization policy under works which wants to divest the entire current power infrastructure save for the transmission line that will be managed by a contractor (not Pentascope, I pray!). To attract investors, government has a plan of jacking the cost of electricity up; while almost everyone is balking at the idea I believe it is better as long as 1 – the cost is less than running my generator and 2 – the power is good and consistent.

The energy market promises to be huge though generator and diesel importers will go under. Unlike telephone which one could do without, electricity is like food; you can’t just but use it. If the market booms, the cost of production of goods and services would reduce, merchants would make more. Artisans would flourish. Of course tax income would improve for the government and the economy would grow like a raging vine. With that, there should be more revenue for the government to actually build infrastructure and maybe for once, Nigeria can be great.

I believe God created the president in his own image so let him declare for Nigeria: Let there be light!

Author: Adedeji Olowe

Adedeji / a bunch of bananas ate a monkey /

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