10 Causes of Irregular Power Supply in Nigeria

Since a very long time over the decades, Nigerians have been hoping for an era when electricity will always be available without any abrupt and unannounced power cut off.

Yet as of today, this dream is yet to be accomplished as different tales abound in the different parts of the country about electricity supply.

While some parts may have electricity presently, some others have not seen ‘light’ for hours, days ,weeks or even months. Myriad reasons abound for irregular power supply in Nigeria.

Read More: Top 18 Power Generating Companies in Nigeria

10 Causes of Irregular Power Supply in Nigeria
Power Supply in Nigeria – Photo Source:

Definitely beyond all doubt, the irregular power supply in the country is the main barrier to both her industrial and economic development.

Despite her vast human and natural resources, Nigeria still struggles to provide an erratic power supply. Homes as well as industries cannot even predict when power from the so-called national grid will be available for use.

It is even a norm not to expect power for most hours of the day and there is the nasty experience of switching of one’s generator once power is restored only for it to be cut off after some moment.

Irregular power supply could be equated to no power supply since oftentimes than not, the work electricity is required for is hardly accomplished before it goes off again. Such erratic power supply also cause damage to equipment both at home and at work.

However, the government is working to improve the situation as evidenced in this statement by the Minister of Power; Works and Housing, Raji Fashola, who has noted in an interview that in spite of the already installed 12,000 MW power capacity, Nigeria is only enjoying 6,000 MW because of sabotage resulting from broken gas pipelines, poor planning of gas supply and evacuation.”

Although President Muhammadu Buhari, in his 2018, May 29TH democracy day speech acknowledged positive reports from people in many parts of the country about better electricity supply and lesser use of generators, much irregularity still occurs thus, exceedingly much still needs to be done. According to him;

“The country achieved 5,222.3 MW representing the highest peak of power generated onto the national grid and delivered to customers in December, 2017.

With new facilities, repairs and rehabilitation by Government and private investors, generation capability now exceeds 7500 MW.”

No doubt more has been achieved since that interview statement by the power Minister. Nevertheless, if the estimated  total Megawatts of electricity that Nigeria needs is anything to go by, this notable achievement of 7500 MW represents a small fraction.

South Africa, with a population of 50 million people is currently generating over 40,000 MW of electricity. Definitely, Nigeria, with a population of 180 million people, will require more.

The various causes of irregular power supply in the country has been observed to fall under any of these factors; economic  factor; government policies; society/community factor; effective energy management; skilled personnel; efficient technology and security factor.

Read More: Current Power Generation in Nigeria

The Causes of Irregular Power Supply in Nigeria are Outlined as Follows:

1. Faulty Government Policy

The Federal Government’s erroneous energy policies have over the decades massively negated against good power supply in Nigeria.

It has been observed that these government’s policies over the course of over fifty years have always benefited monopoly in power generation, transmission, distribution and sales.

Ever since the creation of ECN in 1950 to the establishment of NEPA in 1972; the policy has been that of making these entities to be in full control of power generation and supply during their respective eras.

Even the now defunct PHCN was a monopoly. It would therefore be right to say that these policies have been detrimental if after all these years, the government has now created policies to de-monopolize the power sector through privatization. The following excerpt from a report on the privatization speaks volume:

“The dissatisfaction with the performance of PHCN- symptomized by its low capacity generation; high costs; inadequate distribution of electric power; inability to finance new or expanded infrastructure;  and inadequate machinery for effective billing and collection of bills fuelled the debate in the theoretical and empirical justification for its involvement in Nigeria’s electricity power sector, and became the driving force behind liberalization.”

2. Efficiency in Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution

It is on record that right from the point of power generation in Nigeria, over 50% of power is lost. A specific study of Delta four power plants revealed a total average power generation of 30.5% out of the installed capacity.

This implies that a total of 69.5% of power that would have been the output of these four power plants and added to the national grid, is lost at the point of generation.

After this, further reasonable amount of power is lost at the transmission and distribution stage as a result of badly-maintained or below capacity transmission lines and equipment.

Read More: 5 Best Alternative Power Sources amid Fuel Scarcity in Nigeria

3. Consumers Excesses

It is a usually a common site to see bulbs left on during the day around many places in Nigeria. In the same vein, many other appliances are plugged in and working unneeded thus, resulting in power wastage.

Illegal connections of electric cables to tap power is another abnormality that adds to the problem. Such non-challant attitudes is ofcourse not often observed in buildings where the prepaid meters have been installed.

This is why the default billing method system adopted by the power distribution companies is to blame as adequate supply of prepaid meters would have made people desist from such wasteful acts.

4. Irregular Billing System

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has stated that the problem of irregular power supply in Nigeria is caused by inaccurate billing system resulting from insufficient metering machines.

He made these remarks on Saturday, September 23RD, 2018, in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom while inaugurating an Electric Metering Factory.

He also confirmed that Nigeria’s development is hinged on effective power supply, lamenting that Distribution Companies  (DISCOs) had not been able to collect tariffs effectively because of non-availability of meters (prepaid meters).

5. Incompetent Staff of The Energy Companies

The problem of incompetence on the part of many staff members of the energy companies is attributed to the abnormalities in most government firms where workers are employed based on favouritism and tribalism rather than on merits and competence.

For instance, NEPA and PHCN had staff whose employment mainly came through backdoor manipulations. Even when eventually the government privatized the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, those new companies still retained the old incompetent staff of NEPA and  PHCN for whatever reasons.

Read More: How to Pay PHCN (NEPA) Electricity Bill Online in Nigeria

6. Insufficient Financial Investment

I once heard on a radio programme back in 2017 that some experts have put the total amount that is required to give Nigeria adequate and regular power supply at an estimate of 500 billion dollars. Even the Minister of Power;

Works and Housing, Raji Fashola, has blamed inadequate electricity supply to consumers on lack of sufficient financial investment in the power sector.

According to him, although the country has expended what may appear as sizeable, the money so far expended was inadequate to surmount the current challenges confronting electricity supply.

7. Vandalization of Gas Pipelines

Sabotage resulting from broken gas pipelines will make gas unavailable or insufficient for power generation plants thus, resulting in irregular power supply.

Such vandalism is usually perpetrated by Niger Delta militants whenever they demand attention from the Federal Government.

8. Poor Planning of Gas Supply

The Minister of Power; Works and Housing has also attributed poor planning of gas supply to power generating stations as a major cause of the irregularities in power supply in Nigeria. Here is a quote from the power Minister:

“However,the plants are not producing 12,000 MW of power because either pipelines are broken, or gas supply was not properly planned  or because evacuation was not properly planned. Those are the challenges that we have responsibility now to deal with.”

9. Huge Electricity Bills Owed By Many Households And Government Facilities

The statement below is that of Mr. Raji Fashola, Minister in charge of the power sector.

“I think that we have perhaps not fully understood the economics of power as a nation. That is why you probably see that even Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government formations owe power bills.

They don’t owe telephone bills. That speaks about the importance that we ascribe to them.”

From this statement, we can deduce the problem caused by owing power bills which means electricity companies cannot break even, make good profits and be able to reinvest into the sector for optimal service delivery. Besides, what kind of investor will be willing to risk pouring money in such a debt-ridden business?

Read More: How to Start Electrical Business in Nigeria

10. Under-Exploitation Of The Nation’s Abundant Energy Endowments

So far the two major resources used to power electricity in Nigeria are “falling water” (hydroelectricity as in the Kainji dam) and “gas” for the thermal stations.

There is need to utilize the vast energy potentials in solar power, biogas, wind and ocean currents for adequate supply of electricity in commercial quantities.

Another important resources are the radioactive elements which can be used to harness nuclear power for electricity generation.

Nigeria should co-operate with nuclear power nations like Russia, the United States, United Kingdom, France, China or Japan to harness this vast nuclear power for electrical purposes.

Above are ten causes of irregular power supply in Nigeria which once surmounted will propel the nation to the lofty heights of economic success.

However, for this to be, the government must have a political will and also allow for a captive-free regulation for liberalization in the electricity power sector to achieve its objectives.

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Awolesi Victor

Awolesi Victor, is a Content Developer at InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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