Nigeria: Will someone turn on the lights?

November 12, 2008

Returning to Nigeria for the first time in five years, nothing is more striking than the mobile phones ringing wherever you go.


The phone signal barely drops on a drive some five hours out of Abuja, through countryside where the only people visible are hoeing the red earth and balancing unwieldy stems of sugar cane on bicycles. A growing number of village households now have phones.


It marks a big change in a country where not long ago it was often easier to visit someone than to try to call.


As elsewhere in Africa, free access to mobile phones has created a new industry and made business easier for everyone helping to propel the continent’s fastest growth in years.


But finding somewhere to charge a mobile phone’s battery can be problematic.


Nigeria, like some of its neighbours, has had far less success in bringing the reliable power supplies that business also needs to take off.


Nigerians blame that failure as much as anything else for holding back Africa’s giant. They increasingly question the ability of President Umaru Yar’Adua to make a difference, despite campaign promises ahead of last year’s election and a pledge to declare a “national emergency” to improve power supplies.


For many Nigerians, the lights rarely if ever come on. It is not only frustrating, it forces businesses to run their own generators, pushing up costs and eating into profits.


The growing economy and population have only made the shortfall more dramatic.


To put Nigeria’s failure to meet its power needs in context, South Africa suffered crippling outages early this year despite having 10 times Nigeria’s generating capacity for only one third of the population.


The success of mobile phones in Nigeria was not so much because of anything the previous government did as the fact that it was able to remove longstanding official obstacles to private firms eager to invest in a country of over 140 million.


The power sector is a bigger task, given the huge investments needed, but there is little sign of government action to address the problem despite an investigation into billions of dollars that the previous administration is accused of misusing in its failed efforts to improve electricity supplies.


In fact, there is concern among Nigerians and foreign investors alike at the slow pace of government under President Yar’Adua, now widely dubbed “Baba Go-Slow”.


A new cabinet has yet to be announced despite the sacking of 20 ministers and there are doubts over progress on the 2009 draft budget. Worries over Yar’Adua’s health have added to the mood of uncertainty.


Meanwhile, the economic environment is getting harsher with prices for the crude oil on which Nigeria relies now closer to $60 a barrel than the $140 they topped earlier this year. Turmoil in the Niger Delta continues to restrain oil production. Nigeria’s main stock market index has lost nearly half its value since March.


Is Yar’Adua going to be up to the task of turning on the lights? Is anyone? What do you think?


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We have almost foreclosed the possibility of a stable power supply in our generation. Nigeria has been bedevilled by very rampant corruption, official ineptitude, official extortion and a populace that lack the will to demand for an accountable government.
Yar adua as president is not the answer. Under his watch, corruption has escalated and despite his wordly promises, no offender has yet to be convicted.
We definitely appeal for divine bail out.

Posted by Paul Ndu | Report as abusive

A national disgrace and all past leaders ought to be ashamed of themseves, a country with abundant minerals is incapable of developing it’s energy inadequacies, uselessness at it’s height.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive

Is it so hard to write anything new on Nigeria, all I see is rehashed articles based on the same doom and gloom statistics.

If you have nothing new to report then just say so!

Posted by Rasheed Yomi | Report as abusive

Nigeria, Africa’s giant sucks! Nigerians should stand up and demand change in their country.

Deborah Yancey
USA A Obama supporter.

Posted by Deborah Yancey | Report as abusive

One and a half years of Yar’Ardua in power has been a huge dissapointment to most Nigerians. It is a shame that with abundant gas and water resources and adequate sunshine, Nigeria is generating an average of 3,300 Megawatts for a population of 140 million. Solving Nigeria’s power problem is not an impossible task but it is just the lack of will to do it that is the problem. Nigeria has huge reserves of gas that experts have put at 182 trillion standard cubic feet and has potential to grow the reserves to 600 trillion cubic feet. Thus, Nigeria could generate all the electricity it needs from gas only . The Nigerian government has set a target of 6,000 Megawatts for 2009, but the target looks like an illusion now because of so many delays on power station projects started by the Obasanjo government.
But I believe that one bright morning lights will be turned on in Nigeria.

Posted by Martin Ayankola | Report as abusive

I think Nigeria will definitely be one of the “surprise stories” of this century regardless of what its detractors continue to do.

There is quiet but firm belief amongst its true supporters that the current President is the turning point.
…and for those who ponder why there is still no proper Cabinet appointment, perhaps the more pertinent question is “What exactly do the normal Cabinet members do of benefit to Nigeria?”.

All that aside anyhow, i see a new breed of “Nigerian” emerging worldwide with links to the other homeland seriously planting and watering the seeds of change.

Watch and see.

Posted by Oyibo Expert | Report as abusive

Nigeria is a fail state. Corruption is the factor….

Posted by Bala | Report as abusive

The title is wrong, it should read

Nigeria: Will someone get rid of the darkness?

Obviously the author has not lived in Nigeria before and assumes there is more light than darkness, which is obviously not the case.

I expect an apology for this mis-repsentation.

Posted by Baba Iyanu | Report as abusive

As with many other things in Nigeria, the answer to many questions unravels by following the money.
While the bulk of the populace knows that resolving the power issue will solve a lot of problems, the minority elite of whom Yar A’dua is the current champion, won’t allow that to happen. Why you might ask?
The answer is simple: Fixing the power problem in Nigeria, will upset the existing status quo. The generator importers and the diesel importers are lobbying hard and they have the ears of the powers that be. What incentive do they have to fix a system that enables them to continue making money?

Posted by Dandy | Report as abusive

Nigeria is a rotten egg with rotten leaders- all these disgraceful and shocking stories have become the bane of Nigerian leadership. Buhari we want you back.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive

Nduka. Nigeria is indeed rotten and that might give cause to want Buhari back. Of course that might also mean not him as he is now, but Buhari as he was, and not forgetting Tunde Idiagbon, during his first incarnation. Are we now right now to ask whether we should look for a hand from the military boys if the situation continues in this vein of a total lack of progress and with a president sick of life. Is it so bad?

Posted by Munir Ibrahim | Report as abusive

Sounds pessimistic but with the structure on ground, the answer is no. In the early 90s while some “MY FATHER” fought against this corrupt cartel in NEPA, they fought back and got promoted. Some MD’s, GM’s perpetuated themselves in power with no vision and destroyed even the structure they met on ground through embezzlement, mismanagement.

Posted by Oyewole oluwaseun olaposi | Report as abusive

Nigeria has had many problems, although I see insufficient electricity ia a prominent issue there. There definitely needs to be something done and very quick. Often times in America we take everyday things that we use for granted and fail to realize that we are very lucky to have such things. Hopefully their leader will be able to do something about this problem and quick, because lack of electricity only poses bgger problems for Nigeria.

Posted by Latisha | Report as abusive

The way around an increase in power generation in Nigeria begins foremost with peace in the Niger-delta. Then, a sincere approach towards establishing power infrastructures in and around the Niger-delta not giving in to the temptations of borrowing, but, reducing all frivilous salaries of all political office holders towards channelling it into something more productive viz a viz establishment of new power infrastructures.
Let all the world come to think of this injustice, how will the daily lunch allowance of a senator of the federal republic (#110,000:00) and with the share number of senators we have along side their honorable colleagues leave room for a proper and befitting infrastructural development.
Our political system has only been a pipe c to us and i only hope one day we wouldn’t have to go to the world bank to seek for loans to pay our dearest well fed politically imposed trailblazers.

Posted by Oyewole oluwaseun olaposi | Report as abusive

The light is switched on in Africa for industry and investment growth. The investment light is shining for foreign direct Investment into Nigeria. The intensity of the light for investment in Manufacturing industry is Nigeria is beaming high.

In 2002,when the light for investment on Mobile Communication was switched on in Nigeria, most Foreign Investors did not see the light. The light is now being switched on in other sectors in Nigeria. Let us look beyound the recent international economic crunch and see the light being switched on.

Yes, energy, water and infrastructure development requires urgent and leser beam type of focus by the Governments in Africa and Nigeria. Private investors will make the difference if they are fiscally motivated to invest in Nigeria energy generation, water and infrastructure development

Some of these issues will be discussed at the International Conference and Trade Fair on Industry Growth, Investment and Competitiveness in Africa(IGICA). This International event is hosted by Nigeria Government and will take place on 8-10 June 2009 in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria.

To check out the IGICA event or register your interest, visit the website

Posted by Hollie Danielle | Report as abusive

Hello all,

Is energy saving lighting soloution the way out ?

Posted by Ndy | Report as abusive

Supplying the country with an adequate electricity supply is hardly rocket science. This issue as well as being a great hindrance is also major shame on Nigeria. I have lived in Ghana which is just a few hours drive from Lagos and there light is very regular even in the remotest provinces. Ghanaians complained bitterly at the very orderly system of load sharing during the energy crises of 2007. Such a system in Nigeria would be seen as the dawn of a bright new era in competence. Alas, even that seems very far off.

Posted by Temitope Adesanya | Report as abusive