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The States and the blackout nation

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By Dakuku Peterside

Many Nigerians believe that restructuring the country or devolving powers from the centre to the sub-nationals is the silver bullet that will solve all our problems. This belief has sustained the debate for or against restructuring for decades. As fanciful as this claim is, I disagree with this position because bad leadership is a more significant challenge than the superstructure of the country. Although the way Nigeria is structured does not make for optimal productivity and needs some form of amendment or tinkering, we need thinking and honest leadership to make progress. This kind of leadership is required at the central and sub-national levels.

One area in which sub-nationals or states of the federation would take advantage of to show that a restructured Nigeria can be an oasis of development is electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. This is because of the multiplier effect of electricity on quality of life, productivity, employment generation, and human development. The recent epidemic of blackouts that has enveloped the nation due to the collapse of the national grid and frequent power outages have challenged the proposition that if power is devolved to the sub-nationals or states, most, if not all, of our problems would be solved. It has also brought to the fore the need for state governments to step up their game. A quick review of how a change in the 1999 constitutional provision and a new electricity act has necessitated a change in the role of state governments in electric power sufficiency is essential for clarity.

Electricity has always been on the concurrent legislative list. It was so under the 1963 and 1979 constitutions. However, the 1999 provisions on the concurrent federal and state legislative powers over electricity were drafted in a way that made it impossible for states to make laws to establish their electricity markets and play a pivotal role in addressing power shortages that have literally crippled our economic growth. Eventually, in 2023, the National and State assemblies came together to amend the 1999 constitution and remove the constraints that challenged enacting state laws on electricity. This was followed up by enacting a new Electricity Act, 2023, which allowed states to regulate electricity generation, transmission, and distribution businesses within their territories. The act created two electricity markets, the national and state markets. The National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) from Abuja will regulate the national electricity market, while the states are expected to implement electricity market policies, legal frameworks, and institutions to regulate their respective state electricity markets.

One takeaway from the current state of the anaemic electricity supply nationwide is that states cannot continue to wait for the federal government alone to resolve the challenge. The states now have the full constitutional authority to create the frameworks for the adequate electricity supply to their citizens. They now have the power to create the right environment to attract investment into this new electricity market and ultimately raise the national power-generating capacity from the embarrassing levels at which it is currently. The current situation where the country generates less than 4,000 MW of electricity for 220 million people, but the same people own and operate over 50,000 MW of self-generation or generator capacity, makes us appear unserious. Despite this 50,000mw self-generation, we still have epileptic power nationally, producing sub-optimally and far less than our potential. The epidemic of blackouts that has enveloped the nation in the past few weeks has challenged the proposition that if power is devolved to the sub-nationals or states, most, if not all, our problems would be solved.

I will share my thoughts on why most state governments are not taking advantage of the new Electricity Act and should double their effort to get us out of this perennial descent into a permanent state of darkness. This is against the background of the abundance of gas in south-south and southeast states, massive potential for hydro in Southwest states and solar generation in the northern states. The significant reasons states fail to tackle the electricity problem and unleash economic growth in their states are fourfold: first, a lack of understanding of the need for and political will to fix the power problem from a state perspective. State governors prefer short-term infrastructure projects that give them political mileage and are transactional. The myth that electricity is the centre’s problem has shaped state leaders’ thinking for too long. The second is the lack of qualified and competent human resources to drive policy and serve as regulators. Even the national regulator, NERC, had this problem in 2006 when they started, which is still so today. The third is the problem of implementation and enforcement of policies, laws, and agreements in the long term. Most investors have had to contend with violations of the sanctity of contracts and policy inconsistencies at the state and federal levels. The fourth reason is that states need more investment in technology and network infrastructure for electrification projects and for the ecosystem to become attractive to potential investors.

Despite these challenges, there are some silver linings in this dark cloud. Recently, I had a long engagement with the governor of Enugu state around power. Enugu state has taken the bull by the horns and has not only enacted its state policy and law but has already set up its regulatory body comprising experienced hands who have experience working in NERC, discos, or industry consulting firms. The Enugu Electricity Regulatory Commission is now on the verge of issuing its first licenses to private investors. There is no doubt that Enugu is on the path to energy self-sufficiency, which will, in turn, unleash her economic growth potential. States like Lagos, Oyo and Ogun, Kaduna, Kano, Anambra, Abia, Rivers, Taraba, and Plateau, where there is a significant advantage in terms of availability of commercial/industrial markets and availability of fuel sources such as natural gas, hydro and solar have no reason to be slow about following in Enugu state’s footsteps.

The inference from the preceding is that both political devolution and electricity devolution require political will and an enabling economic environment. An economically unviable state will remain a nightmare as it cannot demand or pay for electricity. Industrial and commercial markets for power are a prerequisite for investment in the power sector. Investors will only come if the electricity market exists. In this regard, only 30% of our states can attract investors to the power sector. Nigeria has long struggled with electricity supply issues, leading to frequent blackouts nationwide. Several factors contribute to the current blackouts and power outages, the most recurring narratives being grid disruptions, failing distribution infrastructure and, topmost, short supply of gas due to debt and other commercial reasons.

Therefore, the federal government still has a crucial role in the power sector to drive social and economic development on a national scale. It must create the right ecosystem to spur investment in electricity infrastructure, including building new power plants, upgrading existing ones, and expanding the transmission and distribution networks. This requires both public and private sector involvement, as well as partnerships with international organizations and investors. It must champion the diversification of energy sources, especially renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, which provide a more sustainable and reliable electricity supply.

The current state of the anaemic electricity supply in Nigeria, as experienced in the blackouts of the past few weeks, calls for a new approach. Nigeria’s blackout problem is not just a technical issue but a combination of human capacity challenges and systemic inefficiencies requiring urgent and comprehensive solutions. The flickering lights of Nigeria are a stark reminder of the urgent need for visionary leadership at the federal and state levels in the energy sector. We must never forget that blackouts are not just inconvenient interruptions; they’re crippling barriers to progress and development.

The current national blackout should be a wake-up call for states of the federation to wake up from their complacency and speed up the process of playing a pivotal role in energy sufficiency. State governments must avail themselves of the incredible opportunity the new Electricity Act provided them and at least provide the building blocks to electricity sufficiency and efficiency in the states.

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Emirate crisis: FG will be held responsible for violence in Kano – Atiku

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has said that the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government would be held responsible if violence breaks out in Kano State over the emirate crisis.

Atiku said Tinubu’s government was inviting anarchy to Kano State by providing security for the deposed Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero.

On Friday, Governor Abba Yusuf had deposed Bayero while reinstating Lamido Sanusi as the 15th Emir of Kano.

Posting on X, Atiku cautioned the federal government against destabilising Kano State.

According to Atiku: “The action of the Federal Government in deploying soldiers in Kano in the tussle over the throne of the ancient city is an upset to the peace and security of the state, and also in breach of the 1999 Constitution as Amended.

“The foregoing circumstances happened within the confines of the law and in compliance with the powers conferred on the governor as provided by Section 5(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; and also in consultation with the kingmakers of Kano, reappointed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (also known as Muhammadu Sanusi II) as the 16th Emir of Kano State and accordingly handed him a letter of appointment.

“It is surprising that in the early hours of today, exactly at about 5:30 am the former Emir of Kano, His Majesty Aminu Ado Bayero, backed by Federal might made their way into the Nasarawa Palace of the Kano Emirate while the reappointed Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi II was at the Gidan Dabo, which is the main residence of the Emir of Kano.

“In this wise, the former Emir could not have made his way into the Nasarawa Palace without the support of the Federal Government having done so with the support of the army and other security personnel in his company. The deployment of soldiers in extra constitutional matters such as this undermines the integrity of the Nigerian military.

“We need to remind the Tinubu administration that Kano State is known for peace and harmony spanning thousands of years and any attempt to destablise the peace of the Land of Commerce shall be resisted. Recall that Muhammadu Sanusi II was dethroned on 9th March, 2020: dethroned, Kano forged on in peace without any fracas.

“We wish to state unequivocally that if for any reason, law and order breaks down in Kano State, particularly Kano Municipal, the Federal Government should be held responsible as the act of providing security cover to the former Emir, Aminu Ado Bayero to come back to Kano is an invitation to anarchy.”

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Justice’ll prevail – Deposed Kano Emir Bayero breaks silence

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The deposed Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero, has said justice will prevail over the issue surrounding the emirates in the state.

Bayero urged relevant authorities to ensure justice because nobody is above the law.

Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State had dethroned Bayero as the 15th Emir of the state.

Speaking on Saturday, the deposed Emir urged residents to maintain law and order. He spoke at the mini-palace where he has since returned to after his dethronement.

According to Ado-Bayero: “I call on the people to remain law-abiding while awaiting the outcome of the legal process in this tussle.

“We call on the authority to do justice in this matter. Kano is a very influential state in Nigeria. Whatever affects Kano affects Nigeria. May peace reign in Kano. We pray for Allah to bless Kano with responsible and just leaders.

“Justice is the way to go on every issue. There will be justice. Nobody is above the law. We will accept whatever the law says. I appreciate all the people who have shown concern. As I said, justice will take its course. We will keep on praying for peace in Kano State. May Allah the Almighty protect us.”

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Nigerian airports most expensive globally – NAHCO

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Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc has set an N100 billion revenue target within the next five years.

The projection was made known by the Group chairman of the company, Dr Seinde Fadeni, at the sideline of its Annual General Meeting held in Lagos on Saturday.

In achieving this, the company noted that it had concluded plans to diversify its investment portfolio to create new jobs and contribute significantly to resolving the country’s foreign exchange crisis.

NAHCO which was established in 1979, provides aviation cargo, aircraft handling, passenger facilitation, crew transportation, refuelling and aviation training services from its base at Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

According to Fadeni, the company is convinced that the food export holds significant potential for foreign exchange earnings because of its impact on the livelihoods and prosperity of Nigerians.

He said though the company is navigating safely around the myriad of challenges confronting the air transport space, he urged the government to look at ways to improve airport infrastructure and reduce the financial burden for airlines and passengers to keep pace with the future growth plan.

He said ” NAHCO believes that the government at the centre should work towards reducing the financial burden for airlines and passengers by reviewing applicable taxes. This way, more payees would be brought into the tax net. Not too long ago, the International Air Transport Association declared that Nigerian airports charge foreign airlines about 27 levies.

“This makes Nigerian airports the most expensive in the world, discouraging airlines from flying into the country. This is not the kind of laurel Nigeria should be proud of. It is a disincentive to investment for both active and prospective investors. The government should address this situation. Government should also heed the industry’s calls for the harmonisation of the regulatory environment, particularly at the ports in a way that aligns with global best practices. The nation’s Ease of Doing Business mantra should be in practice and not in theory only.”

He further said that though multiple cost-related challenges characterised 2023, the increased cost of handling an aircraft cannot be easily passed on to the airline by ground handling companies because any proposed rate hike would require the approval of the industry regulator – Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

He said, “The very act of getting new rates approved has its challenges as well. It is therefore not uncommon to see ticket prices rising geometrically while ground handling rates charged by service providers to airlines remain solidly stagnant.

“Our push towards birthing a global integrated logistic giant is taking good shape with the coming into operations of new subsidiaries.”

Also speaking, its Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Indranil Gupta said the company intends to diversify investment into other sectors of the economy to grow.

“We will continue to leverage our strength and market insights to pursue organic and strategic growth initiatives to expand our market presence and revenue streams

“We plan to comprehensively refresh our fleet of ground support equipment to replace ageing equipment and increase the numbers in our fleet to meet the ever-increasing customer needs and expectations.

“We are already embracing digitalisation and innovation, investing in cutting-edge technologies and solutions to enhance our service offerings, operational efficiency and competitiveness. By harnessing the power of data analytics, automation and predictive maintenance, we aim to stay ahead of the industry trends and deliver superior value to our clients ”

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