Although no longer shocking, the story of the grand larceny perpetrated by the PDP against Nigeria continues to rankle to no end, a story that continues to be told in bits and pieces. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP earlier in the week offered Nigerians yet another chapter on how the PDP federal government not only plundered the country in the course of 16 years rule, but also ensured that the most important plank of the foundation of the economy’s future was effectively crippled.
According to the 65-pages report launched on Wednesday at the West town Hotels, Lagos titled: From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector, “The total estimated financial loss to Nigeria from corruption in the electricity sector starting from the return to democracy in 1999 till date is over N11 trillion. These represent public funds, private equity and social investment (or divestments) in the power sector. It is estimated that it may reach over N20trillion in the next decade given the rate of Government investment and funding in the power sector amidst dwindling fortune and recurrent revenue shortfalls.”
While the squandering of the billions that delivered more darkness than electricity is a familiar story, SERAP in reminding Nigerians about the unprecedented ‘squander-maniac’ successive PDP administration again offers a good context to explain the depth to which the country has plumbed, and how the actions and inaction of few unpatriotic elements have put the future of the country in jeopardy.
Understandably, there are those who will dismiss the findings as supplying rationale for the perceived stasis of the sector under the current administration. They miss the point. Indeed, without a deliberate accounting for how a nation which started with 6,000 megawatts of electricity some 16 years has remained at the same abysmal level in spite of the billions of Naira spent, it seems unlikely that the nation will ever move ahead.
Simply put, we know that the country is in recession precisely because the manufacturing sector which could have supplied the buffer when the price of oil headed south was in no position to rise up to the challenge essentially because of the power situation. The same goes with the small and medium scale businesses, major fulcrum for job creation. The sector could not be suborned to action when it mattered most. The result is a country with the highest level of inflation ever, unimaginably high food import bill, unprecedented unemployment, particularly of youths.
We see the SERAP report at a significant step in the effort to put closure to that shameful era of looting in what is arguably the grand bazaar of the last decade and half. We expect the government to peruse the report as indeed similar reports of heists in the power sector with a view to bringing to book those who abused their offices.
However, the greater challenge is to untangle the contrived web of deceit described as privatisation under which the disparate electricity entities have become even more dysfunctional than they were before. Today, no one appears to know where the sector is headed in the situation that those who took over the privatised entities – the distribution and generation companies – neither seem to understand the current imperatives nor willing to exert themselves in the direction expected to deliver change. To the extent that government appears to lack the will for any effective action, the result has been most disastrous for the economy as a whole.
What is required in the current situation is new thinking and bold imagination in dealing with the issues. Nigerians are by now tired of excuses. They need power in their homes. The industries need it to keep factories running. It is something so vital to unlocking the potentials of the Nigerian economy.