Opinion: Can Buhari Still Hold On Beyond 2019?

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Opinion: Can Buhari Still Hold On Beyond 2019?

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson is a seasoned Nigerian journalist and editor.
Akanimo Sampson

The battle for the Presidential power of Nigeria is on. There are the main front runners like President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as well as a number of ‘’lesser’’ power seekers in the race who are equally capable of causing a major upset.

The race is on against the backdrop of some core issues in the polity. For instance, prospects for enduring electricity supply in the country are still not appearing very positive. With the current power situation, the obvious implication is that poverty and unemployment will continue to bit harder except government determines to take the bull by the horn.

Electricity demand in Nigeria is estimated at 297,900MW by 2030, less than 12 years from this outgoing year. To meet that target, investors in the sector are expected to pump in around $500 billion. Do they have the capacity to do so? Could this explain why the Nigerian people are being burdened with a zooming estimated billing?

Already, power distribution companies in the country are claiming that they are facing low grid-energy supply from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and cannot meet their customers demand, allegedly leading to a huge gap between demand and supply of power.

With the power problem still a major headache, there are other troubling diseases such as the Boko Haram/Herdsmen rampage…Hardship…Parallel Congresses in political parties… Unemployment… Worsening poverty….With these signposts one can also easily trace a path through the re-election seeking Buhari administration.

Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power in 2015 through a massive electoral victory that saw the then dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) eating the dust. More than three years after that historic popular support, the Nigerian people do not seem to be seeing the Change Buhari and his party, the APC promised the electorate.

Let’s return to the problematic power sector. In addition to the high Aggregate Technical Commercial and Collection (ATC&C) losses in their monthly operations, these losses are mostly contributed by non-maximum demand customers who constitute about 90% of customer population.

Precisely, the investment cost of Nigeria’s electricity demand is estimated at $ 484.62 billion, which means investing more than $4.3 billion every year for the next 12 years, a seeming tall dream given the current tug-of-war between the stakeholders in the country.

To make unemployment and mass poverty history, electricity is expected to play a very important role in the socio-economic and technological development of Nigeria. At the moment electricity demand in the country far outstrips the supply and the supply is epileptic in nature.

Nigeria is faced with acute electricity problems, which is hindering her development notwithstanding the availability of vast natural resources in the country. It is widely accepted that there is a strong correlation between socio-economic development and the availability of electricity.

Except a miracle happens, the end to epileptic power supply in Nigeria is not yet in sight with the TCN firing back and accusing most power generation companies (Gencos)  of lying about the capacities of their plants so they can make fraudulent financial claims on capacity charges.

TCN made this worrisome claim known in a response to Gencos’ allegation that the TCN through its management of the grid code, stifle their efforts to load more power to the national grid. But TCN says the average power dispatch of the Gencos in April was about 78 per cent.

The General Manager, Public Affairs of TCN, Mrs. Ndidi Mbah, said the Gencos engage in fraudulent filing of their capacities to its National Control Centre (NCC) in Osogbo, the Osun State capital in Western Nigeria and that in many cases, the national load demand was higher than the generation capacities of the Gencos.

‘’The average dispatch for the power plants for April is about 78 per cent of actual available generation capacity which is much higher than the figure of less than 50 being claimed by the Gencos. A large number of power plants submit fraudulent generation capacities and not able to deliver when asked to do so by NCC.

‘’This is done in order for them to get paid for capacities they do not actually have. In many instances, the national demand during peak periods is far higher than actual available generation capacities of Gencos despite the fabulous capacities they declare’’, Mbah said.

She also explained reasons why the TCN has not procured spinning reserves as stated by the APGC, saying TCN has not procured spinning reserves yet because most power plants have not satisfactorily placed their units on frequency response as required by grid code.

According to her, ‘’as a transmission company, TCN can only dispatch what the distribution companies and eligible customers are willing to take. This is why load rejection by Discos especially during rainstorms is such a big problem that must be solved expeditiously’’, pointing out that the TCN will not compromise the national grid to satisfy the Gencos, adding that the Gencos’ allegation that its NCC officials bark order at them was unfounded.

NCC operates strictly in line with the grid code and merit order. Stability of the national grid is paramount. Unfortunately many Gencos due to greed, destabilise the grid through illegal practices in order to collect more money from NBET.

‘’They do so through false capacity declarations, unwillingness to put their generators on effective frequency response, delay in executing NCC dispatch instructions, intimidation and blackmail of NCC operatives. The allegation of rudeness and ‘military method’ by NCC staff is wholly unfounded and baseless as NCC operators are trained in communication skills’’.

Insisting that Gencos were often found guilty of attempts to destabilise the grid, Mbah said, ‘’the practice by Genco operators insisting to get clearance from their managing directors while the national grid is at the brink of collapsing is highly irresponsible, unpatriotic and a gross violation of the grid code.’’

The report also said the TCN has completed and energised three new transformers in Jos, Plateau State and Abeokuta, Ogun State, in line with its Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Program (TREP) which it said was anchored on the government’s policy on incremental power and that Dan Agundi 60MVA by 132/33kV power transformer in Kano State, which got burnt in December 2017 had been repaired and energised.

In the mean time, electricity consumers in Akwa Ibom State are being shoked with outrageous bills. In Eket for instance, petty businesses and residents along Afaha Eket Road, get estimated billing as high as N15,000 monthly. Most of the barber shops and beer drinking joints along that road hardly make up to N6, 000 a month. With frequent power outages, they literally squeeze out their blood to power their small generator sets.

Yet, the Programme Manager, Energy Efficiency of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc (PHED), Franklin Ajaegbu, says they have pioneered and developed energy efficiency programme, as a solution, to address the current business concerns of energy deficiencies, loss reduction and improvement in revenue collections, as well as enhancement in service delivery to their customers in Nigeria.

It seems, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) has not been up to its task. ECN was established by Act No. 62 of 1979, as amended by Act No. 32 of 1988 and Act No. 19 of 1989, with the statutory mandate for the strategic planning and co-ordination of national policies in the field of energy in all its ramifications. By this mandate, the Commission is the apex government organ empowered to carry out overall energy sector planning and policy co-ordination.

As part of its contribution to the resolution of the problems of the electricity sector along the line of its mandate, the ECN has been collaborating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under an IAEA regional project titled “Sustainable Energy Development for Sub-Saharan Africa (RAF/0/016)”.

The project entails capacity building for energy planning and the determination of the actual energy demand and the strategies for supply for each participating country over a 30-year time horizon. The implementation of the project requires the establishment of a Working Team (WT) and a Country Study Team (CST) both of which include the major public and private stakeholders in the energy sector of the country.

The working team consists of technical experts that directly implement the project and reports to the CST, which serves as the steering committee for the project on a regular basis. Members of the WT were trained on the use of the IAEA models and have computed the Nigeria energy demand and supply projections covering the 2005-2030. The project involves the use of the following IAEA Energy Modelling tools:

• Model for the Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED)

• Model for the Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact (MESSAGE).

Electricity supply in Nigeria however, dates back to 1886 when two small generating sets were installed to serve the then Colony of Lagos. By an Act of Parliament in 1951, the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) was established and in 1962, the Niger Dams Authority (NDA) was also established for the development of Hydro Electric Power. However, a merger of the two was made in 1972 to form the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), which as a result  of unbundling and the power reform process, was renamed Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2005.

The Nigerian power sector is controlled by state-owned PHCN, formerly known as NEPA. In March 2005, former President Olusegun Obasanjo signed the Power Sector Reform Bill into law, enabling private companies to participate in electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. By virtue of the power reform, government separated PHCN into 11 distribution firms, six generating companies, and a transmission company, all of which are privatised. Several problems, including union opposition, delayed the privatisation, which was later rescheduled for 2006. In February 2005, the World Bank agreed to provide PHCN with $100 million to assist in its privatisation efforts.

With the current economic, political and social situation in Nigeria, APC is not likely to win the 2019 Presidential polls if the election is manifestly free, fair and transparent. At the moment, Buhari and the party are facing an uphill task. That notwithstanding, in politics anything can happen.

Already, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is galvanising a national coalition to throw Buhari and his APC out of power in 2019. Obasanjo is known for propping up governments and and also pulling them down.  In January this year he published a long letter hitting the Buhari administration real hard. Titled The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement, Obasanjo accused the Buhari of performing far below expectation and advised him against seeking re-election. He also accused the President of ‘’clannishness, lack of understanding of the dynamics of politics, and his tendencies to pass the buck of his government’s inadequacies to the immediate past administration.’’

In December 2013, he wrote a similar incisive letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he literally installed as President. It was titled Before it is Too Late. In it, Obasanjo highlighted a multitude of failures of the Jonathan administration. He capped his criticisms of the Jonathan government by dramatically tearing his PDP’s membership card. Spurred, the then opposition APC hailed him as a statesman who courageously spoke truth to power.

Watering down the heat, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed said, ‘’for the record, Chief Obasanjo is a patriot, and he has proven this time and time again. We appreciate what he said concerning the administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: Fighting corruption and tackling insurgency….Apparently, the former President believes that the administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promises….

‘’We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.’’

In the mean time, stakeholders of African Democratic Congress (ADC) are boasting that their party has been adopted by Obasanjo’s Coalition of National Movement (CNM). They are  vowing that ADC will enthrone a new generation of leaders in Nigeria in 2019.

In a communique issued after their meeting, the South East stakeholders of the party promised that the trust Obasanjo placed on the party will yield good dividends, assuring that their commitment and passion were in alignment with the good aspiration of all Nigerians. ‘’It is a known fact that the government of APC has failed in the core responsibilities of any government as the security and welfare of the people have deteriorated monumentally’’, ADC said.

In a seeming bid to sex up his dwindling image, Buhari claimed while receiving members of the Buhari Support Organisation led by the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, at the State House on May 22, that Obasanjo blew up $16 billion in the  power sector without anything to show for it. ‘’You know the rail was killed and one of the former heads of state between [sic] that time was bragging that he spent more than $16 billion, not naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power? And now, we have to pay the debt’’, Buhari said.

Firing back through his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi,  Obasanjo said Buhari’s allegation that he wasted $16 billion  on a power project that produced no power  was ‘’based on ignorance’’ and recommended that the President  and his ‘’co-travellers’’ should read his book, My Watch where he said he had exhaustively discussed and put the allegation to rest. He added for effect: ‘’If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand.’’

While the Buhari-Obasanjo dog fight continues to play out, the Kaduna wing of the PDP said democracy was fast eroding in Nigeria especially in Kaduna State, counting on events that happened in the last three years and described the 2018 Democracy Day Celebration as a day of sober reflection with nothing to celebrate.

Their state Publicity Secretary, Abraham Alberah Catoh, said only three years down the line, the tenets of democracy is fast eroding: ‘’The APC-led Federal and State Governments have been destroying the major institutions of our democratic state. Arbitrary arrests of innocent law abiding citizens, attacks on journalists ,media trials of perceived enemies and corrupt politicians from the opposition parties or dissenting voices, unconstitutional demolition of properties belonging to Nigerians and opposing political actors and demolition of markets.

‘’In Kaduna State, there is no single project initiated and completed by Governor Nasiru El-Rufai ,even with the quantum of monies, running into trillions of Naira from the Federation Account, Paris Club refund, bail outs, loans, grants and proceeds from the sale of government houses and properties.

‘’The spate of uncompleted projects in Kaduna is an eye sore, with no hope of completion in sight. In furtherance of the El-Rufai anti-people policies, over 50,000 civil servants were sacked without recourse to laid down rules ,even with their campaign promise of providing jobs to our teeming youths. The APC also promised to revive the ailing textiles industries, but as usual with the El-Rufai and APC administration, that is synonymous with lies and propaganda, nothing has changed, rather the people are worse off.’’

According to the PDP, ‘’the spate of wanton killings by herdsmen and unknown gun men and kidnappings is unprecedented, people are maimed and killed without government intervention, but even with the glaring lack of government’s deliberate intervention in protecting the citizens, Governor El-Rufai announced to the world that ‘the security situation in Nigeria is only exaggerated by the media’, he further described it as lacking substance enough to be a topic of discussion. No wonder ,the government has allowed the reckless killings and kidnappings in Birnin Gwari, Giwa and Southern Kaduna to go on.

In a seeming tacit attack on the Buhari administration, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, warned the electorate against blind voting in 2019, saying democracy is not something that is gained from the ballot box. According to the leader of the Green Chamber of Nigeria’s bicameral Legislature, ‘’the ballot box sometimes has produced some enemies of democracy, those who have completely discarded the tenets of democracy’’.

Continuing, Dogara said, ‘’we have to invest more in building democracy and democratic institutions. Where institutions are strong; democracy itself will be made strong. And to be very candid, Parliament is the hope of saving the people from dictatorship. Where democracies fail; it is common place to blame it on Parliament, it becomes the fault of members of Parliament who are not willing to stand up to principles and be defenders of those democratic institutions’’.

The speaker was speaking in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, while playing host to a parliamentary delegation from Liberia, undertaking a study tour in the country, comprising of  members of Joint Committee on Public Accounts, Expenditure  and Audit, led by Senator Henry Yallah.

This attack tends to give credence to the speculation of an impending exodus of some leading politicians from the APC, following the public release of the names of its high-profile members who met the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) bloc of the ruling party.

Former Chairman of the nPDP, Kawu Baraje, has named Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Speaker Dogara, among key aggrieved APC members who attended a meeting, where the group allegedly considered the option of mass defection.

Members of the nPDP in APC on April 27, this year addressed a letter to the National Chairman of the APC where they informed the party of their grievances and expectations from both the party and government. According to Baraje, ‘’following this development, the party invited us and we honoured its invitation to a meeting. We met with the leadership of the party last week, during which we resolved to report the outcome of our meeting to our members and stakeholders before arriving at any decision or proceeding with the next phase of discussions or actions with the APC and government.

‘’I am glad to inform you, therefore, that we have briefed our members at a meeting convened in Abuja on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, where we reviewed the state of the nation and our party, APC, and constituted committees on various issues, especially on how to rescue Nigeria from economic, social, political and especially security challenges. The meeting was well attended by members of the nPDP, including serving and former governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, and other aggrieved APC stakeholders.’’

Those he listed as having attended the meeting include: Saraki, Dogara, Tambuwal;  former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso; former Osun State Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, his Adamawa State counterpart, Murtala Nyako; Senator Mohammad Aliero, Senator Danjuma Goje, Senator John Enoh, Senator Andy Uba, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, Senator Rufai Ibrahim and Senator Ibrahim Danbaba.

Others are Sen. Suleman Nazif, Sen. Isa Misau, Sen. Muhammed Shitu, Sen. Shehu Sani, Sen. Dino Melaye, Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi, Sen. Shaaba Lafiagi, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Sen. David Umaru, Sen. Barnabas Gemade; Chairman, former nPDP, Alh. Abubakar K. Baraje; Mr. Aminu Shagari, Mr. Kabiru Marafa, Mr. Isa Ashiru, Mr. Muh’d Soba, Mr. Mark Gbillah, Mr. Sani Rano, Mr. Garba Durbunde, Mr. Aliyu Madaki, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, Mr. Rufai Chachangi, Mr. Razak Atunwa, Mr. Emmanuel Udende, Mr. Hassan Saleh, Mr. Nasiru Sule, Mr. Orker Jev, Mr. Aliyu Pategi, Mr. Isah Halilu, Mr. Rabiu Kaugama, Mr. Abdussamad Dasuki, Mr. Ismaila Gadaka, Mr. Lado Suleja, Mr. Dickson Tarkighir, Mr. Babatunde Kolawole, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, Mr. Danjuma Shida, Mr. Danburam Nuhu, Mr. Sunday Adepoju, Mr. Sani Zorro, Mr. Ahmed Bichi, Mr. Garba Mohammed and a host of others.

In a bid to chart a middle course, leaders of the nPDP held a meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the previous Monday, but failed to commit themselves to the APC cause. They have been vocal about their discontentment with life in the APC.

After the meeting with Osinbajo, Baraje said, ‘’we are looking forward to some of the promises. There will be other meetings because we have been put into subcommittees and then we will now identify specific and general problems and then we will proceed to see Mr. President. But it was a very good meeting.’’

Obviously, it is a season of political horse trading for Buhari and the APC if they are determined to enter the 2019 elections as a cohesive party. The Congresses have left the party badly bruised just as the persecution of perceived political foes in the National Assembly has ruptured the party. And, whichever angle one looks at the building power battle, it appears to be an uphill task for Buhari and the APC at this particular point in time. It could change though.

This post was written by Akanimo Sampson.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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