A bill seeking to ban the importation, sale and use of generating sets in Nigeria with a 10-year-jail term for violators passed first reading at the senate last Wednesday.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Muhammad Enagi Bima, is to facilitate the development of the power sector, as well as curb the menace of environmental pollution which poses potential health hazards to the country.
Essential services excluded
The proposed ban, however, excludes the use of generating sets for essential services. The bill lists the essential services to include medical: hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare facilities; airports and railway stations/services.
Others are elevators (lifts), escalators, research institutions and such facilities that require 24-hour power supply.
It states that approval for exclusion shall be obtained from the minister in charge of power who shall brief the Federal Executive Council (FEC) quarterly on approvals granted.
The bill further provides that: “All persons are hereby directed to stop the use of electricity generating sets which run on diesel/petrol/kerosene of all capacities with immediate effect in the country.”
More troubles as outages persist
If passed, the bill may cause more discomfort for most Nigerians who depend on generating sets for power. Records obtained from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) at the weekend indicate that the estimated demand for electricity is 25,790 megawatts (MW). However, the highest power generation has been 5,375MW.
The acting Vice President of Power Energy, Climate and Green Growth Complex at the African Development bank (AfDB), Wale Shonibare, in Abuja last Tuesday, said the current 4,500MW generation was inadequate for 120 million Nigerians while another 80 million Nigerians were without access to power.
In a recent statement, TCN said 16 Generation Companies (GenCos) were struggling to get gas; of which four shut down production for a full day. It said a gas pipeline maintenance exercise caused this and would last for 10 days, but sources from the GenCos said gas suppliers, including the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), reduced the quantum of gas they could supply on credit to the cash strapped GenCos.
The ban, if successful, will compound the dissatisfaction from electricity consumers nationwide following the poor experience they have across the 11 Distribution Companies (DisCos).
Some electricity consumers in their reactions said the bill was ill-fated.
A Lagos-based consumer, Femi Salawu, said, “I don’t see logic behind banning importation of generators because banning them is not the solution to the power problem in the country. How do they want businesses to survive without using generators?”
Another Lagos consumer, Dr. Oluwaseun Nariwoh, said, “Before they ban it, they should make solar panel battery and inverters easy for people to purchase.”
In Abuja, Garba Yusuf said there was no sense in the bill, and added that, “The lawmakers recently refused to patronise Nigerian vehicles, but went for foreign vehicles. They can’t stop any Nigerian from using generator because they are produced here and there is not enough power.”
It’s sabotage, unfair – Dealers
Some dealers of generator sets in Abuja told Daily Trust that the bill to ban generator import should be regarded as sabotage and unfair to marketers.
Chuks Ukachi who deals in Sumec Firman brand in Nyanya axis of the capital city said, “That is sabotage to us. We don’t force people to buy generators. The same government and DisCos frustrate them and they now provide power for themselves.”
John Okoko who sells Elepaq and other assorted generator brands in Utako axis said it was not fair on the dealers.
Okoko said, “The people in authority are finding ways to add to unemployment instead of reducing it. Do they know how many people could lose jobs if you ban the import, besides power supply is epileptic. How will households and businesses survive?”
MAN opposes bill
The acting Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Ambrose Oruche, said, “Even if we have sufficient energy, the need for a standby is still going to be there. If you are talking about those that constitute environmental pollution, then that will be a different conversation, but even the 2.7KVA that is used by the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) cannot come under this kind of ban because that is what has kept them in business albeit at high operating cost.”
The President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Clearing Agents (ANLCA), Mazi Tony Iju, urged Nigerians to disregard the bill, saying the move by the senator was laughable.
Iju said, “I also think that he may be on the payroll of those distributing solar power or those in charge of electricity generation. If not, how many hours of light do we have per day? Nobody wants to buy a generator if electricity is constant.”
The Chairman/CEO of DVC Plastic Limited, Dr. David Obi, said there should be stable power supply before the ban.
Dr. Obi said, “The senate should give us alternative to stable power supply. People in Imo, Anambra, everywhere are complaining about the erratic power supply. If we have stable power supply, nobody will even buy generating sets.”
The Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, said the proposition was not realistic.
Yusuf asked, “Is it the fault of Nigerians that they have to rely on generators for power supply?”, and stressed that the heavy dependence on generators was a direct consequence of the failure of the power sector.
Activists differ on bill
While the business people and electricity consumers flayed the proposition, some power sector advocates have differed on the impact the ban on generator imports and purchase will have on Nigerians.
The National Coordinator of All Electricity Consumers Protection Forum (AECPF), Mr. Adeola Samuel Ilori, told Daily Trust that the ban was overdue as it could stop the sabotaging effort of power sector.
Mr. Ilori said, “It is not a surprise that many people who are in charge of the power sector are the greatest importers of generator brands like Mikano.
“That is the way to go. Once generator imports are banned, the sabotage will reduce and saboteurs will leave. Even the saboteurs will now promote renewable energy because they are out of business.”
Contrary to this, President of the Nigerian Consumer Protection Network (NCPN), Barr. Kunle Olubiyo, said it was not pro-poor and that the sponsor was misdirected.
Olubiyo said the lawmakers should address those problems instead of attacking the poor masses.
He added that, “We are going to take it up with the FCCPC; this National Assembly has a lot to do than championing frivolous bills. It is also not criminal for one to have freedom of choice. It is repugnant to equity, natural justice and good conscience.”
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