Many years ago, I got engaged in a discussion with a friend – one of the many discussions we had, usually centered on trending news items and generally, Nigeria’s many challenges. However, this discussion was going to make an indelible mark on my memory. My friend made a statement, one that puzzled me for the intervening moments I had to wait to get a response.
The statement: ‘Nigeria had only one problem.’
Initially, I was stunned with such absurd assertion, then I tried to see reason to the claim which I failed to do, then I thought well maybe corruption would suffice. My friend’s response: ‘Nigeria had too many problems.’
Some years later and a few more life experiences, I have come to see reason with such claim. Yet, I still believe that these problems can be met with appropriate solutions. In the next few paragraphs, I’d try to contribute my two cents. These are not comprehensive solutions; they are just simple ideas that can perhaps pioneer something worthwhile.
For too long, we have measured success in the power sector by the amount of energy generated. This figure in recent times which has hovered between 3000 megawatts to 5000 megawatts in recent years, has dropped to below 2000 megawatts in recent months and at one time in the yearreached a nadir of zero watts. The problem with this index is that it does not factor how much energy is actually reaching the homes and businesses of Nigerian citizens, essentially how much light we get in our homes and offices. The success or failure in the transmission and distribution of electric energy is not quantified.
Using any given state as a case study, I reckon if we had such state divided into a manageable number of districts and given our generating, transmitting and distributing capabilities, electricity (light) is given for a certain number of hours (or minutes) to each of this district, we’d be on our way to better management and most importantly, a defined starting point for improvement. For example, if Anambra state were divided into twelve districts, and with PHCN’s current capabilities, each of those districts gets light for two hours each day in a defined schedule, one could easily prove when PHCN defaults in light supply that they are not meeting targets.
The benefits of this approach are numerous including a certainty in Nigerians knowing when and how long light will last for which enables better planning and effective usage on the part of Nigerians. I tell friends that the only time I am certain of light from PHCN is the five minutes ago when I saw light.
Every investment in the power sector can be better analyzed to know how much benefit accrues to the consumer (Nigerian citizen) in terms of increased hours of light afforded to each district. This would inform a better choice in investment: whether $50 million investment in using betterdistribution cables would result in longer hours of light than $50 million investment in building new power plants i.e. given limited funds, should I invest in distribution or generation of electric power?
It shifts measurement of progress to the consumers. With the ubiquitous presence of the internet, consumers (you and I) can instantly give feedback to PHCN officials if the expected schedule of light is not met. This makes PHCN’s work less cumbersome, engenders good feelings between PHCN and its users through participation and provides a more transparent measurement method. Other benefits exist but I’d stop here.
Roadside business activities
Over the years, a number of factors have conspired to appropriate a notable number of highways(public goods) for private uses (commercial activities by roadside business people). These factors include minimal or low rent fees, government neglect of its responsibilities, ease of access to potential buyers and many more.
If we understand that the major factor that incites most people to choose the roadside is the free advert and ease of access, we can provide a win-win situation for all stakeholders: users of the road, roadside sellers, and government. The obvious solution is a relocation of these activities to a location that meets both parties’ desires. An incentive would be needed to accomplish this.
I feel this simple measure although cost-intensive for the government at the early stages has huge benefits for all parties in the long run. Less roadside accidents, more skilled and trained business persons, increased trust and confidence in Nigerian made goods and services, roads that can serve their main purpose – move people and goods. Once again, I’d stop here with the benefits.
PS: I believe an effective way to tackle a situation with a myriad of issues is to attack defined fundamentals and come up with solutions that apart from meeting their defined need, also provide additional benefits – I have tried to do so with my ideas. While I think power qualifies as a fundamental issue in the country, I am highly doubtful for roadside business activities. I included roadside business activities due to the unfortunate event of the death of a hawker, Nnamdi John who died while being pursued by KAI officials.