CHALLENGES BEDEVILLING THE ENERGY SECTOR OF NIGERIA: THE ROLE OF LAW FOR IMPROVEMENT
It is an incontrovertible fact that the energy sector remains the bedrock of the sustainability of Nigeria’s commercial, social, industrial and other pivotal spherical pillars upholding the country. In fact, it is at the heart of everybody’s quality of life and a critical factor for economic development, hence, where the foundation of a building begins to shake, what shall its occupiers do? The energy sector of Nigeria being the bedrock of the country’s survival, is faced with several problems. This is the core reason for the examination of the energy sector in Nigeria in respect of the challenges bedevilling it with a view to proffering probable solutions to them through the law.
However, it may be imperative to first, by way of definition, explain the term ‘energy.’ According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it has been defined as “the power from something such as electricity or oil that can work, such as providing light and heat.” It has also been defined to mean “usable power that comes from heat, electricity, etc.”
There are two major sources of energy namely: (i) the renewable and (ii) the non-renewable energy. Renewable energy is that which is generated from natural resources which includes sunlight, wind, geothermal, biomass etc. and its distinctive feature is that it replenishes itself on a human time scale and cannot be exhausted. In contrast, non-renewable energy is that which cannot be replenished. Examples of this include fossil fuels.
Historically, in 1950, the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria was established for the purpose of electricity supply and development and in 1962, Niger Dams Authority (NDA) was also established for the development of Hydro Electric Power. However, on April 1, 1972, they were merged to form National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) which, as a government-controlled monopoly, was exclusively responsible for power generation, transmission and distribution in Nigeria. Subsequently, in 2005, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) was established for the regulation of the electricity industry in Nigeria.
CHALLENGES OF THE SECTOR
Nigeria is richly blessed with natural gas, crude oil and renewable energy resources. In fact, the country has the biggest natural gas reserve on the continent and ranks 9th in the world. Nigeria is also endowed with large gas, hydro and solar resources, and she has a generating capacity of about 12,522 Megawatts (MW) of electricity from existing 23 power plants, (gas fired thermal plants-10,142 MW, Hydro plants- 2,380 MW).
It is, however, disheartening that despite these humongous energy resources, several cankerworms still eat deep into the fabric of the sector. These energy crises constituting barriers to the development of the sector have been in existence for over two decades. First, one of the major challenges emanates from the “country’s grossly inadequate energy supply that (makes it) incapable to meet the ever-growing demand.” This problem makes it difficult to meet local demands for fuel derived from power plants from which major supply is generated amounting to 70% of Nigeria’s total supply of these needs. Ajayi and Ajanaku went further to explain that since only urban areas are focused on supply, it creates “energy imbalance within the country’s socio-economic and political landscape.”
Also, another barrier observed as constituting a clog in the wheel of progress in the sector is the sabotage of gas pipelines. As stated earlier, natural gas is dime a dozen in Nigeria which is mostly derived in the South-South region of the country to the power plants that exploit the gas. Most of these pipelines are “in the middle of nowhere” which makes it unnoticeable when blown up and consequently encourages its destruction. Several categories of people could be involved in the destruction of the pipelines and they range from political enemies of the government administration, militants, aggrieved people from the community affected by the pipelines, Boko Haram insurgents etc. The saddening effects about this are the several complications that arise ranging from the disruption of the function and effectiveness of a gas fired power plant, to shortage of fuel needed for power generation. It is also safe to say that it “robs” both the power plant and the entire country of adequate supply of fuel.
In addition, there is the sabotage of generation, distribution and transmission equipment plaguing the sector. Sequel to this sabotage, it was reported in 2016 that Nigeria encountered 50% decline in power generation, distribution and transmission..
Nigeria majorly depends on fossil fuels the use of which occasions some attendant consequences which include oil spills, gas leaks and explosion, air and water pollution. Oil spill is the leakage arising from pipelines, storage vessels, tanker trucks that transport fuel etc. and the end result of this is that it occasions damage to the land, water and vegetation.It causes explosions resulting into death of many lives, injuries to people and damage to property. Gas leaks especially in the coal mines and storage plants could also lead to fire outbreaks. In the case of water pollution, excavated areas that are not revegetated could flush the remains of the mines as sediments on water which flows to other rivers and streams and this increases the risk of unhealthiness to lives of people and plants.
In essence, the use of non-renewable resources like fossil fuel, consequent upon the hazard it spawns and the high cost of operation involved in it, makes it entirely constitute a challenge to the energy sector. This is why Nigeria must increasingly recourse to the use of renewable energy sources which has little or no threat-posing challenges to the sector.
Furthermore, with respect to renewable energy, the sector faces the barrier of the absence of some clear institutional framework for renewable energy projects in Nigeria.It is also observed that there is absence of “clearly distinct and separate roles amongst the regulators of the power sector in Nigeria which is between the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Energy Commission of Nigeria and the Ministry of Power. The presence of this overlapping duties could lead to confusion to investors and this could have negative impact on the country’s growth.
Also, another problem stems up from technical challenges and poor infrastructure. It is no doubt that poor infrastructure is apparently apparent and is a cankerworm tearing down the “buds” of the sector especially as regards power generation and transmission of resources. Also, lack of technical competence serves as a major obstacle impeding the sector’s growth.
Additionally, technological barriers majorly to the renewable energy would not but be highlighted. Ojo explained that the “non-availability of modern technologies in harnessing the huge potential of renewable energy in Nigeria has invariably constituted a clog in the wheel of the development of renewable energy projects in Nigeria.”
Lastly, there is lack of manpower development and training. Capacity building is inadequate in the energy sector of the nation’s economy especially with respect training of manpower for operation, installation and maintenance of renewable energy technologies.
SOLUTIONS TO THE CHALLENGES THROUGH LAW
Be that as it may, having identified the knots in the sector, solutions to them would be relatively easy and the law could be of importance in this.
First, with respect to the problem of sabotage, the law could provide some specific penalties for pipeline vandalization and equally provide measures for meting out punishment to defaulters for non-compliance with the law. If the law succeeds in preventing pipeline sabotage, the challenge of inadequate supply of energy would be partially conquered.
Second, the law could address the issue of capacity building by being improved to aid compulsory provision for training and retraining of persons in renewable energy technologies by different agencies.
Also, the law can tackle the technological challenge by being made better in giving proper attention to acquisition of equipment and their maintenance.
Furthermore, through the instrumentation of law, there could be creation of an agency solely saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the growth of the renewable energy sector.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In order not to make the above discussion a mirage and an effort in futility, there must be a strong legal framework. This helps to create and enforce sound laws and policies that would in turn lead to positive change in the sector.
It is also recommended that the various regulatory bodies must have distinct and defined responsibilities in order to give room for coordinated regulatory atmosphere for persistent foreign investment in the sector.
Additionally, the government should divert more focus to the renewable energy. This is because first, its technologies are clean sources of energy which relatively have much lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies and contributes to creation of employment and growth of the economy.
Oluwaseun Ojo, ‘An Overview of the Legal and Regulatory Framework for Renewable Energy Projects in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects’, (2017) Unilag Law Review.
Onyejelam Emem, ‘The Energy Crisis in Nigeria and the Role of Law in Promoting Renewable Energy Development,’ (October11, 2015) (https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php/)
Ellabam, Omar, Renewable Energy Resources: Current Status, Future Prospects and their Enabling Technology.
M.F. Akorede, S.A Amuda, ‘Current Status and Outlook of Renewable Energy Development in Nigeria,’ (2017) Vol. 36, No 1, 197. Nigerian Journal of Technology.
S.O. Oyedepo, ‘Towards Achieving Energy for Sustainable Development in Nigeria,’ (2014) 255,269 Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review.
Malcolm Fabiyi, ‘Three Challenges and Three Solutions Needed to Transform the Power Sector’ (2016) (saharareporters.com/2016/03/13/fashola-let-there-be-light-3-challenges-and-3-solutions-needed-transform-power-sector)
O.O. Ajayi, K.O. Ajanaku, ‘Nigeria’s Energy Challenge and Power Development: The Way Forward’ (2009) Vol 20, No. 3, 411-413,
Olawale-Cole, Developing Nigeria’s Renewable Energy Sector, Aluko & Oyebode.
REUBEN ADEYEMI ADEPOJU
500 Level, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.