SPECIAL: National Grid Collapse Has Ruined Our Businesses and Impoverished Us, Nigerians Groan￼
On April 8, 2022, the national grid collapsed around 6:00 p.m., first confirmed by two of the country’s electricity distribution companies in separate messages to their customers. When the power grid collapsed across the country, soft drinks seller Tayo Ogundapo’s trade too collapsed.
The 54-year-old sells soft drinks at the Oshodi market, but much of her business depends on a regular power supply.
“There are no sales because there is no electricity everywhere,” Mrs Ogundapo tells Peoples Gazette.
Mrs Tayo Ogubdapo at her shop in Oshodi, Lagos State.
For a small business owner like her, Nigeria’s power crisis has become a crippling inconvenience that has forced her hand to rely on diesel generators, increasing her expenses and drastically reducing her profit margin.
Amid a nationwide scarcity and rise in oil prices, getting fuel to power her generator has become a rather difficult task in recent weeks. First, she needs to find a petrol station that will sell diesel to her at the rate of N700 per litre instead of the official price of N300.
“If the drinks are not cold, nobody will buy them from me. I have not been making sales because diesel is expensive now,” she explains. “Some drinks got damaged in the fridge because there is nowhere to buy diesel for N300 per litre.”
A national pastime
The collapse of the national grid has become a pastime for President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime. Nigeria’s epileptic power supply has forced many small businesses to close shops abruptly. Businesses are often left in tatters when the epileptic power supply is accompanied by nationwide fuel scarcity.
On June 12 — the day the country commemorates its Democracy Day — the Nigerian national electricity grid collapsed for the 17th time this year. Power distributors in Kaduna, Lagos and other parts of the country said they could not receive bulk electricity from the national supply line.
“We regret to inform you that the power outage being experienced in our franchise states is due to system collapse of the national grid. The collapse occurred at about 18:47 p.m. this evening hence the loss of supply on all our outgoing feeders,” Kaduna Electric announced on Sunday evening. “Power supply shall be restored as soon as the national grid is powered back.”
Soon on the same day, another electricity firm issued a similar statement.
“We regret to inform you of the ongoing system collapse on the national grid. This has affected our entire network and impacted our ability to deliver optimum service,” Eko Electricity said in a statement. “Please bear with us as we are working with our TCN partners on a swift resolution.”
Yet, another statement from Abuja Electricity followed.
“The current power outage is due to a system failure from the national grid. The system collapsed at about 6:49 p.m. today, June 12, 2022, causing the outage currently being experienced. We appeal for your understanding as all stakeholders are working hard to restore normal supply.”
It is unclear how many states were affected by Sunday’s grid collapse. The outage marked the 17th time the grid would collapse this year. While some collapses were not made public because they lasted for a short period, many others were made public and lasted days in some cases.
No power, no work
Over the past week, some areas in Lagos experienced blackouts for hours; traders relied on generators to sustain their business.
A trader, identified as Alhaja, complained about the high cost of running a generator to sustain her business.
“I charge my customers depending on the price of petrol; those who can afford to pay, I render my service to them. A litre of petrol is sold at N250, and we have to run the generator for hours,” she says.
Pointing at her generator, Alhaja makes it clear that she cannot continue to run her printing business at a loss.
“It affected my business; I hardly complete three trips nowadays,” laments Fatima Balogun, a roadside soft drinks seller. She feels less productive.
“I am sleeping during the day because there is no electricity,” laments Ms Balogun. Also, in Lagos, Ifeanyi Loveleen, a frozen food seller, shares his ordeal with The Gazette.
“We have been begging customers to buy chickens from us before it’s rotten. Last week, my boss took some fish home to cook because the fridge was smelling for days, and customers complained about the stench oozing from the shop wherever they come here,” Mr Loveleen explains.
Like millions of Nigerians, artisans in the Kano metropolis have decried the persistent power outage. In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria, they shared their frustration and helplessness.
Idi Garba, a welder, said he spent about N25,000 weekly on diesel to operate his wielding business. “In the last two months, power supply in most of the state capital has become erratic, which has affected business and commercial lives,” he says.
Kano barbers who could afford a generator have shut up shop and turned to riding Okada (commercial motorcycle) and Keke (commercial tricycle) to earn a living.
“Some artisans, who cannot afford to buy generators, have taken to Okada and commercial tricycles,” says Babale Usman, a barber. Gloria Mark, a cyber café operator at Sabon-Gari, has also been dealt a blow by Nigeria’s perennial outage.
“We have lots of work left undone as a result of power failure. We spend a lot of money fuelling our generators,” Ms Mark discloses. “Many small-scale businesses collapsed because of the inefficient power supply.”
Remote workers are not left out
For weeks, the power outage had crippling effects on employees working from home as many struggled to find means of charging their devices and also grappled with erratic internet connection.
“I have been forced to either delay delivery of tasks or just miss deadlines completely, and it’s not just me. Everyone on the team is complaining because we all work remotely,” says 22-year-old Hadiza Fasasi.
Ms Fasasi has been spending her income on petrol every week. “Just this week, I spent N9,000 to get fuel.
Let’s not even talk about the (fuel) scarcity. I searched black market vendors for over 30 minutes before I could get two litres,” she tells The Gazette.
She adds that she will migrate overseas to seek greener pastures if the power outage persists.
“I live in a country where most things do not work, and now poor power supply. I had reasons to cry because I am physically and mentally exhausted,” laments Ms Fasasi. “I would travel outside the country if I get the opportunity. I will not have peace until I leave this country.”
Jide, a data scientist living in the Ikorodu area of Lagos, complains that the nationwide blackout has affected his productivity. “It slows down my output rate and practically makes my day unorganised. I have to be looking out for electricity once my gadget is off,” he sighs.
Silence, apologies and empty promises
Sometimes, the authorities keep mum and will not inform the public of the national grid collapse. At other times, they make empty pledges. However, the spokesperson for the Transmission Company of Nigeria, Ndidi Mbah, did not respond to calls or messages when The Gazette reached out for comments recently on the constant collapse of the power grid.
On March 14, the national grid experienced a partial collapse leading to a power outage in parts of Nigeria, including Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna and Abuja.
On April 9, Mr. Buhari’s regime responded. The Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the country suffered extensive power outages because some people vandalised Odukpani – Ikot Ekpene plants “resulting in a sudden loss of about 400MW of generation” which led to a cascade of “plant shut down across the country.”
The minister added, “The immediate cause of national blackout (system collapse) was an act of vandalism on a transmission tower on the Odukpani – Ikot Ekpene 330kV double circuit transmission line, resulting in a sudden loss of about 400MW of generation. This consequently led to a cascade of plant shut down across the country.”
In a raft of responses, the minister for power, Abubakar Aliyu, had said in April that the government would restore power and investigate the cause of the blackout.
“A detailed investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the recurring grid failure is currently ongoing by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and System Operator of the national grid,” stated Mr. Aliyu.
“We wish to assure Nigerians that the Federal Government is working assiduously to deliver on the much-needed reforms and investments.”
Amid the promises, many Nigerians languish in perpetual darkness, with no electricity supply for days and sometimes weeks, pushing more people into poverty amid the global slump in food supply and skyrocketing food prices largely blamed on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.