I’m still on series writing break. Hope you guys enjoyed the Guardians of the Seals excerpt of this morning? Anyway, I engaged this oga @iamtenseven on twitter a few days ago about how to sell the all important message of the Power Sector Reforms to the general masses in Nigeria and get their buy-in, because all these figures and co coming out of the government’s media team is only getting a “siddon look” reaction from Nigerians. I promised him I’d write something to point in the direction I think they need to explore, and the questions they need to answer in their communications to get mass buy-in. So here’s me, doing my patriotic duty. 😀
Earlier this year, a series of events led me to perform an experiment. First, my landlord. If you live in Lagos, and you are like the vast majority of us, you have had interesting experiences with renting apartments. In my case, I moved into a flat where they debt on the meter was over a hundred thousand Naira, unknown to me. So it became a constant battle of appeasing PHCN while I harangued my landlord over the how we would sort this bill out.
PHCN in my area is abysmal. I know you just rolled your eyes and said “yeah right, it is worse in my hood”. It is one of the things we all have common in Nigeria, one of the ties that bind us all together. But they also have one very bad behavior. It is the height of wickedness. You see, whenever PHCN does their round of disconnections, it seems that it is that period that power becomes constant. I think they intentionally make power constant at this time to torture those that have been disconnected.
Now, like any self-respecting Nigerian, I have two generators; a small I better pass my neighbor for regular use, and a bigger 2.5KVA one to ensure that my fridge works for long enough to preserve my foodstuff. So I already use my generators a lot.
My monthly PHCN bill comes to about Four Thousand Naira, for power that I see for barely two hours on most days and in the bad periods, we don’t get for a few days.
So after exasperating exchanges with my landlord and getting tired of appeasing PHCN officials, I decided to let them disconnect the non-existent power and use my generators for all my power needs. I was hardly home weekdays, needing the power only at night when I returned and in the morning to get ready for work. Weekends are football time, cooking time, writing time and generally stay-at-home a lot time so I would need constant power supply. The two generators would work almost constantly until I got my inverter to supplement. I decided to try staying totally off the grid and providing my own power for a month and track the expenses.
I spent an average of One Thousand Naira every two days during the week, and Two Thousand Naira over the weekend on petrol. Doing the arithmetic, I spent Nineteen Thousand Naira on petrol that month. I spent One Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Naira on engine oil in that month and Two Thousand Naira to service my generator. When I put all this together, I spent Twenty Two Thousand, Five Hundred Naira on generating my own power off the grid in that month. This was obviously not sustainable, so I negotiated with PHCN and they agreed to waive half of the debt while my neighbors and I settled the remaining half with Fifty Thousand Naira and power was reconnected. I decided to check what my expenditure on using my generators to supplement power generation for myself came to. I spent Three Thousand on petrol weekly, a thousand on engine oil and the same two thousand on servicing. All that came to Fifteen Thousand Naira. Adding my PHCN bill of Three Thousand Naira for the month, my bill for power came to Eighteen Thousand Naira. In essence, by connecting to PHCN, I was saving Four Thousand Five Hundred Naira monthly. Of course, this will be even more when I get my inverter.
Now, here’s the crux of the matter. It is not cost effective to generate power by myself. If I could get constant supply of power from the grid, and they doubled what I pay currently from Three Thousand Naira monthly to Six Thousand Naira monthly, I would gladly pay. It would still save me Sixteen Thousand Five Hundred Naira if I was generating my own power totally, or Twelve Thousand Naira with the way I supplement PHCN today. Not many people have done the arithmetic in as detailed a manner as I have. But I’m sure if we do, we will all get similar results. Doubling what we currently pay for power (except you get crazy bills, which is another story) will still result in cost savings if we can get constant power supply. One of the things that made sorting out my bill issue so tacky was that my landlord somehow made my flat share meter with the hurriedly built boys’ quarters. I tried for months to get a prepaid meter but couldn’t. No one really knew the process.
PHCN has been privatized and we have heard all the new about how many Distribution Companies, Independent Power Generation Companies and a new regulator called NERC. It is a great achievement, even greater than the Telecoms reforms in the Obasanjo era. Power has been the number one reason we have been unable to have any real industry in Nigeria. It is also one of the reasons our general quality of life is lower than even some of our African neighbors. So it is important you bring the all important issue to the point it will meet regular Tunde Leye. We like all the macro details, but what concerns us, you and I ordinary Nigerians the most is this – when do I start getting constant 24/7 (or at least remarkably improved) power supply and how much more do I have to pay. How do I get my meter? If one DISCO isn’t serving me well, can I switch to another? Who will be responsible for fixing faults and transformers in this new dispensation or do street associations still have to contribute to buy their transformers? The media team of the ruling party and NERC need to get into this gritty business of engaging us at this micro level, before they get our full buy-in.
ff on twitter @tundeleye