By Simon Echewofun Sunday (Abuja), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano) & Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos)
Concerns have followed the federal government’s recent statement that it will soon begin enforcing the import ban on generators.
The latest ban on the use of generators was issued by the National Agency for the Application of Environmental Standards and Regulations (NESREA), an agency under the Federal Ministry of the Environment.
NESREA Director General Professor Aliyu Jauro in an interview with Daily trust on Sunday in Abuja last Monday, said Nigerians, especially those residing in urban areas, should stop using two-stroke generators due to the danger their smoke poses to the environment.
He said that two-stroke engine generators, often referred to as “pass my neighbor”, are a huge contributor to air and environmental pollution in the country.
Daily trust on Sunday reports that this is not the first time that such a directive has been adopted. In November 2015, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) announced a massive ban on the importation of small generator sets.
The then comptroller, Federation Customs Operations Unit, Zone A, Lagos, Madugu Sanni Jubrin, who disclosed this, cited environmental concerns, as did NESREA.
He said: “Small generators have been banned by the federal government because they cause air pollution and destruction of our lungs and respiratory system.”
He noted that customs did not prohibit the individual purchase of these generators but the massive importation into the country. “If you buy a part, customs won’t seize it,” he noted.
In March 2020, a bill was initiated in the Senate to ban the use of generators. The bill, which passed first reading, was sponsored by Senator Bima Muhammadu Emagi (APC, Niger Sud). He said it was to reduce the threat of environmental (air) pollution and facilitate the development of the electricity sector.
The bill provided for 10 years imprisonment for anyone who knowingly sold generators, but excluded the use of generators for essential services such as medical needs, airports, stations, elevators and institutes of research requiring a 24-hour power supply. But since then, the billing process has not progressed.
No more worries as power outages persist
Daily trust on Sunday reports that the prevalence of this type of generator, described as “affordable” by users, is the result of a larger problem: poor power supply.
Currently, records obtained from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) indicate that the estimated demand for electricity is 25,790 megawatts (MW). However, the highest electricity production was 5,801 MW reached on March 1, 2021, and this record lasted only a few hours.
Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people, according to a World Bank file, and at least 80 million of them are not supplied with electricity from the national grid, while the 120 million who are supplied by the grid hardly receive sufficient daily demand.
More so, the World Bank, in its recent report, said Nigeria had overtaken the Democratic Republic of the Congo in terms of the country whose citizens have the least access to electricity in the world.
The Nigerian electricity market (NEM) is also in a liquidity crisis with a deficit of over 1.7 trillion naira which has paralyzed new investments in the electricity sector.
The highest grid power on Thursday was 4,500 MW but fell to 4,000 MW on Friday as some generation companies (GenCos) cut production due to gas supply constraints.
Residential and commercial users get annoyed about the order
From there, some small business owners and residents said that they could not afford to run their businesses without electricity and therefore resorted to self-generation of electricity due to the unreliable power supply of the 11. distribution companies (DisCos).
In Abuja, John Yusuf, owner of a grocery store, said he had no choice but to run his generators to power his refrigerator and sell drinks.
Samuel Okon, a resident of Gwarinpa in Abuja wondered what life would be like without his generator. “There are days, especially Saturdays, when the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) will not be providing electricity, and that could extend for two days. How can I meet my energy needs at such times? This statement is not fair.
Precious Omeje, who runs a hairdressing business in Karu, said such a move was absurd. “This government is multiplying everything and finding other ways to punish the masses. If it is the environmental pollution that they want to reduce, they should first fix the electricity sector. No one is going to want to buy a generator and pay more to buy fuel to run it if there is light, ”Omeje said.
Some generator dealers in Abuja, who reacted to this, noted that the government’s statement was not fair to them and users.
Chuks Ukachi, a reseller of the Sumec Firman brand, said the larger government-recommended diesel generator is beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians and most small and medium-sized businesses.
“It’s an act of sabotage for us. It won’t fly; they tried this last year and it failed. We are not forcing people to buy generators; it is the government and the DisCos that frustrate people who buy generators by not providing them with enough electricity.
“To get a Mikano, CAT, Furman or FG Wilson generator, you will need to have over 1 million naira. How many local businesses can afford it? But they can get smaller generators from 50,000 N and that will meet their electricity needs, ”he said.
In Lagos, Moruf Ajala, who is a barber in the Itire region, wondered why the government would even think about banning the use of small generators in Nigeria, which help the poor masses generate electricity.
He also noted that it was the government’s failure that made the use of generators rampant.
Ajala, a young school leaver, had just opened a barber shop where he can raise funds to sponsor himself at the university.
“We are on electricity for up to three hours a day while I rely on a generator to power my mower and fan. If “I pass my neighbor’s generator” is banned, it means people like me will shut their doors because the power supply is epileptic and I can’t afford to buy a big generator now ”, a- he declared.
An Oshodi resident, simply identified as Akeem, who deals with charging phones, said the benefits he got from using a small generator outweighed the disadvantages.
He said it was through the business that he paid the rent for his house, school fees for his three children, as well as feed and clothe his family.
“On average, we get about four hours of power, so people are usually frustrated when their phones turn off, but with my small generators I help people charge their phones and get paid because I buy fuel, ”he said.
He called on the government to create more employment opportunities for the country’s youth.
In the Agege district of Lagos, Madame Sekinat, a widow, said she relied on her small generator set whenever there was a power failure.
“I’m comfortable with banning generators if the power supply is improved. Nigeria is a country where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. The rich can spend any amount on electricity. Some of them even bribe distribution company officials to influence the increase in hours of electricity supply in their areas, while the poor are left in the dark, ”she lamented, and urged the government to take responsibility.
The statement also sparked backlash in Kano, as many owners of small businesses that use the small generators said they were unaware of the ban order. However, they expressed dismay at the government’s resolve to ban what they called a source of comfort to the common man.
Malam Gambo Shago of Tinshama Quarters in the Nassarawa Local Government and Small Trader area said the ban made no sense. He added that it is impossible for the ban to be effective.
“Sometimes I wonder what this government wants us to do. After having waited for years with wires connected to our homes without a regular power supply, instead of improving the situation, they are banning generators. It won’t work at all. It makes no sense at all, ”he said.
Another Kano resident, Bello Aminu, who operates a barber shop, said no one would separate him from his generator. Bello said he had a degree but couldn’t find a job, and now the government wants to kick him out of business. “I’m going to fight to the best of my ability,” he said.
For Michael Abba, a resident of Badawa Quarters, it is a positive development if the government provides stable electricity.
He said it was cheaper to run on the small generator than to pay the fluctuating tariff for electricity.
Speaking on the situation, the chairman of the Nigerian Consumer Protection Network (NCPN), Kunle Kola Olubiyo, a lawyer, said there had been several attempts to ban small generators.
He said, “Where there is a stable power supply, you don’t need it. When we were growing up and the power supply was better, there were no generators. Generators have become widespread due to the lack of stable power supply.
“The ban could even encourage smuggling of generators, because so many people will still need them. “
He also urged the Environment Ministry to focus on other things that need to be done.
“The generator has become an essential service in places where the grid is not reached. In addition, it is only a declaration by decree as it is not supported by any act of parliament; it’s just a ministerial directive, ”Olubiyo said.