20 April 2014, Lagos – For so long, the issue of epileptic electricity supply has been a source of concern for many. A number businesses and manufacturers have suffered setbacks because they do not have power to meet their demands. Many therefore make use of generators but this makes the cost of production very high.
Thankfully, people are beginning to see the need to explore other alternative sources of energy-renewable energy.
This was the crux of a discussion at a public forum recently.
The forum tagged: ‘The renewable energy option for entrepreneurs and stakeholders’, drew participants from far and near.
Incidentally, Dr. John Isemede, Director General, Nigeria Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), who is one of those promoting the need for renewable energy was a facilitator at the forum.
To the NACCIMA boss, there is a need for a fundamental shift in the way energy is consumed and generated in the country.
The scale of the challenge requires a complete transformation of the way we produce, consume and distribute energy, while maintaining economic growth, he stressed.
“Today, we are talking of biomass renewable energy and people are using it in other parts of the world, they are using wave tied to electricity”, informs Isemede.
He goes on to inform that with the trend around the world, it is not only hydropower that can be used to generate electricity. “People use wind, solar and other sources. With globalisation, there is no home advantage in Nigeria as industrialists believe that the major part of production cost is taken by energy cost apart from the cost of borrowing, distribution and marketing. We all know that what determines success in business is the cost of production but we do not have that here.”
He adds; “Why is it that the products produced 16,000 kms away in Asia is cheaper? Countries need to plan in the area of their specialisation. We started cocoa export in 1910 yet we cannot process cocoa. It is not that we do not have capacity but we do not have the power. It is cheaper to produce this in other parts of the world. It is sad that we export what we need and import what we have.”
Sadly, he continues: “We export cocoa pods to bring in chocolate. So we create jobs for other people while our children are unemployed. I went to Netherlands and saw that the biggest cocoa plant is there. There is no cocoa house and no cocoa farm yet they are doing all this. So there is a big challenge. In the past, the price of cocoa was good and proceeds were used to build the Cocoa House. Today, the price of cocoa cannot build the foundation of the Cocoa House. Why are we still importing foods? We do not have energy to process the food produced and even if we have the energy, things are not put in place properly. We have to go back to agriculture because it would give us food; it would give us jobs as well as give us sources of alternative energy.”
Isemede said countries around the world would not consider the issue of power as a problem, adding that South Africa, for instance, was generating 48,000mw and also supplying Namibia with energy.
He adds that what the country currently generates could not take care of industries in Lagos State alone and stressed the need to look inwards for alternative sources of energy.
Buttressing the fact that alternative source energy was safer and cheaper, he said: “Life expectancy in China is the highest in the world now. But today what we are talking about is between 50 to 52 years. A young lady came around and was talking about noise pollution but I told her that she was a smoker and she was surprised. I told her that she was a secondary smoker because a person in a block of flats with eight generators is a secondary smoker.”
Agriculture, he also stressed, would lead the nation to the proverbial Promised Land. “We have to move agriculture from sustainable agriculture or subsistence farming to value chain agriculture. Those who have been to Kenya know that if you do not have a farm or a house nobody would give you a wife. How are you going to feed her? If you are working in Nairobi and you get your salary, part of it goes to NAGOGO and to your farm. But today all our emphasis in this country is on oil and the electricity that we are talking about, we are generating just 4000 megawatts, which is not enough for Lagos Island alone.”
Getting the best, he stressed, can happen when there is a total transformation in terms of resources and personnel. “How can you transform a nation without transforming the people? Things are changing in Europe. We are talking about cashless economy and we are talking about a N5,000 bill. There is confusion somewhere. The Transformation Agenda is about Public Private Partnership. Government cannot do it alone. There is nowhere in the world where government has full control of the people and the economy.”
Isemede goes on to talk about energy and the perceptions of the average Nigerian on the subject. “To an average man, energy is electricity. The technology of the energy we are talking about is not the old technology. As a young man we were using the phone on the table we dialed and from there some of us were going to NITEL with International Direct Dialing (IDD) and from there we moved to the different level of wireless. We should not confuse ourselves with the technology of electricity and that of mobile phones. For instance, there are no wires connecting this wireless system to the main switch, the pole and transformer to the power from Kainji. That is why technology is complicated.”
To make the required changes, Isemede advised that students and the young ones need to be carried along effectively. “One thing I used to say is that students have been left behind in most of our actions and calculations. As a young undergraduate, the Central Bank of Nigeria was our lecture hall and we go there on a regular basis for statistics. We also went to the World Bank office for records. Most of the things we do now, we do not think that our children and those yet unborn should be carried along. “
Technologies, Isemede added, are changing and the entity called Nigeria needs to change with time. “Kainji was commissioned in 1959 and my father took me there as a baby and I was able to see things. Three years later, I was taken to Akosombo in Ghana. Today, what legacies are we leaving for our children? How are we building the capacity of our children”, he asked rhetorically.
Isemede continues: “The essence of going to school is not to Google but to learn and carry out research. In our days in the university, we used to carry three suitcases, two for our books and one for wears. But today the difference is the case. Then if you had a mere pass, a lot of multinationals would be able to build on that.”
But sadly, he says, this is not so any more. “Now first class degrees have become a generic product that they do not even have management trainee programmes for anybody. All you have today is come and take a job and we give you a target. That is where we are today.”
Prior to joining NACCIMA , Isemede was an international marketing professional who had worked with Unilever International as the Export/Head of New Market development , Promasidor , Federal Ministry of agriculture , the United nations and Dangote where he was Group Head, Exports and International Business Development Manager, West Africa.
– The Nation