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Infrastructure Development and Urban Facilities in Lagos, 1861-2000

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Ayodeji Olukoju

Chapter two. Electricity supply in Lagos, 1898-2000

Texte intégral

Introduction of Electricity and Street Lighting in Lagos

  • 1 M. Echeruo, Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life, London: Macmillan, 1977, pp (...)

1Water supply and electricity were the earliest infrastructural facilities envisaged for the city since the nineteenth century. However, neither became a practical possibility till the late 1890s and early 1900s. Street lighting was eagerly sought by Lagosians of this period when kerosene was the principal fuel in everyday use. In the late 1890s, gas lanterns were placed at certain points on the island for the illumination of the streets. Given the inadequacy of this arrangement, a Lagos newspaper canvassed for “our streets (to be) properly lighted” as the unlit streets were said to be “in a most wretched condition at night.”1 Such was the concern about proper street lighting that Western-educated Lagosians were prepared to pay an indirect lighting tax to fund the illumination of the city. Such concern was heightened by the spate of burglaries in the city, at least since the 1880s, though these did not abate substantially when street lighting was introduced in 1898.

  • 2 NAI. CSO 1/1/13, Denton to Knutsford, 8 June 1891. It shoud be noted that one pound sterling (£) w (...)

2Meanwhile, the issues of urban infrastructure were of common concern regardless of racial differences in the city. Both the expatriate merchants and the Western-educated Africans in Lagos (the Saro in particular) vigorously ventilated their views in the newspapers. Their clamour did not go unheeded, for the colonial administration duly proposed infrastructure policies and the most cost-effective means of implementing them. Thus, in June 1891, acting governor George Denton drew the attention of the Secretary of State for the Colonies to “the very inferior manner in which the streets in Lagos are lighted.”2 He referred to the efforts made by his predecessor, Alfred Moloney, to secure lamps best suited for street lighting in tropical countries. In addition, he forwarded a report by the acting colonial surveyor in which the latter recommended that the number of lamps should be increased from 86 to 223. However, the upkeep of each lamp would also increase from £1.14.6d to £2.10.4d. He submitted that “the effectual and thorough lighting of a Town such as Lagos is a matter of the greatest importance” and that the additional cost was compensated by the greater efficiency of the social service.

  • 3 NAI, CSO 1/1/14. Denton to Ripon, 11 October 1893.
  • 4 NAI. CSO 1/1/14, Carter to Ripon 11 December 1893.

3In October 1893, Denton intimated the Secretary of State for the Colonies with the representation made by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, then an all-white body, on the subject of street lighting in Lagos. He conceded that street lighting in Lagos was “most defective” but did not think that the colonial subjects would be willing to pay a municipal tax to fund the provision of street lights. The people were so fearful of that tax, he noted, that the “majority of… [them] would prefer that the Town should remain in its present state of almost total darkness…”3 The acting governor hoped, however, that the available water power would make possible the introduction of electricity in Lagos “at no very great cost.” In December of that year, Governor Carter stated in a correspondence to the Secretary of State that the “question of efficiently lighting the town of Lagos has become one of great importance, and if it is financially practicable I should like to see the electric system introduced.”4 Carter proposed to install 120 lamps across the city at intervals of 220 feet to 220 yards. He also suggested that the current in the lagoon, which often ran at about three knots, might be harnessed to generate electricity for use in Lagos.

  • 5 NAI, CSO 1/1/22, Gov., Lagos, to Chamberlain. 30 June 1897.
  • 6 NAI. CSO 1/1/22, Governor. Lagos to Chamberlain. 23 July 1897. enc. for report on mistakes by DPW (...)

4Proposals for illuminating the streets of Lagos were considered at length in correspondence between Lagos and London. However, it was decided to extend electricity to only a few strategic buildings, the hospital and the Government House. The use of oil to illuminate the two buildings was considered “dangerous, inconvenient and expensive.”5 A saving of £39 per annum would be made if electricity replaced kerosene illumination at the hospital. Unfortunately, the introduction of electricity to Lagos made a false start because the wrong equipment was imported from England. The governor declared that such mistakes must be avoided if possible in the case of Lagos “where there is an almost total absence of mechanical appliances and skilled labour.”6

  • 7 CSO 1/1/23, Denton to Chamberlain, 29 August 1898.

5Eventually, in 1898, electric street lighting was introduced in Lagos. However, this was limited mainly to the European residential area. Even so, the service did not operate all night as the number of staff in charge of the facility was insufficient to keep it running beyond 11 p.m., after which it was switched off. The cost of running the light all night was put at almost £2,000 per annum. This included the wages of European staff and an increase in the expenditure on coal. The Secretary of State appeared to have endorsed these proposals for, by March 1899, it was noted that the electric light “continues to run all night.” Yet, failure by the Secretary of State to sanction additional expenditure would cause a reversion to the practice of switching it off at 11 p.m, ironically at a time when burglars were likely to be most active.7

  • 8 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, “Street Lighting in Lagos,” W. Taylor to Comcol, 26 November 1943.
  • 9 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, L.G. Purkis, Assistant Superintendent of Police to Supt. of Police, 17 Decembe (...)
  • 10 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Comcol to Fin. Sec. Lagos, 26 August 1944.

6The question of street lighting and burglaries recurred later in the 1940s when the General Manager of the Shell Company reported “a recent increase in the incidence of burglaries at Ikoyi, particularly at houses owned by this company.”8 He called for an increase in the number of police personnel patrolling the streets but emphasized that the absence or malfunctioning of street lights in some streets had made them prone to such criminal activities. The police, however, advanced the theory that the burglaries were inside jobs but acknowledged that “certain parts of Ikoyi are badly lighted… Waring Road is one of the worst which no doubt accounts for it being fairly high on the burglary list.”9 The police concluded that, while the incidence of burglaries was not higher than it had been in the past, certain steps had to be taken to check the crime. Consequently, it recommended the following in order of precedence: co-operation by European residents in treating their own servants with suspicion and keeping temptation out of their way; refusing to allow outsiders to live in their compounds or visit at nights; better street lighting; and more police patrols.10 It may be noted that the police recommendations were laced with the racism and colonial paternalism of this era vis-a-vis the colonial peoples. In the aftermath of this, twenty-one extra street lights were installed at Ikoyi at a cost of £45.

Power Generation, Tariffs, Rate Collection, Rationing and Licensing of Generators During the Colonial Period

  • 11 National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) Ijora Power Station (Brochure), 1998, pp. 2-4.
  • 12 NAI, Comcol 1 2823, “Ijora Power Station,” Director of Public Works (DPW) to Director of Marine, 4 (...)

7The Ijora Power Station, formally commissioned in 1923, was the major source of electricity supply to Lagos and environs during the colonial period. At inception, it had a capacity for generating up to 20 megawatts of electricity from steam turbines and coal-fired boilers. It has, however, been constantly upgraded from that time up to the present. By 1943, the city had become “entirely dependent for supply” on the two turbo-alternators in use at Ijora.11 In the late 1940s, a second phase of development was commenced at Ijora. Known as “Ijora B,” the plant had a generating capacity of 85 megawatts. The station was oil-fired and this made it the most modern power station in the country. Ijora B was formally commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II of England when she visited Nigeria in 1956. The third stage of construction in the 1960s added 30.2 megawatts of electricity to take the total installed capacity of the station to 142 megawatts. The fourth phase of development at the station witnessed the addition of three new gas turbines in 1978, each with a capacity of 20 megawatts.12

  • 13 Nigerian Pioneer (Lagos). 25 February 1927, Random Notes & News.
  • 14 NAI, Comcol 1 1424, “Lagos Electricity Supply-Bad Debts,” The Accountant, Electric Light Accounts (...)
  • 15 Ibid.
  • 16 NAI, Comcol 1 1424, Chief Secretary to the Government (CSG) to Comcol, 15 November 1933; CSG to Co (...)
  • 17 NAI, Comcol 1 1424. Comcol to Treasurer. 8 December 1934.

8A concomitant of electricity generation and distribution is the cost to the consumer. In general, the charge for electricity consumption in colonial Lagos varied with the consumer’s income and circumstances. However, petitions to the government and newspaper reports of this period suggest that consumers were not always getting the best from the service. A Lagos newspaper captured the situation for the generality of consumers in the late 1920s: “When light was first installed in Lagos the charge per unit was eight pence, now with an enlarged staff and a very big plant, with less illumination the cost is 1/3 per unit.”13 This increased charge may have contributed to the high incidence of default in the payment of electricity bills, especially in the context of the prevailing global economic depression. The government resorted to litigation to check this trend, but it was forced to write off many bad debts. Ordinarily, a consumer’s supply was disconnected if a bill was not settled after seven days of its issuance. In practice, however, “each consumer was allowed roughly five weeks credit instead of seven days allowed by the Ordinance.”14 It was not possible in practice to enforce the seven-day ultimatum and the option of extending the period of grace while efforts were made to recover the debts was considered as “economic in operation and satisfactory to the consumer and Department alike.”15 However, this was abused by many consumers in Lagos who accumulated debts in excess of £10. The recourse to litigation was also problematic as many of the defaulters absconded or pleaded insolvency. In 1933 and 1934, the government wrote-off bad debts amounting to £26.18.1 d and £28.5.2d, respectively.16 It had become glaring that a “great amount of work [was being] done in vain to recover debts of this nature.”17 Consequently, the Commissioner of the Colony proposed measures to check the incidence of default which had led to the accumulation of bad debts.

9Separate card indexes were to be created for two categories of consumers. One card would be for those “about whose ability to pay their current bills there could be no reasonable doubt, or who could easily be made to pay if they defaulted.” In this group were colonial officials, firms of standing and owners of substantial amounts of property. Persons who could find good sureties for the payment of their bills could also be listed on the first index. The other card index would be for all other consumers. Those would make a reasonable deposit which would, if necessary, be used to pay arrears due from them. The deposit would approximate the value of the current that the consumer was likely to consume within a certain period. Payments by both categories of consumers would be recorded on their cards, which would be checked monthly. Any consumer who was in arrears would be promptly notified to pay up to date. Failure to do this within a specified number of days would result in the disconnection of the premises and the settlement of outstanding bills out of the deposit.

  • 18 NAI, Comcol 1 1424, DPW to Comcol, 3 October 1934.

10It is not clear from the records whether the Director of Public Works accepted these proposals. But there is evidence that the government continued to take legal action against defaulters in a vain bid to make them settle their bills. A report of October 1934 captured the fate of this approach: “Legal action was taken against (…) debtors but was unsuccessful. It was reported in Court that (…) the debtors could be found.”18

  • 19 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Commissioner for Lands to CSG, 13 September 1932.
  • 20 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Commissioner For Lands to CSG, 23 September 1932.

11A different dimension to this was the charge for street lighting, which tended to be heavy on well-lit streets. “The present cost of lighting the Yaba Estate streets,” it was stated in 1932, “makes further development in this direction prohibitive.”19 The annual charge for the 82-watt lamps in use for illuminating the estate was £460, which was approximately half the estimated revenue from rates collected on the estate in the 1932/33 financial year. This placed the management of the estate in a quandary: more street lights were required to keep pace with the rapid growth of the estate; but the “heavy charges” made this impossible. If the electricity charges were reduced to five pence per unit, which would add up to £3.6.8d per lamp per annum, the estate’s budget for street lighting (£350) would have been adequate. But the actual charges exceeded this budgetary allocation by £110. Consequently, the request to reduce the charges to five pence per unit (£3.6.8d per 40 watt lamp) from October 1932 was granted.20

  • 21 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Sec. Lagos Town Council (LTC) to Administrator of the Colony (Adcol), 22 Augus (...)

12The problem was not limited to the Yaba Estate but affected the entire city. The Lagos Town Council was charged £6,000 per annum in 1924 for street lighting in Lagos at the approximate cost of nine pence per unit. This charge remained in force until 1932 when, to the dismay of Town Council officials, the Electrical Engineer-in-Chief proposed to increase it. The officials opposed any increase in the charge. It was even suggested that the Council reduce the number of street lights in order to cut costs! Finally, it was agreed that the existing charges would be retained but that they would have to be raised in the future. In addition, the intensity of the street lights was to be reduced if street lighting would be extended to more areas of the city.21

  • 22 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, CSG to AdCol., 28 October 1932.
  • 23 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, President, LTC to AdCol. 3 March 1933.
  • 24 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Ag. Town Engineer to President, LTC, 24 July 1933.

13The proposal to reduce street lighting was not well received. It was paradoxical that while public funds had been expended on an electric plant at Ebute Metta, “the public of Lagos (was) faced with the fact that they cannot get street lighting because they cannot afford the Electrical Engineer’s charges.”22 A compromise was to redistribute street lights in the metropolis and to reduce “the extravagant lighting on Carter Bridge.” The redistribution was to favour disadvantaged areas on the island, particularly “[b]adly lit quarters of the Native Town… as most European quarters of the Town are mostly extremely well, and in some parts unnecessarily well, illuminated.”23 The distribution of street lights was to take into consideration the requirements of the police and the general public. While police duty demanded “a delicate balance of light and darkness,” preference was to be given to “those roads most frequented and inhabited.”24

  • 25 NAI, Comcol 1 1170, enc. in Senior Electrical Engineer to DO, 16 February 1948.

14In general, though electricity was supplied to a growing number of people in Lagos throughout the twentieth century, its use was subjected to restrictions, such as rationing. This became inevitable when the number of consumers increased and the demand for electricity exceeded the supply. In addition to normal shortfalls in the supply, there was a specific instance when a delay in the delivery of materials from the United Kingdom incapacitated the Lagos electricity supply system.25 Therefore, regulations were introduced which, among others, placed restrictions on the use of electrical appliances. These were

15The restrictions, which applied to Ikoyi, Lagos, Ebute Metta and Yaba, where the bulk of the consumers lived, were as follows:

  1. No reconnections will be made to residential premises disconnected prior to 1st January 1947.
  2. The premises of consumers disconnected for non-payment will not be reconnected.
  3. No extensions of any installation will be allowed except where these are restricted to off-peak periods or in very special cases where a corresponding amount of load is disconnected in other premises, or where no substitutes for electricity can be provided and the premises cannot be brought into use without a supply, or where the premises provide badly needed facilities for the general public.
  4. No permits will be issued for heating, cooking or other similar apparatus which is not restricted to off-peak use.
  5. Applications for supply to new installations, where these can be connected, will be restricted to minimum lighting requirements only, or to industrial and commercial load for use during the off-peak period.
  6. No permits will be issued for temporary illumination.

16Moreover, consumers were urged to obviate further restrictions by economizing the use of electricity at all times, especially during the peak load period between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. They were enjoined to refrain from using cookers, kettles, irons or other heating apparatus during that period. Consumers were not to switch on any more lights or fans than were necessary at any time. All water heaters were to be switched off during the peak period and defaulters were threatened with disconnection. The restrictions were to be in place for several months if consumers complied with the instructions.

  • 26 Ignatius I. Ukpong, “Economic Consequences of Electric Power Failuresin the Greater Lagos Area,” N (...)

17The above account clearly indicates that there was already a discernible gap between rising demand and power generating capacity in Lagos during the late colonial period. Meanwhile, the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), established under Nigerian Ordinance No. 1 of 1950, was saddled with the responsibility of generating and distributing electric power. It was described as “an autonomous commercial enterprise in a monopolistic setting.”26 The virtual monopoly of E.C.N, conferred sweeping powers on it and made it immune from sanction or liability for damage or loss sustained by any consumer on account of the interruption of its supplies.

  • 27 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, “Licences Under the Electricity Ordinance (Cap 58),” enc. in CSG to Comcol (...)

18Private power generation by States, firms and individuals was, however, permitted by licence. This required the operator of a plant to generate electricity not exceeding ten kilowatts for domestic purposes and up to a limit of 200 kilowatts for industrial purposes. A fee of £2.2.0d was payable on the issuance of a licence for any installation up to and including 100 kilowatts installed capacity. Furthermore, the plant would be installed for the sole purpose of generating electricity for the owner’s use and not for sale. The licence was valid only as long as the public supply of electricity was not available; the power plant would cease to operate as soon as the public supply was restored. No compensation was to be paid for the suspension of the plant.27

19The Federal Government, however, licensed the Nigeria Electricity Supply Company (NESCO) to operate hydro-electric power stations to generate electric power for the tin mining community on the Jos Plateau. The company also sold energy to the E. C .N. for distribution to private consumers in Jos, Bukuru and Vom. The African Timber and Plywood Company Limited at Sapele and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria in the Niger Delta were also licensed to generate electricity. The comparative generating capacity of the different energy producers are detailed in the following table, which clearly indicates that the E.C.N, alone accounted for over 80 per cent of the total output.

TABLE 2.1: ELECTRICITY GENERATING CAPACITY IN NIGERIA, 1960-66 (IN MEGAWATTS)

TABLE 2.1: ELECTRICITY GENERATING CAPACITY IN NIGERIA, 1960-66 (IN MEGAWATTS)

Source: Adapted from Ignatius I. Ukpong, “Economic Consequences of Electric Power Failures in the Greater Lagos Area,” Nigerian Journal of Economic and Social Studies, vol. 15, no. l (March, 1973), p. 56, Table 1.

  • 28 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, DM Thompson Manager to Chief Engr. Electricity Undertaking, 16 June 1950.
  • 29 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, Electrical Engineer in Chief to CSG, Comcol, Secretaries, Northern, Western (...)

20With regard to Lagos, several industrial and commercial concerns applied for licences to operate various types of electricity generating plants. West African Fisheries and Cold Storage, for example, applied for a licence in June 1950 to install two 40-kilowatt generating sets “as a standby against breakdown of local electricity supply” and for the firm “to maintain continuous power supply.”28 Although several firms secured the licences to operate their own generating plants, they criticized the clause in the agreement which limited the licence to the periods when the public supply failed. But as the chief electrical engineer admitted, “[p]resent indications are that the Corporation will not be embarrassed by demands for a supply of electricity at all Undertakings, for some years to come.”29

  • 30 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, Comcol to CSG 5 May 1951.

21By May 1951, six licences had been issued to five firms: The Amalgamated Engineering Company Limited; Pauling and Company Limited; A.G. Leventis and Company Limited; The Colonial Development Corporation (W.A.) Limited; and The West African Publicity Limited. The licences permitted them to install generating plants of various models and capacity in their respective workshops and premises.30 The number of licensees increased to eight in 1958, with the addition of the Ikorodu Ceramic Industries and Barclays Bank. Nevertheless, the usage of generators was severely limited to big commercial and industrial concerns and such efforts at private power generation merely supplemented the supply by the E.C.N. It may be concluded that power supply was coming under some strain towards the end of the colonial era; but the situation did not reach crisis proportions, as was to be the case from the mid-1960s. Already, private power generation under licence was becoming fashionable, although only industrial establishments applied for such licences. This contrasted with developments in subsequent decades when generators of all capacities were acquired by private consumers in the face of perennial shortages.

The Post-Independence Era, the 1960s to 2000

  • 31 Ignatius I. Ukpong, “An Analysis of Causes of Power Shortage in Nigeria,” NJESS, vol. 18, no. 1 (M (...)
  • 32 Ukpong, “Economic Consequences,” p. 58.

22The situation outlined above persisted till the mid-1960s when the power supply situation began to deteriorate, leading to severe shortages. “The years 1965 and 1966,” it has been noted, “were among the worst years of power shortage crisis in [pre-civil war] Nigeria.”31 In the Lagos area, scheduled power cuts in 1965 alone occurred 105 times and totalled 97 hours. This was caused by a combination of factors, mainly technical and managerial.32 The General Manager of the E.C.N., Mr. Y. Sun, explained that the largest turbine at the Ijora Power Station C had been defective since 1963. A second roll blade was damaged in 1965 but bad welding when installing new blades caused a reduction in the plant’s generating capacity. In addition, a delay in the commissioning of the new 17,000 kilowatt (KW) plant, a shipping strike in England and a burst boiler at the Ijora Station (which caused a considerable loss of water) compounded the problem.

  • 33 Ibid.
  • 34 Ibid., pp. 58-59

23Compared to the crisis situation of the period 1980-2002, this was mere child’s play; but in the conditions of the 1960s, the unstable electric power supply was unsettling. In any case, there was already a widening gap between demand and supply in the electric power sector. The total installed capacity in the entire country increased by some 82 per cent between 1960 and 1966, whereas the total demand increased by about 215 per cent, owing to an “increasing rate of industrialization.”33 The rising demand for electricity meant that power plants had to be kept running without sufficient routine maintenance and repairs. The resultant breakdown of equipment, cable faults, mechanical fatigue and the inefficiency of maintenance engineers contributed to making power failures in Lagos more frequent in the late 1960s. There was, therefore, a recourse to load shedding of the magnitude of over 800,000 KWH between January and December 1966 alone in metropolitan Lagos. Each load shedding lasted about an hour.34 The economic consequences of the frequent load shedding in the Greater Lagos area have been noted as follows:

  • 35 Ibid., p. 68.

[One] consequence of power failures was dislocation in production programmes
of majority of firms… [Most] firms, unable to meet some orders either deferred or cancelled them. This caused scarcity of such items as cement, beer, soft drinks, textiles, motor and cycle tyres and food products with the resultant price inflation… Inflation in Lagos area was spread to other areas of the country since Lagos was and remains the industrial/commercial hub of Nigeria.35

  • 36 Ukpong, “Analysis of Cause”, p. 110.

24Conditions changed for the better from 1967/68 to 1971/ 72 following the commissioning of the Kainji Dam hydroelectric project. But demand soon overwhelmed supply in spite of the establishment, by decree in 1972, of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). The situation became so critical in 1974 that NEPA had to reactivate some thermal plants which had been phased out when the Kainji hydroelectric project came into operation.36

  • 37 Ibid, p. 119, citing Daily Times (Lagos), 25 May 1972, p.12: “Why There Was No Light.”

25In effect, despite its monopoly of power supply, NEPA failed to meet the demands of consumers, particularly in Lagos. On 20 May 1975, two of the four power stations at Kainji broke down and defied efforts to repair them. This plunged the entire nation into crisis as many industries (the vast majority of which were in Lagos) simply ground to a halt.37 This was a foretaste of what happened in the 1990s and beyond. The following observations about the power supply situation in Nigeria up to 1975 are very revealing:

  • 38 Ibid, p. 120.

The power system in Nigeria has been in frequent power shortage crisis since (the) early 1960’s up to the present. The relief brought by Kainji (First phase) was very temporary, as the capacity of 320 MW was “oversubscribed” in a matter of months by the electric energy hungry consumers. The investment policy of NEPA as to size and timing of power projects has therefore been suboptimal. The net effect has been a continuous pressure of demand on capacity leading to plant breakdowns and consequently a power shortage. The solution calls for an increase in generating capacity with larger generating units.38

26The above comments might as well have been made in 1999 or 2001, given their continuing relevance.

  • 39 See the “Candido” column in Nevi Nigerian (Kaduna), 1 March 1978, for reference to NEPA as “Never (...)

27By the mid-1980s, power supply in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, was so erratic that NEPA was derided as “Never Expect Power Always.”39 This was in view of its failure to meet the stupendous rise in the demand for electricity as indicated in the table below. The number of residential consumers had increased by more than 500 per cent between 1970 and 1987, while consumption had increased eleven times within the same period. The situation reached crisis proportions in the 1990s: entire neighbourhoods could be in complete darkness for months; the more fortunate wards or streets had to put up with “load-shedding,” by which power was rationed to different streets and neighbourhoods at the whims of officials. It is worth stressing that the crisis of the late twentieth century was a culmination of years of neglect or of wrong policies.

TABLE 2.2: PROFILE OF ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION IN LAGOS STATE, 1970-87

TABLE 2.2: PROFILE OF ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION IN LAGOS STATE, 1970-87

Source: Adapted from Margaret Peil, Lagos: The City is the People, London: Belhaven Press, 1991, p. 185, Table 8.3

28As already indicated above, the installed capacity of NEPA generators could not cope with demand. Indeed, the table (table 2.2) shows that power generation in Nigeria, in spite of the multiplicity of power generating plants and locations, has increased only marginally over the years. None of the thermal or hydroelectric plants has been able to make a significant difference to the power supply equation. A profile of power generation in Nigeria between 1959 and 2001 is presented in table 2.3 below.

29Coupled with the great shortfall in power generation has been the problem of distribution. It is generally agreed that this is a major problem that NEPA has not been able to solve. To be fair, many consumers engage in illegal connection, often with the connivance of serving or former employees of NEPA. Moreover, electric cables and poles are routinely damaged by bush burning, domestic fire incidents, rainstorms or vehicle accidents, or stolen by criminals. The costs of replacement generally give rise to delays in effecting repairs and thus prolong the resultant power cuts.

  • 40 Ukpong, “Analysis of Causes,” p. 119, citing E.O. Dumoka, “Electricity Supply in Nigeria” (unpubli (...)

30In addition, NEPA’s policy on the maintenance and replacement of equipment was faulty and remains so. It failed to appreciate that it required four to five years to order, install and commission new plants and that some “lead time” ought to have been allowed for their purchase and installation. In other words, as soon as the Kainji project was commissioned, immediate orders should have been placed for additional equipment in anticipation of wear and tear of the functional ones. Waiting for them to break down before placing orders would, therefore, create a time lag with predictable consequences.40 Furthermore, the organization itself has come to be associated with inefficiency and corruption. Inefficient debt collection, mismanagement of funds, sabotage of equipment by vandals within and outside NEPA, fluctuating water levels at Kainji, and a host of other factors have compounded the Authority’s dismal record. These factors are weighty and require some elaboration.

TABLE 2.3: GROWTH IN THE GENERATING CAPACITY OF POWER STATIONS IN NIGERIA, 1959-2001

TABLE 2.3: GROWTH IN THE GENERATING CAPACITY OF POWER STATIONS IN NIGERIA, 1959-2001

Source: Adapted from Fig la in Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Honourable Minister of Power and Steel, “Developments in the Electric Power Sector,” Paper presented at the 2002 Media Summit on Power, serialised in The Punch, 12 August 2002, pp. 40-41.

  • 41 Professor R.I. Salawu and Professor C.C. Okoro, interviewed on 30 October 2002.

31With regard to the vandalization of NEPA equipment, two Professors of Electrical Engineering lamented that they did not know of any other country in the world, apart from Nigeria, where public property and infrastructural facilities were vandalized.41 While conceding that NEPA had other problems, they lamented the attitude of Nigerians to public property, especially NEPA equipment and installations, a major contribution to its woes. This phenomenon is worrisome and has defied solution. The crime has often been perpetrated directly by serving or retired NEPA employees acting alone or in connivance with others. Vandalization thus reflects a lack of patriotism and attachment to the Nigerian state, the absence of an effective system of sanctions, as well as a national culture of greed and mindless accumulation of wealth.

32NEPA’s dismal record of debt collection is aggravated by the fact that its greatest debtors are government agencies. The Federal, State and Local Government agencies and functionaries, including the military and para-military establishments, have accumulated huge debts running into billions of naira. Attempts to recover such sums of money have been frustrated by the predatory culture of military rule, when the defaulters accumulated debts with impunity. However, unlike the practice during the colonial period, NEPA has not explored the possibility of litigation to recover its debts.

33Mismanagement of funds has been a longstanding feature of the operations of NEPA, like those of other state-owned enterprises in post-independence Nigeria. Regardless of wild fluctuations in the exchange rate and the precipitous fall in the value of the naira, it is clear from the table below that since the era of military rule huge sums of money have been voted in the Federal Government’s annual budgets for capital and recurrent expenditure by NEPA. However, startling revelations from investigations into the activities of high echelon government officials in the Ministries of Power and Steel since the 1970s indicate that most of the funds were never expended as budgeted. Large scale fraud has come to be associated with the energy sector (with the Second Republic Ministry of Steel achieving notoriety as the “Ministry of Steal”!). However, it can also be seen from the table that the greatest outlays were made between 1999 and 2002, albeit when the naira had declined against the US dollar. Whatever impact these will make may not be immediate, given the “time lag” element in such investments.

  • 42 Yomi Odunuga, “NEPA owes N450 bn - Atiku,” The PUNCH, 8 January 2003, p.56; “Makoju on NEPA’s Fund (...)

34NEPA’s woes have been compounded by its worsening debt portfolio. The Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, confirmed that the Authority was carrying a liability of N 40 billion, made up of unpaid loans, accumulated pensions, power purchase liabilities and inter-governmental cross debts.42 This situation has placed NEPA in a most precarious financial position: it is not generating enough funds, owing to poor revenue collection and monumental fraud, and it is caught in a debt trap. Either way it cannot generate or distribute electricity to satisfy the demand of its customers.

35The failure of NEPA to meet the energy requirements of its customers has naturally compelled electricity consumers to resort to various schemes of self-help, such as the use of generators, candles and hurricane lanterns, the importation of which experienced a boom.

TABLE 2.4: FEDERAL BUDGETARY ALLOCATION TO THE ELECTRIC POWER SECTOR, 1973-2001

TABLE 2.4: FEDERAL BUDGETARY ALLOCATION TO THE ELECTRIC POWER SECTOR, 1973-2001

Source: Adapted from Table 2 in Agagu, “Developments in the Electric Power Sector.”

36Note: The exchange rates varied significantly during this period and this factor should be taken into consideration when comparing the respective annual budgetary allocations to the electric power sector.

  • 43 Margaret Peil, Lagos: The City is the People, London: Belhaven Press, 1991, p. 186.

37Although precise figures of importation and distribution in the Lagos area are not readily available, it is clear that several thousand homes had to depend on one or another of these substitutes for NEPA. The use of candles and hurricane lanterns in homes where petrol had been stored during the perennial petrol shortages of the 1990s caused fire outbreaks, leading to the loss of lives and property. One such fire incident at Badiya (Ijora) in 1989, caused by a candle, damaged NEPA equipment to the tune of N5 million and plunged many parts of the city into darkness.43

38Industrial establishments in Lagos have had to operate far below their installed capacities because of the huge shortfall in the power supply. Many industrial enterprises either closed down or relied heavily on power generating units. This raised production costs, which were reflected in the higher prices of local compared to foreign manufactures. Since many of the factories operated below installed capacity, they had to lay off their staff. This had grave social and economic consequences. Many artisanal or small scale enterprises depend on a regular power supply. A large number of these have been forced to fold up. In this category are the barbing/hairdressing, tailoring or fashion designing, welding, panel-beating, electrical and electronics repair enterprises. Not only were the proprietors, employees and apprentices engaged in these enterprises thrown into the labour market, some have taken to crime in desperation. The spate of violent robberies in the late 1990s derived from the high rate of unemployment generated by power shortages.

  • 44 “Enron’s Bankruptcy and Nigeria’s Power Production,” Vanguard (Lagos), 10 December 2001, p. 14.
  • 45 For the latest developments on the supply of electricity to Lagos, see Ayodeji Olukoju, “‘Never Ex (...)

39Consequently, though other parts of Nigeria suffered proportionately, Lagos was worst hit because it contains almost 60 per cent of the country’s industrial establishments and consumes about half of the electric power generated by both official and private means. The attempt by the Lagos State government to enlist the support of independent power generators initially raised hopes but soon generated anxiety when the US giant, Enron, which had been contracted to supplement supply by NEPA, went bankrupt.44 However, a solution was found when another firm took over Enron’s power generating enterprise in Lagos and succeeded in generating power for industrial enterprises. Though this has added to the total generating capacity, it has made little difference, given the rising demand for electricity in Lagos in particular. In any case, the cost of generation and distribution is higher than NEPA’s but the entire experiment in independent power production gives hope that much could still be achieved in this direction given the right conditions. For now, it seems that Lagos will continue to experience load-shedding and regular blackouts in the foreseeable future.45

40This chapter has examined the power supply situation in Lagos and its environs since the inauguration of electric power supply in 1898. Up to the 1950s, supply kept pace with demand; but with the emergence of Lagos as Nigeria’s industrial hub, coupled with the steady rise in the population of consumers, demand clearly outpaced supply. If the situation was manageable up to the late 1970s, it got out of hand as from the 1980s, with the intensification of demand at a time that NEPA equipment were becoming obsolete (and in need of replacement) and budgetary allocations were being diverted. The various hydroelectric (Kainji Dam) and thermal (Egbin, near Lagos, Afam and Oji river) projects failed to stem the tide. The expected intervention of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) has not made any appreciable difference, owing largely to the high cost of power generation, though the use of gas could change the picture for the better. In all, the problems and inadequacies which characterize power supply merely parallel the situation of water supply in Lagos, the subject of the next chapter.

Notes

1 M. Echeruo, Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life, London: Macmillan, 1977, pp. 20-21.

2 NAI. CSO 1/1/13, Denton to Knutsford, 8 June 1891. It shoud be noted that one pound sterling (£) was equivalent to 20 shillings (s), each of which was equal to 12 pence (d).

3 NAI, CSO 1/1/14. Denton to Ripon, 11 October 1893.

4 NAI. CSO 1/1/14, Carter to Ripon 11 December 1893.

5 NAI, CSO 1/1/22, Gov., Lagos, to Chamberlain. 30 June 1897.

6 NAI. CSO 1/1/22, Governor. Lagos to Chamberlain. 23 July 1897. enc. for report on mistakes by DPW and two others, dated 20 July 1897.

7 CSO 1/1/23, Denton to Chamberlain, 29 August 1898.

8 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, “Street Lighting in Lagos,” W. Taylor to Comcol, 26 November 1943.

9 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, L.G. Purkis, Assistant Superintendent of Police to Supt. of Police, 17 December, 1943.

10 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Comcol to Fin. Sec. Lagos, 26 August 1944.

11 National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) Ijora Power Station (Brochure), 1998, pp. 2-4.

12 NAI, Comcol 1 2823, “Ijora Power Station,” Director of Public Works (DPW) to Director of Marine, 4 March 1943.

13 Nigerian Pioneer (Lagos). 25 February 1927, Random Notes & News.

14 NAI, Comcol 1 1424, “Lagos Electricity Supply-Bad Debts,” The Accountant, Electric Light Accounts Branch, Public Works Department (PWD), Lagos to Chief Accountant, PWD, 4 January 1932.

15 Ibid.

16 NAI, Comcol 1 1424, Chief Secretary to the Government (CSG) to Comcol, 15 November 1933; CSG to Comcol, 8 December 1934.

17 NAI, Comcol 1 1424. Comcol to Treasurer. 8 December 1934.

18 NAI, Comcol 1 1424, DPW to Comcol, 3 October 1934.

19 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Commissioner for Lands to CSG, 13 September 1932.

20 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Commissioner For Lands to CSG, 23 September 1932.

21 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Sec. Lagos Town Council (LTC) to Administrator of the Colony (Adcol), 22 August 1932; President, LTC to CSG, 5 October 1932.

22 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, CSG to AdCol., 28 October 1932.

23 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, President, LTC to AdCol. 3 March 1933.

24 NAI, Comcol 1 1532, Ag. Town Engineer to President, LTC, 24 July 1933.

25 NAI, Comcol 1 1170, enc. in Senior Electrical Engineer to DO, 16 February 1948.

published as notices in the newspapers and broadcast on radio. Furthermore, bell ringers or town criers were employed to relay the message to illiterate members of the public.

26 Ignatius I. Ukpong, “Economic Consequences of Electric Power Failuresin the Greater Lagos Area,” Nigerian Journal of Economic and Social Studies (NJESS), vol.15, no. 1 (March 1973), p. 55.

27 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, “Licences Under the Electricity Ordinance (Cap 58),” enc. in CSG to Comcol 18 May 1950; Comcol to The Amalgamated Engr. Co. Ltd.. Lagos 15 July 1950; Comcol to F.H. Newton, Pauling and Co. Civil Engr. Contractors, 15 July 1950.

28 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, DM Thompson Manager to Chief Engr. Electricity Undertaking, 16 June 1950.

29 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, Electrical Engineer in Chief to CSG, Comcol, Secretaries, Northern, Western and Eastern Provinces, 20 July 1950.

30 NAI, Comcol 1 3330/S2, Comcol to CSG 5 May 1951.

31 Ignatius I. Ukpong, “An Analysis of Causes of Power Shortage in Nigeria,” NJESS, vol. 18, no. 1 (March 1976), p. 110.

32 Ukpong, “Economic Consequences,” p. 58.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid., pp. 58-59

35 Ibid., p. 68.

36 Ukpong, “Analysis of Cause”, p. 110.

37 Ibid, p. 119, citing Daily Times (Lagos), 25 May 1972, p.12: “Why There Was No Light.”

38 Ibid, p. 120.

39 See the “Candido” column in Nevi Nigerian (Kaduna), 1 March 1978, for reference to NEPA as “Never Expect Power Always”!

40 Ukpong, “Analysis of Causes,” p. 119, citing E.O. Dumoka, “Electricity Supply in Nigeria” (unpublished), p. 5.

41 Professor R.I. Salawu and Professor C.C. Okoro, interviewed on 30 October 2002.

42 Yomi Odunuga, “NEPA owes N450 bn - Atiku,” The PUNCH, 8 January 2003, p.56; “Makoju on NEPA’s Funding,” Editorial, The PUNCH, 27 January 2003, p. 14.

43 Margaret Peil, Lagos: The City is the People, London: Belhaven Press, 1991, p. 186.

44 “Enron’s Bankruptcy and Nigeria’s Power Production,” Vanguard (Lagos), 10 December 2001, p. 14.

45 For the latest developments on the supply of electricity to Lagos, see Ayodeji Olukoju, “‘Never Expect Power Always”: Electricity Consumers’ Response to Monopoly, Corruption and Inefficient Services in Lagos,’ paper presented at Conference on “The Governance of Daily Life in Africa: Public and Collective Services and their Users,” Leiden, 22-25 May 2002.

Table des illustrations

Titre TABLE 2.1: ELECTRICITY GENERATING CAPACITY IN NIGERIA, 1960-66 (IN MEGAWATTS)
Légende Source: Adapted from Ignatius I. Ukpong, “Economic Consequences of Electric Power Failures in the Greater Lagos Area,” Nigerian Journal of Economic and Social Studies, vol. 15, no. l (March, 1973), p. 56, Table 1.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/829/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre TABLE 2.2: PROFILE OF ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION IN LAGOS STATE, 1970-87
Légende Source: Adapted from Margaret Peil, Lagos: The City is the People, London: Belhaven Press, 1991, p. 185, Table 8.3
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/829/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre TABLE 2.3: GROWTH IN THE GENERATING CAPACITY OF POWER STATIONS IN NIGERIA, 1959-2001
Légende Source: Adapted from Fig la in Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Honourable Minister of Power and Steel, “Developments in the Electric Power Sector,” Paper presented at the 2002 Media Summit on Power, serialised in The Punch, 12 August 2002, pp. 40-41.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/829/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 91k
Titre TABLE 2.4: FEDERAL BUDGETARY ALLOCATION TO THE ELECTRIC POWER SECTOR, 1973-2001
Légende Source: Adapted from Table 2 in Agagu, “Developments in the Electric Power Sector.”
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/829/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k

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