Four months after the Senate had rejected a resolution to temporarily ban the importation of generators, the Senator representing Niger South, Alhaji Bima Enagi, last Wednesday introduced a bill that sought to ban the importation of generators in Nigeria.
Titled “A bill for an Act to prohibit/ban the importation of generating sets to curb the menace of environmental (air) pollution and to facilitate the development of the power sector,” it prescribes, at least, 10 years imprisonment for any person who knowingly sells generator sets.
But it also states that the ban excludes generating sets used for essential services, especially for Medical purposes (hospitals and nursing homes and healthcare facilities), airports, railway stations/services, elevators (lifts), escalators, research Institutions and facilities that require 24 hours electric power supply.
It also notes that “Approval for exclusion shall, however, be obtained from the Minister in charge of Power, who shall brief the Federal Executive Council quarterly on approvals granted.”
The bill further directs “all persons to stop the use of electricity generating sets which run on diesel/petroI/kerosene of all capacities with immediate effect, in the country.”
“This bill seeks to ban the importation and use of generating sets (generators) in the country and to curb the menace of environmental pollution which leads to potential health hazards it poses to the whole nation.”
The law makers are expected to debate on the details of the bill on another legislative day.
Meanwhile, in their haste to expedite action on the bill, the Senators seem not to care about the facts on ground as regards the generation and distribution of electricity in Nigeria. For example, in the middle of 2019, electricity power generation dropped from 4,000 megawatts to 2,039 MW. On April 25, 2019, there was a total shutdown of Egbin, Omotosho, Olorunsogbo and Papalanto Power Stations. Generally, there has been a decline in power supply to Nigerian households to 37 per cent in first quarter of 2019, from 42 per cent obtained in fourth quarter of 2018. It dropped consistently from 46 per cent in January to 35 per cent in February and to 30 per cent in March 2019.
This is why the bill is a shocker. Yes, generator use has reached pandemic proportions such that even the nation’s electricity generating, distribution and transmission companies use generators.
It is also true that the import of generators gulps a large chunk of import bills in Nigeria. Also, the noise pollution from generators is horrendous both for the lungs and the ears.
But what is the cause of the pandemic use of generators and its concomitant negative effects? It is the epileptic public power supply in the country. The reality is that without the generators, the Nigerian economy would have collapsed as businesses depend on it for survival. Every institution, public or private, including the tailors, barbers, restaurants, drink parlours depend on the generators for power supply. This is why generators have become a necessary evil.
The Senate bill may be well-intentioned but it is premature. We must first address the unreliable public power supply before we start thinking of enacting a bill to ban generators. In a country where the national grid collapses at will, without these generators, what remains of the economy would have collapsed as well.