Electricity is one of the major infrastructure required for the socio-economic and technological advancement of every Nation. The electricity demand in Nigeria far surpasses the rate of supply. Indeed, many reasons will account for this predicament, which is often described as epileptic in nature, but this work is concerned with the practical realities of what the situation is today. Nigeria is no were near constant electricity supply and this is despite her vast endowments of enormous quantities of oil, gas, hydro and solar resources. The country has, over the years, failed to adequately meet the average population demand of electricity and in terms of electricity generation, many Nigerians (including companies and industries of all sorts and in all levels), have sadly been constrained to operate their own electricity generating sets, plants and even transformers, to say the least.

It is well known that the total installed capacity of existing generating plants is 11,165.4 MW but the installed available capacity is about 4000MW and this, sadly, is what is typically available for onward transmission to the final consumers – an awfully low and disproportionate percentage when compared to the required national needs of a population of over 204 million people.

The voltage profile of the distribution network since privatization is poor and the billing is inaccurate. In addition to the already failing Distribution Companies (“DISCOS”), there have been reports of DISCOS short-changing the system by paying for only 1000MW and as a result of this, the Federal Government recently issued threats to sanction the Discos on improved quality of power supply; a three months ultimatum was issued to that effect.

Amidst the foregoing challenges, what seems to make the headlines in news and social discourses on the media is the newly proposed Bill by the Senate of Nigeria, the country’s highest legislative body in the National Assembly (NASS), entitled: “Generating Sets Prohibition/Ban Bill 2020” (“the Bill”). The Bill came up for reading for the first time on 11th of March 2020.

Section 1 of the Bill expressly prohibits or bans the importation of Generating Sets into Nigeria. This, the bill explains, is to curb the menace of Environmental (Air) pollution and to facilitate the development of the power sector.
The Bill prescribes at least 10 years imprisonment for any person who knowingly sells generator sets. The Bill, however, excludes the usage of generator sets by essential services only and these “essential services” are restricted to:
• Medical purposes;
• airports, railway stations/services;
• elevators, escalators;
• research institutions; and
• such facilities that require 24 hours electric power supply.
However, an approval for exclusion from the panoply of Nigerians precluded from the use of and importation of generator sets, a person can apply to obtain from the Minister of Power, an approval to use generator sets, subject to certain satisfied criteria, and the Minister who shall brief the Federal Executive Council quarterly on approvals granted.
The Bill further directs the stoppage of the use of electricity generating sets of any capacity which run on diesel, petrol, or /kerosene with immediate effect in the country.
Although quite commendable, the Bill fails to reflect the realities of the various predicaments associated with power supply in the country. More than 70% of businesses and homes in Nigeria Have Diesel/petroleum powered Generators, thus if these businesses become operational for 24 hours it means the major aim of the Bill is defeated ultimately since survival of the citizens will always come first before environmental protection .

Interestingly, there have been some recent innovations in the form of self-powered generators with self-powered engines which provide rotation for the dynamo and generate electricity in china and some other developed countries. Consequently, the Federal Government should encourage the importation of fuel-less generators by companies and industries and grant tax incentives while doing so.
The Bill also does not proffer alternative sources of electricity that will sufficiently augment the ban of Generating Sets as this has been the only alternative and last resort during constant power outage over the years in Nigeria. A ban on importation of Generating Sets will not automatically make electricity supply available. It will rather worsen the already pre mature situation. It is therefore our considered opinion that the Government should be more concerned with improving power supply in Nigeria by resorting to the following measures;
• Deploying the strategy on the provision of roads network in the country (i.e. states and local Government should contribute towards electricity generation, transmission and distribution from their resource allocation) the entire arrangements should be decentralized.
• Developments of independent power plants; most of the existing power plants are over 20 years old and have consequently become inefficient. The Government should encourage the siting of power generating plants by private individuals, firms and industries with tax concessions.
• Resort to Off Grid Electricity: A data released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) towards the end of 2018, shows that the number of people worldwide without electricity has fallen below 1 Billion for the first time in Modern History. Most of the improvements came from India where 400 million people have gained access to electricity since the year 2000. Investments in India have so far focused on large scale Grid connected to wind and Solar Projects. The reports show that if it is to achieve its goal of universal 24-hour electricity by 2022, it will need to incorporate OFF – Grid Methods as well. China on the other hand is reported to have taken 20 years to provide electricity to the remaining 10% of its population without power.

We are forced to ask if this Bill is successfully passed, what will be the fate of private and public sectors who do not fall within facilities that require 24-hour power Supply? What befalls an average Nigerian Household many of which have no means to afford alternative sources of energy?
In light of the insidious and devastating effects that the Bill may engender if it is passed as a law, the Nigerian Senate should reconsider the passage of this Bill, and rather than resort to banning a long term means of survival, they should provide an enabling environment and ways to improve power supply.
The Bill has only sailed through its first reading. We are optimistic that at the end of the legislative process, the National Assembly would have proffered a definite alternative towards increasing power supply in the country and provide a more detailed enactment with respect to the scope of some of its provisions.
Going forward, the way out is not a new Act but a strategic and deliberate step in the right direction to improve the system.

Written by : Isimeme Andrew Esq
Trainee Associate: Nakudu law partners

6 thoughts on “The Generator Prohibition Bill 2020: An Analysis of Its Likely Impact

  1. Beautiful piece. What bothers me till date is why we have existing generating plants of 11,165.4 MW but the installed available capacity is about 4000MW. I mean why can’t we leverage on this and seek to improve the Installed capacity?

    The importance of electricity in this contemporary times cannot be over emphasized so I implore the government to put more effort into making her citizens enjoy steady electricity.

  2. Electricity is the hallmark of every sustainable economy in the world, so the need to address this issue in Nigeria is very sacrosanct.

  3. This is so enlightening. This article has successfully bring up to speed regarding the Prohibition Bill.

  4. How many Nigerian Senators are literate enough to understand the scope of this write up, or understand and participate in the debate while this matter is on the floor ?

    If I may be correct, didn’t the late Chief of Staff return from an energy deal in France, while the Minister for Energy was sidelined.

    We are faced with a situation where square pegs are put in round holes, due to tribalism, nepotism, religious fanaticism, ethnic rivalry, and sentiments in elections.

    Until the nation deals with the realities of living in the 21st Century , by laying a solid foundation for development and growth , we’ll still be going round in circles.

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