The Nigerian Senate yesterday voted against the temporary ban of generators for a period of five years. The bill was sponsored by Senator Francis Fadahunsi who said he believed a ban was necessary to hasten the creation of more energy solutions for the country.
However, a majority of the senate thought otherwise, hence the rejection of the suggestion. This position betrays the fact that perhaps among the ruling class there is a clear understanding that bans are not always the most effective solution to the problems we encounter as a nation and this is clear to those who are in power.
It is high time, the Nigerian government turned away from slamming bans or debating them at every turn and focused more on creating markets and policies that will drive competition. The government has not done much in creating a favourable market for electricity in Nigeria and that is why DisCos do not make enough profits and the sector is generally not appealing to investors.
Often, bans have effects and these effects are usually not so pleasant. Recently the popular Quick service Restaurant, Chicken Republic, experienced a shortage of chicken as a result of border closure. Bans are expensive and have real consequences. Aside the unpleasant effect and unnecessary hardship that they come with, they are expensive to enforce. So often we have seen the Nigerian Customs Service request for billions of Naira to buy border patrol vehicles and arms to make such banned goods do not come into the country. However, despite the efforts, our borders have remained porous.
Rather than trying to enforce a border closure that, according to the member of the Federal House of representatives representing the President’s own constituency, is unenforceable, government needs to focus on providing the right infrastructure to power industry and to ensure that goods and services produced in this economy are able to move seamlessly and with speed. Nations like China have come to be dominant players in global manufacturing for the reason that they built infrastructure that attracted foreign investors and trade partners.
The whole import and export debate has been reduced to a straight line exchange, which it is not; foreign trade is a complex phenomenon that goes beyond just shipping goods between nations. India for instance is a net importer of crude oil and at the same time a net exporter of refined petroleum products. As a nation, our biggest problem has remained our inability to add value to our natural resources especially petroleum, making Nigeria a net importer of refined petroleum which we keep artificially cheap, providing incentive for smugglers to ship it to neighbouring countries, while the government that is low on earnings and high in debt continues to insist on paying to subsidize it. India has mastered the art of value addition; Nigeria should do the same.
In tackling the real issues associated with poor power supply in the nation, the government should look into alternative power supply, and create strong markets for the electricity industry to thrive.