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Stepping back in time in Abuja town

January 4, 2009

The thing about relying on things is that you run the risk of being dissapointed. I say risk but what I’m having to get used to here in Nigeria is the guarantee you will be dissapointed!


So, what am I complaining about? The electricity supply. You may have heard the odd joke, or heard people complain about the power issues in Nigeria for various reasons, but until this trip I hadn’t realised just how bad it has gotten. Firstly, the power company is national, currently known as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria – PHCN (literally and a.k.a Please Hold a Candle at Night). It used to be the National Electric Power Authority – NEPA (a.k.a Never Expect Power Always) and it has NEVER been known to be a reliable source of power.


For example, there was a time when you could be confident in major cities that you would have constant electricity supply for most of the day (the fact that it’s not permanent is still a wonder). Now, you’ll be lucky to get 6 hours in a row! So to keep a house running (imagine having no power to a fridge in a hot country for most of the day?!), practically every Nigerian household has a diesel powered generator (global warming is not in the Nigerian popular vocabulary) and added to that, most households are now also investing in Inverters.


So, the power supply in my mother’s house goes like this, you have pre-paid PHCN meter, which usually lasts forever because you hardly ever get any supply from it. When that fails, the inverter kicks in until it’s battery fails, at which point it lets off a high pitched beep until you re-set it (usually at 3am in the morning). When both of those are exhausted (because you need to have a set period of PHCN at the right level of current in order to fully charge the inverter and that hardly ever happens), you end up switching to the generator. The size of the generator needed to power your average household happens to sound like you have a 16 wheel lorry parked outside your front door on full rev.


DESPITE all the above, you still can’t have a constant supply because often the inverter doesn’t have enough current to carry all the products in the house, so if you forget to switch off the AC before you plug in the iron, the whole things switches off. Or, if you find you’ve been on the generator for too long, it might just run out of fuel at about 7pm in the evening, so you’re sat in pitch black, trying to calculate the levels of compensation you would be entitled to if EDF or British Gas took the electric away back in England!


Doesn’t sound too civilised does it?! This isn’t about under-development, it’s about the income generated from people having to find and use alternative power supplies; the inverter business is booming! Practically all major hotels and businesses have given up on PHCN and spend billions on generators and fuel and inverters, you start realising money speaks louder than public well being and reliable infrastructure!


So my first week in Nigeria has not really been all that great! I did manage to go clubbing a couple of times, although my stories of call girls and older men in this town will have to wait for the next blog post!


In the meantime, I know its averaging close to 0 degrees in England……it’s averaging 35 over here, not that I’m bragging or anything!
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