Nigerian Universities Cannot Afford an Imminent Blackout!

By Paul Agada

                                                                     Source: Dailypost. ng

The Nigerian university education sector is constantly confronted with challenges that threaten the quality of its products. The latest is a looming blackout following the increase in nationwide electricity tariffs. 

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, had during an interview with UNILAG SUN in February hinted at a possible blackout in many of the higher institutions over the hike in electricity tariff by the power distribution companies.

Generally, poor power supply has been regarded as an endemic challenge for Nigeria. For many, a stable supply of power is considered a luxury; while some others would receive it with suspicion.

According to World Bank’s Nigeria Power Sector Recovery Programme report, “78% of Nigerians have less than 12 hours daily access of power supply and up to 58% of electricity consumers are unmetered.” 

In Nigeria, tertiary education institutions such as the University of Lagos (UNILAG) make up a part of the 22% minority that previously boasted more than 12 hours daily access to power supply. 

However, after the Nigeria Electricity Regulation Company implemented an increase in electricity tariff last September, the model of power supply in the university community was deemed unsustainable. As a result, the management of UNILAG resorted to a power-sharing model to cut cost.

A general observation on the state of public tertiary education in Nigeria has been the apparent and steady decline of quality. In the same vein, the fallouts of a blackout and extended period of poor power supply in these universities are detrimental and capable of dealing fatal blows to efforts aimed at improving the standards of public tertiary education in the country.

Undoubtedly, an irregular supply of power in universities will cripple the delivery of quality lectures, research and innovation, students’ ability to read or practise what they have been taught. Given this challenge, the government and the public tertiary institutions across the country must unite to resolve this issue. 

This move is necessary because the factors behind the hike in electricity tariff will not be resolved in the foreseeable future because they require long-term planning. Primary among these factors is the government’s need to cut down on subsidies in the wake of a decline in revenue generated from crude oil.

The Federal Government had introduced the ‘Energizing Education Programme’ in 2019 to provide a stable power supply for 37 federal universities and seven University Teaching Hospitals across Nigeria.

The project was created to provide an independent power plant, upgrade existing distribution infrastructure, street lighting to improve security on university campuses and develop a world-class training centre on renewable energy for each university.

More than ever, the Federal Government needs to ensure the speedy implementation of this project to forestall a blackout in universities. In the same vein, state governments need to partner with the federal government to ensure that the project is expanded to state universities.

Similarly, the Federal Government must invest in education and provide funds and infrastructural support that will spur innovation among academics and students. Also, the various universities must dedicate themselves to research aimed at providing solutions to this common challenge.

The universities should also prioritise improving their internal revenue generation capacity as this would provide them with the financial capacity to diversify their energy sources with a particular interest in renewable energy. 

The private sector and alumni associations must equally contribute to tackling this challenge. Independent Power Producers in the private sector should explore partnerships with academics to improve the state of electricity in these schools. Alumni associations in these schools could either facilitate partnerships or invest in the necessary infrastructure to facilitate independent power projects on our campuses.


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