Abuja SMEs in distress – The Sun Nigeria – Daily Sun

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Isaac Anumih and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The poor power situation and fuel scarcity currently afflicting the country seem to reanimate the late Afrobeat Maestro, Fela Anikulapo’s song, “Suffering and Smiling.”
Many residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, have continued to count their losses, following the unending fuel scarcity and power blackout. Salihu Musa is an motorcycle (okada) rider plying between Nyanya and City College in Karu.
He said although he now charges N300 for a trip that used to be N150 and his daily returns have quadrupled, he would rather have normalcy than go through the harrowing experience at the filling station to buy petrol: “Petrol scarcity in Nigeria is no longer funny.”
But for Adamu, a vegetable seller who is now a roadside petrol seller, fuel scarcity is a blessing in disguise. He makes more money daily by selling petrol in jerry cans, compared to what he was making as a vegetable seller.
The prolonged electricity and fuel crises have brought the economy to its knees. Badly affected are the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating skeletally or completely out of business.
The power crisis, which began in January started with the low generation of electricity, leading to grid collapse. Giving reasons for the nationwide blackout, Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, said one of the causes was low water level in the dams, which rendered the hydro plants ineffective. He added: “The gas plants cannot function because the gas companies have refused to sell gas to the generation companies (GenCos) because of accumulated debts.”
In the last three months, about 14 gas-powered generating stations were either not generating at all or had limited generation at various times within the period. This further depleted the quantum of power available for transmission into the grid on a daily basis.
Power generating stations in Nigeria include Omotoso units 5 and 6; Olorunsogo units 3, 4 and 6; Omoku units 3 and 6; Omotoso National Independent Power Plant (NIPP) units 3 and 4; Delta units 15, 17, and 18; Afam VI units 11 and 12; Olorunsogo NIPP unit 3; Ihovbor NIPP unit 2; Sapele Steam unit 3; Sapele NIPP unit 1; Odukpani NIPP units 1 and 3 and Okpai units 11, 12 and 18.
Within the same period, Jebba Hydro and Shiroro Power Generating stations were either out or had limited generation. This caused additional loss of 232MW from the grid, while other power generating plants, such as Omotoso units 3 and 4; Olorunsogo units 1; Delta units 10 and 20; Afam VI unit 13;  Ihovbor NIPP units 4;  Geregu NIPP units 22 and 23 and Odukpani NIPP units 2, 4  and  5, have also been out either as a result of a fault or for scheduled maintenance, causing a further loss of about 3,180MW from the grid.
A combination of the above scenarios has persisted and the total effect on the grid is persistent low generation, which the authorities have grappled with since the beginning of the year. The economy has been at the receiving end of this inefficient management of the system.
Thousands of SMEs have closed shops due to lack of power and fuel scarcity. Those still operating are doing so at a very huge cost, making the Kwara/Kogi states chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Bioku Rahmon, to cry out over loss of jobs and mass closure of companies.
He warned of a looming mass unemployment “if companies are forced to close down due to high operational costs.” He sought urgent intervention from government and relevant authorities in both petroleum and electricity sectors.
Some operators spoke with Daily Sun. Hajia Maimuna Aliyu operates a cold room for “pure water” sellers:
“Most people doing this business have stopped because of high operating costs. For over three months now, we have been using electricity to power our cold room. We have resorted to buying fuel from black market. This is affecting the cost of the business and it is eating deep into our profits.
“I am still in the business because there is no other business I can do now. Many people doing the same business have closed shop. This business is a family business and it is from here that we feed. Some of us that have alternative businesses have left.”
A man who vulcanises along Nyanya Road, Matthew Ige, said he increased the price of pumping and patching tyres because he had to buy petrol at a high cost. Instead of closing shop, he had to increase the cost of pumping one tyre from N50 to N100 and the cost of patching tyres from N200 to N300.
“To remain in business, we just have to increase the cost of pumping and patching tyres because we have to buy fuel at a high cost (from black market). The business is becoming very tough that we cannot but increase prices.”
Commuters complained of poor power supply and high cost of fuel.
Oluchi Martha, frozen food seller, said: “Everything in my cold room is now in a very bad condition because there is no light to freeze them. The worse is that most stations don’t sell in jerry cans.”
Franklin Akor, is a dry cleaner in Kuje: “The condition is so terrible now. This is not a kind of business that you will wait for customers before putting on the generator. Once there is no light in the shop, they assume that you are not there.  Life is becoming unbelievable because one can hardly feel well because of this poor electricity supply and scarcity of petrol in the country.
“Even our health is in danger. It is increasingly becoming unbearable to sleep at night because of the heat. One has to manage the water available. Poor electricity supply has affected that as well.”
Ijeoma Obi, a beer parlour operator in Kubwa, Liberty Junction, described the light situation as bad and worrisome: “This poor electricity supply has really affected my business because nothing to chill my drinks. Even if I want to use the generator, fuel is very expensive and most stations don’t even sell in jerry cans.”
A hairstylist, Bose, in Dutse Alhaji, said: “The electricity situation at Dutse Alhaji is pathetic. Before, we used to enjoy electricity supply for up to 16 or 20 hours per day. Now it is terrible to the extent that sometimes we don’t have for a whole day. The situation is very terrible because most of my customers prefer to make their hair when there is light because it is cheaper.
“We are appealing to the AEDC to give us light so that we can work because it is really affecting the welfare of our families. We will also be grateful if they can give us at night, even if it is for three hours, as we have not slept with light for about a month plus now.”
Mama Tee runs a grocery shop in Jabi. She blamed the on-and-off electricity supply for the damage done to her deep freezer. While she was still thinking about how much she would spend fixing the deep freezer, the N100,000 worth of meat she had bought for sale got bad.
She also lost about 18 kilograms:
“The freezer will cost me a lot of money to repair. I am just waiting to see if the light becomes more stable before I pay for the repairs.
The situation has affected me so much.”
The situation, however, is to the advantage of phone charging operators. They confessed to making brisk business. One of the operators in Lugbe, Emeka Charger, said: “If not because of the weather at night, which makes it difficult for us to sleep well, I would have prayed for it to continue.
“If I tell you what I have made these past few weeks, you won’t believe it. It has really favoured me. If it continues like this in the next two months, my business will not remain the same.”
The situation did not spare media houses. One week after HOTFM Abuja cut down its hours of operation due to high cost of diesel and poor electricity supply, WFM 91.7 followed suit. Diesel now sells for between N650 and N800 per litre.

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© 2019 The Sun Nigeria – Managed by Netsera.
© 2019 The Sun Nigeria – Managed by Netsera.

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