Nigeria’s electricity consumers expressed dissatisfaction on Wednesday over the export of approximately N23.13 billion worth of electricity to neighboring countries in 2022, despite the widespread power outages experienced in many Nigerian communities.
According to recent data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in Abuja, Nigeria continued to export electricity to the Republics of Benin and Niger and specific special customer categories. The total value of exported electricity in 2022 was $50.98 million (equivalent to N23.5 billion at the official exchange rate of N461/$ last year). However, international customers only remitted $32.69 million, equivalent to N15.1 billion.
This indicates that $18.29 million, or N8.4 billion, was not remitted during that period. As the power sector regulator reported, the unique customers also failed to pay N792.6 million in the same period.
Although officials from NERC and other power sector agencies explained Nigeria’s power export despite the inadequate domestic supply, electricity consumers strongly opposed this decision.
Uket Obonga, the National Secretary of the Nigeria Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network, criticized the move, highlighting the high number of Nigerians without access to electricity compared to other countries. He questioned the economic sense of exporting a scarce commodity that is desperately needed by the Nigerian people and expressed bewilderment at the decision-makers behind this choice.
Regarding the remittances made by special/cross-border customers in the fourth quarter of 2022, NERC provided updates. Transcorp-SBEE and Mainstream-NIGELEC received invoices of $3.44 million and $5.5 million, respectively, from the Market Operator (MO) and made remittances of $0.93 million (27.04%) and $5.44 million (98.9%), respectively. However, Paras-SBEE and Odukpani-CEET did not make any remittances against their invoices.
Similar patterns were observed in previous quarters, where some international customers still needed to remit the total amount. These customers’ non-settlement of market obligations raised concerns and called for the activation of safeguards to address remittance shortfalls.
NERC stated that the export of electricity to neighboring countries was based on existing agreements and obligations that Nigeria had to fulfill. While senior government officials had previously explained the electricity exports, some critics argued that the exportation contradicted Nigeria’s ability to pay for its electricity supply and suggested possible corruption.
In August of the previous year, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) justified the export of electricity, stating that it provided an opportunity to earn foreign exchange for national development. The Managing Director of TCN, Sule Abdulaziz, explained that Nigeria had been exporting electricity to Niger, Benin, and Togo under a country-to-country arrangement. Abdulaziz emphasized that the regional market would enable power export to more West African countries, which TCN’s transmission infrastructure would facilitate.
It remains a debate whether the export of electricity from Nigeria is a beneficial strategy or if it should prioritize meeting the energy needs of its citizens, especially considering the significant number of Nigerians lacking access to electricity.