Super Bowl Power Outage, Christianne Amanpour Show and the Shame for Nigeria


Few days back, on the Christianne Amanpour show on CNN, a parody of sorts was aired about the Nigerian power situation. A series of tweets sent to her on twitter in response to the thirty-five minute power outage at the Superbowl were also included in the short ‘documentary’.

The inadequate supply of electricity in the country has obviously become an issue of global concern. However, other developed nations have suffered power embarrassments in the past. One of such embarrassments occurred recently in Britain, during a football match between Manchester United and Fulham. This resulted in a ten-minute impasse, during which the technical challenge was solved. Some other instances of power failure are highlighted below:

In July 31, 2012: Three power grids across half of India failed in what authorities called ‘overdrawing of the system’, leaving a record 620 million people without power.

In Nov. 10, 2009: Storms near the Itaipu hydroelectric dam on the Paraguay-Brazil border were blamed for power cuts to as many as 60 million people in Brazil for two to three hours. The entire nation of Paraguay, with a population of 7 million, was also briefly blacked out.

In January-February 2008: Winter storms caused a nearly two-week blackout to about 4 million people around the central Chinese city of Chenzhou. Eleven technicians reportedly died trying to restore power.

In November 2006: A German power company switched off a high voltage line over a river to let a cruise ship pass. It triggered outages for 10 million people in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

In Sept. 28, 2003: A short in a power line in Switzerland led to blackouts affecting 95% of Italy. Some 55 million people were without power for as long as 18 hours.

Aug. 14, 2003: The worst US blackout. Power line problems in the Midwest triggered a cascade of breakdowns that cut power to 50 million people in eight states and Canada, some for more than a day.

July 13, 1977: A lightning bolt knocked out electricity to about 8 million people in New York City. Power wasn’t fully restored until 25 hours later after widespread looting.

Nov. 9, 1965: The Great Blackout left the power out for 25 million people in New York. It inspired the popular film, “Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?”

In light of the above-cited instances, why then was Nigeria the focus of the Christianne Amanpour show? Perhaps, it was due to the persistent nature of our power problem, and also perhaps, this was coupled with the President’s bold statement about effecting changes in the country’s power sector just days earlier. Opinions taken from the streets of Lagos proved that the president had told a bare-faced lied when he claimed that the masses were pleased with the government’s efforts at improving power supply.

Over the years, specifically between 1999 and 2011, a whopping $16 billion has reportedly been spent on the power sector, in order to improve power supply in the country. Ironically, it all appears to be on paper as these efforts have never materialized and Nigerians have persistently lived in abject poverty and darkness.

Is there any end in sight for this persistent national embarrassment? There are alternatives that could be explored in order to achieve a semblance of progress. For example, Brazil now generates 1gigawatt of electricity from wind turbines, sufficient to power around 1.5 million homes and is the first in South America to do so. Currently, 51 wind farms are in operation throughout the Brazilian northeast and southern states and over thirty more are currently under construction, thanks to a number of government incentives which are expected to add an additional $15 billion in clean energy investments — though there still may be a long way to go before its full potential is met. Brazil is now the leading country in the whole of South America when it comes to providing quality services to its citizens. About 95% of the Brazilian populace has access to electricity and they hope by the end of this year, it reaches its maximum peak and is transferred across the entire population.

If only corruption can be set on the sidelines, then Nigeria will achieve a lot more in the areas of justice, power and security. Stable electricity will boosts the economic and social potential, thereby providing an atmosphere that is conducive to investments by foreign stake holders.

I am @el_bonga on twitter.