Electric power production in Nigeria started as far back as
1896 when electricity generation began in Lagos. This was about 15 years after
it was first produced worldwide. The total production capacity of the
generators then was 60KW. The first electric company for the public was however
established in 1929 (Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission NERC). It was
known as the Nigerian Electricity Supply Company (NESCO). From that point until
the 1950s, the pattern of electric power development in Nigeria as a whole, was
unorganized with various independent power plants in different towns and cities
across the country. These power plants were built by the Public Works Department
(PWD), a prominent example being the construction of a hydroelectric power station
at Kuru near Jos, among others. Electricity supply at this time was mainly for
government offices and quarters as well as for the very influential.
In 1950 in order “to integrate electricity power development
and make it effective”, the then-colonial government passed the ECN ordinance
No. 15 of 1950. This act led to the establishment of the Electricity Company of
Nigeria (ECN) in 1951. The ECN was established to make electricity available to
members of the public who were willing and able to pay for it. The first 132KV
transmission line was then constructed in 1962, it linked Ijora Power Station
in Lagos to Ibadan Power Station (nigeriaelectricityhub.com).
In 1962, another body the Niger Dam Authority (NDA) was
created. The NDA was charged with the construction and maintenance of dams
across Nigeria especially in the River Niger region. The NDA back then was seen
as the spear head of hydroelectricity in Nigeria. This was due to the fact that
the then Nigerian government saw hydropower as the main source of electricity
in Nigeria. The electricity produced by the NDA was sold to ECN for
transmission, distribution and sales at various consumer levels.
In 1972, this dynamic between the NDA and the ECN came to an
end as they were merged to become the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA)
with effect from 1st April 1972 (wikipedia.org).The merger however
was delayed until 6th January 1973 when the first general manager
was appointed. The reason for the merger was more efficient and effective
system where one body was vested with the responsibility of producing and
distributing power across the entire country. In effect, NEPA enjoyed the
monopoly of the entire Nigeria power sector. At that time all other
organisations were excluded from the commercial production of power.
Following the merger of the NDA and the ECN to form NEPA,
the new body (NEPA) started diversifying beyond hydroelectricity to other forms
such as diesel powered plants, gas powered plants and coal. In the 1970s and early
to mid-1980s NEPA provided a relatively stable supply as most of its plants
were relatively new and working. This was also because many rural communities
were not connected to the National Grid hence the demand for power was
relatively low. In addition, during the third national plan NEPA increased its
generating capacity leading to what many would call the golden age of NEPA.
These positives were short lived however as towards the end of the 1980s the
authority (NEPA) would be going through technical under-performance.
The first decline of NEPA in this period, was due to the
steady neglect of the power plants. Very little or no effort was made to ensure
maintenance of these power plants hence the conditions of many of them decline.
In between 1985-1987, for instance there was a loss of over 1000 megawatts as several
generating units in the Kainji Dam, Afam and Ughelli power stations were faulty.
This situation of decline was worsened by the fact that the military
governments of that period did not add a single power plant to the number of
existing ones despite a growing population. This growing population led to an
increase in the demand for electricity as production levels dropped to as low
1,500 in 2000. This declining trend continued until the Olusegun Obasanjo