I woke up this morning to witness the greatest shock of my life. Ghanaians, who for some time now, had had no cause to jubilate because of the harsh economic situations among many other crises were rejoicing and singing praise to the most-high God. Upon investigating, I got to know the cause of this sense of intense euphoria was as a result of the fact that ‘Dumsor”, the canker that seeks to make every Ghanaian return to living in the times where kerosene lamps and fire made out of wood were the only source of power, had finally tired of us and had packed his belongings to leave Ghana for good. He was last spotted at the Kotoka International Airport last Friday evening. Apparently, ‘our good’ friend on reaching the airport made his presence known to all by way of a blackout to announce his presence for about three hours before returning the lights. During that period, some officials, especially those at the departure hall, had to rely on rechargeable lamps to process passenger documents. (How ridiculous is that!)
Kofi, ‘Dumsor’ has taken on a new dimension in Ghana, to the extent of causing blackouts in Ghana’s International Airport. Can you believe the very institutions set up to provide and maintain electricity to all parts of the country are the same organizations that are working tirelessly to make sure ‘Dumsor’ becomes a rigid and integral custom of Ghanaians? The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) have become the Poseidon making sure Ghanaians experience an excruciating odyssey as far as power is concerned. This time around, there is no Athena to help make the journey a little bit bearable.
I remember in 2007, a similar phenomenon occurred and the government at that time had to invest in certain areas and make some hard decisions in order to rectify the situation. But this time around, the current government have failed to rectify the situation due to certain causes that the government and the energy minister claims are too ‘huge’ and would therefore require time to fix.
Currently, there are only three hydro-electric dams in Ghana. These dams, namely the Akosombo dam, Bui dam and the Kpong dam are not functioning properly as a result of a very low water level, and certain mechanical problems on some of the turbines and machines being used. These problems could have been avoided if the dams were maintained on regular basis.
Also, the electricity is produced in the country by the VRA through dams and plants. This electricity is then transmitted by GRIDCO. The produced electricity is later sold by ECG. However, these institutions cannot access the needed capital to maintain their machines or bring in new ones to increase electricity because, the ‘notorious’ ECG is unable to collect all the money they should after selling the power to consumers, hence it generates huge losses to the producers. ECG has succeeded in selling power to certain individuals and companies like the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO), but have failed to collect the money these entities owe them. Kofi, the last time I checked, it was the sole duty of ECG to sell power and collect money for the power they have sold. So if they cannot perform the duties for which they were established, then I wonder why they are still running and why the government had not laid them all away and employed people who are more skillful and competent to execute the duties ECG is to perform. We cannot as a country, keep suffering because certain entities are enjoying power free of charge. And why in God’s name are these entities still enjoying power if they are not paying for it? And Kofi, it is very funny to know that companies like VALCO are the ones who consume the largest percentage of power generated in the country; but for one reason or the other fail to pay for services rendered.
Kofi, it might interest you to know that there is only one solar plant stationed in Navrongo in the Upper East Region of the country. There are however, a series of thermal plants scattered across mostly the Western and Greater Accra Regions. These power plants are not giving us all the power they are supposed to give us because, they are also not functioning well due to unavailability of gas and light crude oil and diesel to power these plants. It is very interesting to know that a country like Ghana still depend on sister countries like Nigeria for gas. So any delay in the sales of gas from Nigeria means Ghana is going to have to embrace our departing brother ‘Dumsor’ until such times when some gas becomes available to power the plants. These plants that are not functioning at their maximum is also plagued with damages and improper functioning because of some mechanical problems. It is indeed sad. Ghana has become like the setting of one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
In the mist of all these problems, investors are also withdrawing from investing in ECG because they have lost faith in the institution, and hence do not want to lose money by investing in a commodity that is not going to yield them any profit.
Kofi, we cannot entirely blame VRA, GRIDCO and ECG for this problem. We as citizens have also contributed in the birth and nurturing of ‘Dumsor’ to become the god reigning over us and dictating to us when to cook, eat, iron our clothes and even when to bath. Some Ghanaians can go to work leaving all their appliances on to consume electricity the entire duration they are away. Other citizens connect wires directly from electricity poles and other concealed sources to their homes. This act is popularly known as the ‘illegal connection’. When they do this, they consume electricity without paying any fee because, these wires are not connected into any ‘meters’ that reads and calculates the amount of power they have consumed. And without these ‘meters’, ECG is not able to identify and track them as people who use electricity and hence, do not tax them to pay for the power they have consumed.
The irregular schedule of power outages and the lack of power in the country has led to the inflation of prices of products, unemployment since businesses are not able to run again, and it has also caused an increase in taxes tariffs.
Cold store owners happen to also be a set of people who are most affected by the power crises. We see in the news how their products go bad and how they have to throw them al away, causing serious losses to the owners. I have heard that the cold store owners are now frying all their chicken to prevent them from going bad.
It is therefore no wonder Ghanaians were jubilating when ‘Dumsor’ made an appearance at the Kotoka International Airport. But the joy of Ghanaians was short lived as in the mist of their joy there was a massive blackout around the Legon – Okponglo area. Upon investigating we were made to understand that our dear ‘Dumsor’ missed his flight and as a result, decided to stay. Poseidon has actually succeeded in making our journey a very difficult one!
PS: ECG has now been sold to PDS (Power Distribution Services, Ghana.
KOFI DZOGBEWU (2017)