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Are there ‘100 million generators in private hands’ in Nigeria?

South Africa has been experiencing frequent blackouts, radio host claims Nigeria has 100 million generators in private hands.

This article is more than 5 years old

During a “special open line” segment on his popular morning radio show, 702 host Bongani Bingwa asked South Africans to suggest solutions to the country’s frequent power blackouts instead of “foaming at the mouth”.

“Nigeria, I’m told, has 100 million generators in private hands,” Bingwa said in March 2019.

South Africa’s troubled power utility Eskom describes the scheduled outages – known locally as load shedding – as “a measure of last resort” to prevent a countrywide collapse of the electricity grid.

Problems with electricity supply in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, are well documented. But does the country have that many privately owned generators?   

Figure from solar energy company?

Africa Check contacted the show for the source of the presenter’s figures. “Bongani said he was told this information by a friend of his who works in Nigeria, who got his information from a presentation made by solar energy solutions company, Lumos,” a producer told us.

After weeks of reaching out to Lumos, they told us they were “not familiar” with the presentation.

Without any reference data, we searched for available figures on generators owned by Nigerians.

Billions spent on generator imports

In 2018, Nigerians spent about N145 billion (US$477 million based on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s official exchange rate of N306 to the dollar) to import all types of generators.

This is according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s official data agency. But it does not say how many units were imported.

The agency does not have specific numbers on this, Abdulhaviz Adekunle of the macro-economics statistics department told Africa Check.

Adenkule directed us to the 2015/16 General Household Survey-Panel researched with the World Bank.

The survey sampled 4,581 households nationally from August 2015 to April 2016. Some 31.8% said they owned generators.

Multiplying this share by the country’s total households would give the closest estimate of how many generators Nigerians own, Adekunle said.

But Nigeria’s population is sharply disputed. The last official count was in 2006 and showed an estimated 28 million regular households.

No data from Energy Commission

The Energy Commission of Nigeria is the state agency responsible for developing the country’s energy supply.

But it hasn’t researched the number of generators in Nigeria, senior agency official Okon Ekpenyong told Africa Check.

“It would be hard to get the data and involves a lot of work. We do not have data on this claim,” he said.

“Before you can confidently say there are 100 million generators in private hands, one would need to support it with evidence.”

‘Many Nigerians’ resort to generators

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, which regulates energy supply in the country, are yet to reply to our query on whether they have this data.

What was not in doubt was that inadequate supply from the national grid meant many Nigerians have had to resort to generators, Oluremi Akindele told Africa Check.

He is a senior lecturer in the department of urban and regional planning at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.

Conclusion: No reliable data to verify if Nigeria has 100 million generators in private hands

South Africans should make the best of a bad electricity solution, a popular radio host said during a recent bout of power outages.

Generators were one option, 702 radio’s Bongani Bingwa said, adding that Nigeria had 100 million generators in private hands.

Electricity supply is a challenge in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, leading many to turn to generators. But we could find no reliable data that there are this many generators in the country.

We therefore rate the claim as unproven.

Additional reporting by Lee Mwiti

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