Nigeria has been facing widespread energy poverty despite having abundant energy resources, according to a report released by the International Center for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED).

According to a report released to the press by ICEED executive director, Ewah Eleri, at the premises, 15 million households have no access to electricity grid while 72% of the population depends on traditional firewood for cooking. The report comes at a time after the identification of the needs, opportunities, problems and solutions of the majority of poor people. This gave way and Christian Aid Nigeria the impetus to lead a campaign for an ambitious plan of action to solve the energy problems of Nigeria’s poor.

The new report noted that rural electrification has fallen outside the policy radar. In the past, Nigeria embarked on an ambitious rural electrification programme started in 1981. The goal at the time was to connect all local government headquarters to the national electricity grid. Today, the government gives very little priority to the role of rural electrification in lifting people out of poverty.

The report decried the lack of political will ensuring that energy reaches the majority rural poor. “There is lack of energy access for the poor people to generate wealth, be healthy and build their livelihoods”, Eleri said.

He warned that access to energy services is declining in Nigeria. “Should this trend continue, 28 million Nigerians will by 2030 be without grid electricity, and 189 million will be dependent of fire wood for cooking. This will be disastrous for human development and will pose a threat to our environment”, Eleri said.

Asked by the press how the death of women is linked to cooking with firewood, Eleri referred to the World Health Organization report which showed many Nigerians dying of smoke. Nigeria is ranked number three in the world and number one in Africa with smoke related deaths, especially diseases like red eyes, heart and respiratory complications.

“This is scandalous that a country with a large and fast growing economy has the poorest number of people in Africa”, he said. He insisted that Nigeria can do something about the energy problem. Eleri compared Nigeria to South Africa. After apartheid, only 34% of South Africans have access to the grid despite having 40,000MW installed capacity. It took the ANC government ten years to bring this figure to over 80%.

The report further cites weak agencies that have not showed clear leadership towards universal access to both power and clean cooking energy, non implementation of agreed polices, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, and no clear service delivery model for expending energy access.