The Incessant trend of depriving communities of electricity supply is on an increase. Majority of these communities are within the rural/sub-urban areas of their states. These communities have either been isolated from supply for years or electricity infrastructure is yet to get to them. The number of years spent without electricity supply varies from one community to another. This period of isolation ranges from 2 years to 17 years and beyond in few cases. There is also the category of rural communities that are yet to receive electricity supply since their existence, while others who might have attempted to get connected to the grid, are long abandoned due to non-completion or usage of the electrification project by designated authorities.
Residents of the affected communities have adapted with the present day realities of no access to electricity supply, and have in-turn adopted different means of survival. There is no doubt that this has had a great impact on the social and economic well-being of the inhabitants of these communities and hinder the growth and expansion of various businesses.
In an attempt to savage the situation, some communities have resulted in making contributions, others make appeals to their elected representatives. Although customers have been advised by their franchised distribution companies not to make any form of payment for repairs, maintenance or installation of distribution equipment. On the other hand, the distribution companies would advice their customers to clear their debts in order to facilitate the response from the distribution company. In most cases, until the debts are cleared supply is not restored.
Similarly, those make their appeals to their elected representatives have also faced their own fair share of challenges. Those who get their projects inaugurated, might not get to see their projects commissioned and fully functional.
The Federal Government of Nigeria had in 2015, drafted out plans to expand access to electricity as rapidly as possible in a cost-effective manner through the Rural Electrification Strategy Implementation Plan (RESIP) of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). Conversely, REA in 2017, made a count of 1600 abandoned electrification projects across the 36 states of the federation, and claimed the projects were not completed because they were not adequately funded.
RURAL ELECTRIFICATION AGENCY’s STANCE
The Rural Electrification Agency whose sole mission is to provide access to reliable electric power supply for rural dwellers had made it clear that rural/sub-urban populations are eager to get access to electricity, but it is not clear that their demand and willingness to pay for the services, as envisioned, will be forthcoming. Often rural communities believe it is the responsibility of government to provide highly subsidized infrastructure services, such as electricity.
On the issue of abandonment of electrification projects, the agency had made it known that almost all the abandoned projects are grid expansion projects and rural electrification projects. Many of them even after completion may not be put to any meaningful use as they would have no reliable source of power supply.
REASONS FOR LONG-ABANDONMENT/ISOLATION
There are quite a number of reasons while these communities stay in prolonged darkness without immediate response. They include;
- FUNDING – The financial cost of rural electrification projects are usually cumbersome. In debt study and analysis are not effectively carried out before the commencement of these projects, hence it leads to abandonment at different stages of completion.
- VANDALISM – Some communities have been in prolonged darkness due to the act of vandals on distribution and sub-distribution stations. The replacement of the stolen electricity equipment usually takes “forever”.
- EMBEZZLEMENT OF ELECTRICITY BILLS – In most rural communities, residents are expected to pay their bills to designated persons, who in turn remit their money to the franchised distribution company. There have been many cases of embezzlement of money meant to pay the electricity bills of the community by the designated persons, and this would result in high electricity debt and hence isolation of the community on the grounds of high debt.
- DISCOs – It is now the latest trend that electricity goes to the highest bidder. The DISCOS are in business to make money and hence the economic viability of any project is consider before being undertaken. Interestingly, a business minded person would argue that it should not be an aberration for the DISCOs to decide who or the locality they choose to serve as effective distribution of power is determined by returns on investment.
- DECAY IN ELECTRICITY INFRASTRUCTURE – The unwillingness of designated authorities in-charge of replacing worn out distribution equipment is a major issue.
THE NEED FOR ELECTRICITY IN THE AFFECTED COMMUNITIES
The need for these communities to get access to electricity supply cannot be over-emphasized. The presence of electricity supply in any community comes with social and economic benefits. They include;
- Reduced isolation of communities in terms of telecommunication
- Increased productivity as activities would not only be streamlined to daylight
- Improvement in access to health care
- Improvement in safety of residents
- Increased commercial activities
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In line with the incremental power policy of the Minister of Works, Power and Housing and the increased power generation recently experienced in the power sector, it would be fair if this should cut across all communities, towns villages and even hamlets. Concerned authorities should discuss and find lasting solutions to these problems. Let the duties of the stakeholders (DISCOs, Communities, Elected Representatives, REA) be clearly stated, and be followed to the latter.
People tend to wonder how ballot papers and voting materials can get into the most interior part of some communities where electricity is yet to get. Most political aspirants have turned this epileptic situation into political manifestos. This is a trend that should end.