THE Ekiti East Local Government Area (LGA) of Ekiti State is among the areas that have not seen grid electricity for some years in Nigeria.
The Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), which supplies light to the state, cut the LGA off the national grid for over seven years due to unresolved conflict, putting its people in total darkness.
Efforts by the LGA and the state government to restore power to the area have since failed, as the outage unleashes massive blows on socio-economic activities in the LGA, writes The ICIR’s Marcus Fatunmole.
Residents of Ekiti East Local Government Area of Ekiti State said the LGA had been cut off from the national grid since 2014, making the area remain in darkness for over seven years.
Affected communities include Araromi-Ugbesi, Ahan, Omuo-Oke, Araromi-Oba, Ikun-Araromi, Ilasa, Eda-Ile, Omuo, and Isinbode, among others.
A two-term senator representing Ekiti South, Biodun Olujimi and Olufemi Bamisile, representing Emure/Gbonyin/Ekiti East in the House of Representatives, are from the LGA.
The ICIR reporter saw the former Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) office in Omuo, a two-storey building at Iworo, along Isinbode Road, converted to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) office.
Many of the transformers in the LGA have been overgrown with weeds.
The absence of power supply has crippled businesses, even though some people have switched to solar power and use power generating sets.
Many residents said they could not afford solar power to run their businesses; a few mounted the device on their rooftops to provide light at night.
There are also solar-powered street lights across different parts of the local government.
The ICIR’s check showed that many homes in the area use solar power.
Solar power lights are in different categories, selling from about N2,000 to millions of naira.
The smallest and cheapest forms of the device have in-built bulbs producing light after users keep them in the sun.
Medium solar power products can charge phones and power customised fans and bulbs, while big and costliest ones are strong enough to pump water, power fridge, television and other gadgets in homes and offices.
The use of power generating sets has been minimal because of fuel costs in the LGA.
Over a dozen people interviewed said many youths had left the area because of a lack of power supply.
They left for other parts of the state or the country where they could see the light to conduct their businesses or plan their lives better.
Businesses such as fish selling, hotels, bars and restaurants, barbing, point of sale (POS), laundry and welding suffer due to the power crisis.
The problem also affects services in public and private organisations, including banking.
For instance, the general hospital, local government secretariat, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office and the Omuo-Oke Divisional Police Headquarters are among the institutions in the LGA that run on solar power and power generating sets.
Apart from crippling services in those organisations, especially hospitals, a lack of power supply discourages staff from coming to work, many workers who spoke in confidence said.
Staff at the General Hospital, Omuo-Oke, said the facility ran on power generating set and solar power, making it difficult to operate optimally.
Until last year when the hospital got a solar-powered cold room from a donor, there was no way to preserve vaccines and other drugs needing cooling systems.
The hospital uses formalin – a chemical – to ‘dry’ corpses in its morgue, says one of the hospital workers.
“You can imagine a hospital telling patients to come with jerrycans of water when coming because there is no water at the hospital,” the worker told The ICIR when explaining how not feasible it is to use fuel to pump water.
When the reporter called the hospital’s Medical Director, identified as Dr Ojo, to confirm the claims, he told the reporter to call back.
He eventually rejected the reporter’s calls, after the reporter had explained the issues to him.
Parties speak on cause of power outage
Reasons adduced by many residents of the LGA differ from what power firms said was responsible for the outage.
The people said the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) had supplied power to the LGA. Rather than pay the AEDC, they paid the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) because Ekiti State was under the BEDC’s jurisdiction.
They said the BEDC insisted they pay the power company having jurisdiction over them.
States under the AEDC are Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The BEDC supplies Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo State.
A chief, Olufemi Daramola is the Alage II of Omuo Ekiti. The lawyer who is in his eighties is among the residents who said the issue of jurisdiction of power supply and payment for services by the LGA was responsible for the crisis.
He said he still received a monthly bill of N17,000 from the BEDC despite not having the electricity supply for over seven years.
The Alage procured solar power worth over one million naira to use in his home and runs his water factory on fuel.
Replacing each of the four batteries for his solar power costs him about N250,000 when they become weak.
Because of the lack of power supply, the lawyer’s three houses, which he built for rent in his community, are unoccupied.
He called for a sustainable and immediate solution to the crisis.
We’ve done our part to get power supply – Olujimi
The LGA has done its part to get light, Olujimi said.
“We’ve done what we should do. We changed all the transformers. We repaired those that needed repair.
“We’ve been able to pay part of the money they said the community owed. But BEDC said unless they got approval from Federal Executive Council to improve the currents, they would not give us anything.
“They said they didn’t have enough power to distribute. So, we have to be patient until they can boost their capacity with support from the Federal Government.”
She said FEC had approved some adjustments to power distribution companies in the country, raising the hope for power restoration in her area.
She stated that the problem was not peculiar to the LGA but to some parts of Ondo State.
I’ve deployed solar power worth over N800 million to LGA – Rep. Bamisile
Bamisile said he had brought over N800 million solar power devices to the LGA to alleviate the problem.
But he said solar power had limitations, giving light at night and being unable to power some devices such as fridges and air conditioners.
“I’ve done more than N800 million to the area council. As I speak with you, we still have solar worth over N700 million coming into the area in this year’s budget. But solar should only provide light at night.”
Efforts were on to restore power to the area, he stated.
Bamisile said the migration of the youth from the LGA would negatively impact the economic wellbeing of the communities.
He said he would continue to engage stakeholders to restore light to the LGA.
Ekiti government alleges discrimination in power supply
Speaking with The ICIR, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Utilities in Ekiti State, a professor, Bolaji Aluko, said more LGAs were affected by the outage, including his own LGA, Aiyekire (Gbonyin).
According to him, the fault was not entirely with the state government but the federal government and the BEDC.
He explained that the Federal Government empowered the BEDC to have a monopoly on power distribution.
“Some of these issues are just beyond the communities and the state government. BEDC distributes electricity in Ondo, Delta, Edo, and Ekiti State. Nine per cent of the power sent to the grid goes to the BEDC, which is not bad because there are 11 DISCOs.
“Of that nine per cent, only 22 per cent is given to Ondo and Ekiti states, while Edo and Delta states share the remaining 78 per cent. Of the 22 per cent sent to Ondo and Ekiti States, only 10 per cent comes to Ekiti State.”
He explained that Ekiti State was not on the national grid because the state did not have any 330 KV line, adding that all the 133 KV lines in the state came from Ondo.
However, he said some communities had electricity problems in the state because they refused to pay their bills. In others, transformers were not working, or vandals destroyed their power infrastructures.
He said the facts on the ground showed that the BEDC could not adequately supply power to the four states and there must be a way out of the crisis.
The commissioner told The ICIR that the state government was working on a bill to break BEDC’s monopoly on the power supply to the state.
“There is a power reform work to protect the citizens of Ekiti State and the government from the monopoly of BEDC because we do not believe that a national grid means lines and poles. The national grid is lines, poles, electricity and adequate voltage over a certain period.
“When you have poles and electric lines, that is not a national grid, and you cannot claim monopoly over a national grid that does not supply electricity at adequate voltage over some time. We are creating a law in Ekiti to break that monopoly.”
Why LGA doesn’t have electricity – BEDC
The BEDC spokesperson, Kayode Brown, denied the claims that the people in Ekiti East LGA paid BEDC when they got power from AEDC, which the people say was the reason the LGA was cut off from the grid.
“There was nothing like AEDC or BEDC when the issue occurred. What we had then was PHCN. The only thing was that we were feeding them from Okenne Transmission Station. They happened to be at the end of that particular feeder. Anytime there was a problem with the feeder, they opened them (they wouldn’t have light).
“The second thing is that it was usually very low before the power got to them. They claimed that it was not useful to them, so they refused to pay. We were now incurring too much debt at the Okenne Transmission Station.
“At that point, we had to cut off. We said there was no need to give them what was not useful to them. We had to disconnect.”
When the government privatised the power sector, BEDC reconstructed the line from Omu-Aran to Omuo, giving the people access to light.
.Instead of the low voltage that had allegedly stopped them from paying, Brown said the voltage was high.
“After we completed that project, we came to the palace of Olomuo with all the traditional leaders in the area council. BEDC offered them a bulk prepayment meter, which is usually the arrangement because you cannot spend that much, and people will refuse to pay for services being rendered.
“They said they didn’t want bulk prepayment meter. “
He said his organisation could not afford an individual metering system, which halted the restoration of power to the LGA.
He said the alternative mean of supplying the people power was by bill, which he said they rejected.
Meanwhile, Brown explained why Ekiti gets less power than Ondo and why both states receive less power than Edo and Delta States.
He said Delta and Edo States enjoyed more power supply because they were more industrialized and usually demanded more power.
He denied the Ekiti State government’s allegation that only 28 per cent of the power generated by the BEDC got to Ondo and Ekiti States.
Speaking on why Ekiti gets the least power supply among the four states, he stated: “Distribution facility in Ekiti state is very small that the state cannot take what rightfully is due to it.
“Ekiti as a whole has only 132KV. That 132KV is even used to stabilize the grid. It is not as if it is a full-blown 132KV. Unlike Ondo State which has 330KV and it has two 132KVs. You can’t compare distribution facilities of Ondo State with that of Ekiti State because Ekiti used to be part of Ondo State before it was carved out of Ondo State.”
He said it was the responsibility of the government to acquire more 132KVs and related power infrastructures to boost power supply, and not the BEDC.
LGA has always been under BEDC – AEDC
The spokesperson for the AEDC, Donald Etim, said the Ekiti East Local Government Area had always been under the BEDC, and not the AEDC.
He said the two distribution firms had boundaries where their operations terminate and the LGA was outside the AEDC’s coverage.
Our pains over outage – Residents
Ojo Olabisi runs a restaurant in Kota. She had borrowed money to buy big freezers before the BEDC cut the LGA off.
Her husband took her away from the community for some years because she became too worried when she could not repay the loan she took.
She returned to the town last year with her husband, a tailor.
Olabisi, popularly known as Lady B, told The ICIR that many of her customers would not buy her drinks because there was no means to refrigerate them.
Her husband, Temitope Elejogun, left last year to open a new shop in Kota.
Elejogun has many tools requiring a power supply in his shop, but he has not put them to work for a long time.
He called on the government and elected representatives in the area to help to restore the power.
The head of the Hausa community in Omuo-Oke, Ibrahim Ali, expressed shock at the outage.
Ali, who came to the Omuo-Oke in 1983, said life was no longer the same because of the lack of power supply.
He said it was affecting economic activities too negatively.
“Those of us who have been here for a long time cannot just leave because there is no light. We have our family members here, though the situation is painful. We hope that we will have light again someday,” he said.
Similarly, Mary Chinawa, an indigene of Enugu, has lived at Ahan in the LGA since 2005.
Chinawa runs a boutique. She said about half of the Igbo people in the area had left because of a lack of power supply.
She called on the authorities to help the LGA to enjoy the power supply again.
Solar power, good alternative, but not like electricity – Dealers
Two dealers in solar power in the LGA, Olatunji Olayemi, Manager, Olayemi Digital Network, and Olonipekun Abiodun, Manager, Olorunwa Communications, said the business was doing well in the LGA.
However, they complained that a few residents could purchase solar power that could adequately serve their homes and offices.
They also said solar power could not compare with electricity from the national grid.
Independent power project emerging in Ekiti
Independent power projects are coming up in Ekiti State to cushion the effects of the shortfall from BEDC.
In 2021, the Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) launched 2.5 megawatts of electricity that it currently uses to power the institution.
The institution’s target is five megawatts.
The state government also intends to deliver another five megawatts.
Speaking at the ABUAD’s power launch, Governor Kayode Fayemi said the whole of the state got a supply of about eight megawatts of electricity daily from the BEDC.
The governor reportedly said the epileptic power supply to the state was frustrating and remained a big setback for the state’s growth.
“This is a great leap forward for the state because with the five megawatts by ABUAD and our own five megawatts, we will be having more than the eight megawatts that the state is supplied daily by the BEDC.”
Many complaints against BEDC
Communities in the four states served by the BEDC have complained about the company’s poor or complete absence of services.
In 2018, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki walked the Managing Director of the BEDC, Funke Osinbodu, out of his office for throwing the state into darkness.
The state government also accused the BEDC of failing to provide power to 444 communities in the state that year.
The BEDC waited for Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu‘s directive before restoring power to Ode-Aye in December 2018, after 12 years that the communities had been in darkness.
Similarly, the government intervened before a part of Akure, the state capital, regained power supply after four years in 2019.
In Delta, people of Enuani communities in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state were without electricity for 18 years after their 33KVA transmission line at the Ogwashi -Uku -Kwale Highway collapsed.
Enuani comprises Abah Unor, Adonte, Ashama, Egbudu Akah, Ejeme Aniogor, Ejeme Unor, Ewulu, Isheagu, Nsukwa, Ukwu Obah, and Umute among others.
In August 2020, workers in Ekiti State under the auspices of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) protested epileptic power supply and outrageous bills to the state at the BEDC office in Ado-Ekiti.
Nigeria’s epileptic power supply
Power supply has been epileptic in Nigeria and has contributed to why many giant businesses shut down. It has also aggravated the nation’s poverty level and hindered the growth of small scale enterprises (SMEs).
In July 2020, The ICIR fact-checked the government’s claim that Nigerians enjoyed 18 to 24 hours of power supply daily and found the claim was untrue.
Despite constant power outages, Nigerians pay outrageously for it.
While announcing $500 million in aid for the country’s electricity distribution in February 2021, the World Bank said 85 million Nigerians didn’t have access to grid electricity.
“This represents 43 per cent of the country’s population and makes Nigeria the country with the largest energy access deficit in the world. The lack of reliable power is a significant constraint for citizens and businesses, resulting in annual economic losses estimated at $26.2 billion (₦10.1 trillion), equivalent to about two per cent of GDP.
“According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, Nigeria ranks 171 out of 190 countries in getting electricity and electricity access is seen as one of the major constraints for the private sector.”