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Regular electricity supply is a basic right of every Nigerian. This right is however denied residents of some rural communities in the Southwest region as they currently live in darkness. The Federal Government annually makes budgetary allocations for rural electrification project to supply transformers to boost power generation for the people. SODIQ OJUROUNGBE, visited many communities in the Southwest, and witnessed how lack of electricity has impaired the living standards of the people, inflicting untold hardship on them.
Ogun communities dark, dull and lifeless
TYPICAL of a rustic setting, Oke-Aregba area of Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, was calm when the reporter arrived at the community. The lockdown curfew imposed by the state was on, so there wasn’t much activity going on. A handful of marketers were seen discussing nation issues and how it affected their humble community. None of the people paid the reporter any attention.
It was thus easy for the journalist to move to the location of the two transformers where the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, the agency responsible for them claimed they were located. On getting to the spots, however, there was nothing to show that transformers were ever allocated to the community. In fact, community residents told the reporter that they have not seen any transformers being installed. They only knew that poles and wires were supplied. Some of them even quipped that they had been contemplating the execution of the project by purchasing transformers by themselves like they had done in the past.
Similarly, Sapon community residents told the reporter that they were not aware of the supply of transformers. They said the only transformer they are acquainted with was the old one that had, for years, been used by the whole community. As a result, they said they have been rationing electricity supply among the community residents as a way of shedding load and not overloading the aged transformer.
Apart from the general transformer being used by the community, and another one located beside a complex, which reportedly belongs to the Balogun of Egbaland, Alhaji Sikirilai Atobatele, no other transformer was sighted.
In fact, many residents of the community were unaware that another transformer was brought to the community either by the government or any individual. Several of them insisted that the transformer does not belong to the communities as it is being used by a complex building and nearby ten houses, which they claimed are loyalists of the Balogun.
Moving close to the transformer in Sapon, careful observation showed that it was majorly connected to the complex with an electric cable line linking it to the community. And on tracing the number of houses benefitting from it, about fifteen houses tapping electricity from the line that came from the transformer to the community were tracked. Other residents stressed that power supply had not been stable in the community given that the electricity is distributed on a rotational basis to different sections of the communities.
A resident, Adeolu Sulaiman, claimed that for several years, they have not enjoyed electricity beyond five hours. He complained further that the community always spends lots of money for the maintenance of the transformer; adding that there were days the community did not enjoy electricity at all.
“Power supply in this community is not stable at all. We don’t even enjoy it for more than five hours. There are many times they will ask us to contribute money per household just to repair the transformer when it got spoilt,” he intoned angrily.
Another resident, Abiodun Oloyede, who operates a barbing saloon lamented that he depends heavily on generator given there is no stable power supply. He said the transformer often got spoilt within a year far more than the number of days it gets used.
“Our transformer is old and the load on it is too much. Aside that, electricity is shared on rotation basis in this community. Even at that, we still don’t enjoy it the way we are supposed to. Painful part is that we are paying huge electricity tariff for power supply we are not getting, said Oloyede.”
In an interaction with Alhaji Akeem Gbadamosi, Chairman, Imo Community Development Association, Sapon, he reiterated that the community was not aware of any supply of transformer.
He noted that there is only one transformer in the whole community apart from another one beside the Balogun’s complex, which was given to the man by an unidentified politician. He stressed that the community has been managing the only available transformer despite having over 500 houses connected to it.
In his words: “We have spent a lot on this transformer because it is the only one we have in this community. In fact, there’s no other transformer, new or old, brought to our community. That’s why we are suffering power outage here because there is ever no electricity supply. The only transformer we have is already weak. We just keep hoping that one day, government will remember us.”
Then, for about two hours, the reporter traversed the nooks and crannies of the community as guided by residents, to check and sight newly installed or additional transformers. Findings revealed no other transformer was located nowhere else apart from the nearly new 500KVA transformer located beside the Balogun’s complex.
Ogun community: In three decades of darkness
Right from inception, residents of Kajola community, Magboro, in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State have never enjoyed electricity. There is a record of thirty years of life in darkness. Infants born into the community thirty years ago have thus never sighted electricity from the government agency (O-ORBDA). The slight trace of electricity the younger generations are familiar with in the community is spawned from generating sets.
The Ogun community shares boundary with Ikorodu and Arepo -a popular Government Reserve Area in Lagos – and has become a place of hell and agony for the residents who have never had any access to power supply, good roads and other basic amenities.
Records reveal that the community has been in existence for over 30 years as a small village known as Kajola before it later metamorphosed into a new environment for middle class families.
The reporter observed that many expensive looking houses have become abandoned because they are no longer conducive for human habitations. However, bushes have made them safe havens for reptiles.
It was learnt that the owners of the houses abandoned them on realising that there are no assurances that the community can have power in years to come.
Residents even told the reporter in confidence that it was the Progress Community Development Association, Kajola, that facilitated the erection of poles at strategic locations in the community through donations made by landlords in the area. However, those poles were not linked by cables and as such, abandoned due to insufficient funds.
They said that despite several pleas to get the attention of successive Ogun state governments to remember them by giving their community electricity as they rightly deserve, nothing has changed.
Also sharing his views, the chairman of Progress CDA, Victor Adesina, said that not less than 600 houses have become abandoned in the community due to lack of power supply.
Adesina said about 70 residents recently moved out of the community after living there for a short period because they could not cope with no supply.
“Suddenly, we see that many of the houses are being occupied by Hausas who have turned those houses to their own residents,” he stated.
“So, if you see our population, we have more than 2,000 houses in which about 60 to 70 of those who have completed their buildings couldn’t cope with the way of life here. As a result, they left their houses and relocated to other places.”
The CDA chairman further lamented that the community perpetually remains in darkness despite the fact that over N6 million had been spent on power generation. He said it was actually through communal effort via levying themselves that they were able to raise the money to erect the poles, two transformer bases and construction of a tower worth N1.7 million.
Adesina used the medium to appeal to the state governor, Dapo Abiodun to intervene by giving them a transformer, meter cable tension poles and some accessories, which will help in fast-tracking electricity coming to the area.
He said: “with my calculation, the money we have spent is equivalent to six million and still we can’t have light yet. There are days we task one another to contribute N12, 000, N15,000 or N20,000 that was used to raise the project to its current stage. But our greatest need now is the transformer and meter cable that we will use to run it. Our other needs are high tension poles and some accessories. With these provided, we will no longer be left out as we have done two transformer bases.”
Contractors’ face and office unknown
According to the document obtained on this investigation, O-ORDBA claimed to have awarded the contract to a company named Lastak Nigeria Limited to supply eight transformers in Ibadan communities. But till date, all efforts to get the location of the company proved abortive. The company address indicated on the O-ORDBA document shows that it is located along Bashorun-Akobo area in Ibadan, but on visiting the area, neither the company, its name or address rings a familiar bell to anyone in the vicinity.
And for over four hours, this reporter kept engaging people, both those that had lived there for about five to ten years to obtain any information they could share on Lastak Nigeria Limited; but each person said they had neither heard of or knew of any so-called company.
A search was conducted on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) website to get the registration details of the company. The information that popped-up showed that Lastak Nigeria Limited was registered on March 17, 1992. But the address cited on the CAC website is clearly different from the document by O-ORBDA as obtained by this reporter.
Again, this reporter made further efforts to locate the address noted on the CAC around Bodija estate; alas, it turned out that the company address was a residential area. When this reporter got to the area, two security men at the two entrances leading to the supposed address prevented him from moving further since they claimed the name of the company is not known to them.
They insisted it was a government reserved residential area known to all in Ibadan. They also maintained that neither Lastak Nigeria Limited nor any other office is located on that street. Intense research was also done far and near all-around the estate, again, there was no such named company. When asked who owns the building, the security men refused to disclose the owner’s identity, but only insisted that the building is residential and not a company building.
Budgets on paper
Initial findings reveal that the budgets, in many cases, have been mere paper works that do not get to see the light of the day. For instance, the Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development (FMWRRD), which covers the whole of the Southwest, including Lagos, in the 2018 budget, is the same agency authorized to supply and install 500KVA transformers for some communities in Oyo and Ogun states.
Records show that for two states, 12 transformers were budgeted for at the sum of N94 million. While N22 million was budgeted for supply of 4 Nos 500KVA transformers to Abeokuta South area of Ogun state, N72 million was allotted for 8 Nos 500KVA transformers in Oyo state.
The difference in the amount points to the general suspicion that the amount approved for projects are decided by lawmakers who nominate the projects and many of them do not reflect market realities.
A preliminary visit to OORBDA Abeokuta office to confirm how much was released for the supply of the 4 Nos 500KVA transformers in Abeokuta South area of Ogun state shows that the government paid N15 million representing 60 percent of the fund as the agency claimed it supplied and installed only two transformers in the state instead of four.
In addition, this reporter also obtained a document on the Ibadan transformer project and it was discovered that N56 million was released out of the N72 million proposed for the project. Moreover, they claimed in the document that the project is 75% completed.
Yet, there is nothing in reality in the communities concerned commensurate with the amount of money purportedly spent to provide transformers.
In Ibadan, a tale of two scenarios
In the document obtained by this reporter O-ORBDA claimed that the contract to distribute and install the 500KVA transformers in Ibadan communities was given to the same faceless company, named Lastak Nigeria Limited.
In it, O-ORBDA listed Oke-Ado, Vertinary Mokola, Ita-Ige Junction, Idikan Junction, Age community, First-gate, and Odo-Oba Elere as communities that benefitted from the transformer distribution. It was learnt that the former senator representing Oyo South, Senator Riliwan Akanbi, facilitated the transformers.
But this reporter located only four out of the six communities listed by the authority. The two other communities do not sound familiar even with long-time residents of Ibadan. And, up till the filling of this report, the location still remains unknown and may be non-existent.
A visit to the four locations listed in the document revealed that, indeed, transformers were given to the four listed communities. The transformers have been connected in three of the communities namely Vertinary, Mokola, Idikan Junction and Odo-Oba Elere, while the transformer at Oke-Ado community still remains unconnected months after supply.
Speaking with the residents of the community on why the transformer was connected, they claimed they still have a working transformer in the community. One of the residents, Oladoye Akanni took this reporter to another transformer being used by the community. He claimed the unconnected transformer was brought to the community as a campaign strategy for the supposed politician. He explained that for over two years that the transformer has been brought to the community, nothing has been done to connect it.
This reporter observed that in three of the communities, there are more than three different transformers in each of the locations. Yet, many other communities in Ibadan still suffer power outage due to lack of good transformers.
Findings reveal that communities like Odo-Ona kekere, Ijokodo, Apete, among others are not enjoying electricity because they don’t have functional transformer to supply electricity to various households.
On another visit to the communities, it was gathered that the transformers in those places got spoilt and had been replaced. The residents lamented that efforts to get the attention of the government in replacing their spoilt transformer were not successful.
At Odo-Ona kekere, residents complained that the two transformers that served them were not working very well. They lamented that they spent a lot of money to maintain the transformer on a monthly basis.
Bashir Adeogun, a barber complained that he spends a lot of money on fuel used for his generator since the power supply in the community is once-in-a-while because the transformers in the community are old and needs to be changed.
Another resident, Marvelous Balogun said, “Since I came to this area, we have not been enjoying electricity. For days, they may not bring the light and when they bring it, within a few hours, it gets turned off again till God knows when.”
At Apete area in Ibadan, residents complained that the community had been plunged into darkness for over six months since the transformer supplying electricity got spoilt. Living has been stressful and painful given what they go through daily due to power problems.
A resident, Oyindamola Oni, told this reporter: “my shop was in Apete because I stayed there. But for six months now, there has not been electricity in this community, I learnt the transformer got spoilt and nothing has been done on it. I’ve moved my make-up shop from Apete to a better place when there was no electricity to run some of my equipment. Even in my house, I spend lots of money on fuel.”
Also sharing his pains, a motorcyclist named Araba complained that he always charges his phone battery from town because he did not have any other means in the community. Araba noted that even before the transformer got spoilt completely, the residents in the area had been suffering from partial blackout.
His words: “I have been living in this area for a long. I can tell you that even before the transformer got completely spoiled, power supply had never been stable in this community. We have not been enjoying electricity here at all. I always charge my phone from the town because for six months, we have not even seen flashlight of electricity. I just don’t know how we will survive in this area especially during this dry season.”
Procurement process negates procurement law
The Public Procurement Act 2007 requires public institutions and other relevant parties to ensure that all public procurements are conducted in a manner that is transparent, timely and equitable and based on the agreed guidelines, thresholds and standards.
However, investigations conducted by this reporter reveal that some of the activities surrounding the procurement and distribution of transformer in the two states negate the Act.
Many of the communities to benefit from the transformers were not carried along in the process of procurement as investigative findings unveil. While the law gives room for community participation on projects coming to them, investigation revealed that the residents did not have any contribution to the process that led to the distribution of the transformers.
Findings by this reporter also revealed that the transformers are not needed in some communities they were taken to. That was why many transformers litter some communities in Ibadan because the projects were brought without getting the residents involved.
Records show that the price for the 4 Nos 500KVA transformers in the two states are different based on the contractor carrying out the project. This is why, for two states, 12 transformers were budgeted for at an overall sum of N94 million, while N22 million was budgeted for supply of 4 Nos 500KVA transformers to Abeokuta South area of Ogun state. Another N72 million was allotted for same 8 Nos 500KVA transformers in Oyo state, respectively.
Also, the Procurement Act mandates that bidding must be transparent and accessible to the public, but reading through the O-ORDBA website, it was seen that no information was released. Information about the contractors for the projects in the two states were not indicated just as efforts to get information from them through the Freedom of Information Act failed, till this reported is published.
Also, the implementation of the procurement in some of the locations grossly negates the process of the Act as findings reveal that one of the communities in Abeokuta, Oke-Aregba, is yet to get the transformer despite releasing money for the project. Information obtained in confidentiality from an anonymous informant hinted that about 60 per cent of the money has been released for the distribution of the two transformers in Abeokuta. Still, some of the locations where transformers were purportedly distributed in Ibadan remain unknown.
O-ORDBA’s delayed response on projects awarded
In the bid to get official information from the O-ORBDA management on the investigations, several Whatsapp and text messages were sent to its Managing Director, Olufemi Odumosu. Till date, he is yet to reply to any.
Not giving up, this reporter sent a message the PRO, O-ORBDA, Saliu Adeniyi, and he replied and advised the journalist to write an official letter to the management stating his request officially.
On 2nd November, 2020, this reporter wrote the first official letter requesting detailed information about the projects in Ibadan. The letter was received by Mrs. Fatimo Adeyemi, one of the secretaries at the MD’s office.
Also, on November 4, 2020, the reporter sent another official letter reminding them of his need for accurate official information about the projects in Ogun state. It was received by another secretary in the office name Mrs. B.A Adekunle.
In the absence of O-ORDBA responses, a Freedom of Information Act request was sent to the authority on November 11, 2020 and it was received by Mrs. Fatimo Adeyemi. As at the time of filing this report, none of the three requests had received a response.
Aside the letters of requests, the reporter also visited the O-ORDBA office on three different occasions. He was told his letter had been received and filed in the logging document at the MD’s office. When he inquired when he will get a response, he was told that his request will be channeled to appropriate quarters and he will be contacted at appropriate time.
This reporter also, contacted the PRO to explain things to him. The PRO explained that he is currently on leave and may not be able to follow up with the requests.
The PRO however gave this reporter the contact of one Mr. Ogundele. But, efforts to get his attention have not been successful, as he did not pick this reporter’s call or reply messages sent to him both on Whatsapp and SMS.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.