BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO
Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to report that the honeymoon (regarding steady power supply) in Nasarawa is over. It is as though it was a kind of ‘abracadabra’; pardon my language but when you are writing in an environment of suffocating heat exacerbated by blackout in the peak of the hot season, it can alter your body system and make you become emotional, angry. I shall try as much as possible to keep my cool under this provoking circumstance. So, let me use the more edifying word, ‘eyeservice’. It appears to be an eyesrvice somehow. For, how else can one explain the fact that Nasarawa state people, nay, residents of the state capital Lafia, started experiencing blackouts, the very next day Mr. President left, after a two-day working visit that saw him commissioning projects, including the multi-billion naira 330 KV Lafia power sub-station. You may remember that I had waxed lyrical on this column in a piece, titled, ‘New Vista opens for Lafia with steady power supply’ last moth. In that piece, I equated the uninterrupted power supply being enjoyed since test run of the power station in December 2021, up to the expected arrival of President Mohammodu Buhari, to an American wonder as it was considered an impossible task prior to that time. And so I framed that article with the song, ’Come and see American wonder’.
I outlined the sufferings the masses in particular had been subjected to over the years as a result of not only the epileptic power supply but the fact that even when available, the voltage was so low, that the citizenry derisively referred to it as ‘candle light’ which was to all intents and purpose, useless. And then I enumerated the window of opportunities that the steady electricity together with its high voltage is opening for the citzenry. Indeed, the people were upbeat, jubilant with the new world that literally opened up before their eyes. Housewives, the female gender generally, were no less joyous, Demand for electric hotplates increased remarkably; understandably, because gas prices were on the rise and the state government had banned use of charcoal, (a policy that to date is observed more in breach though). More women got engaged in business of selling zobo, kunu drinks, even sachet water at home, their coldness due to constant electricity, attracting more customers. They saved up on commercial charging of phones, a thriving business that sprang up from inadequate electricity. Advantages/benefits of the uninterrupted power supply was countless. The bottom line is that happiness was etched on faces of virtually everyone unlike before when most people wore long, drawn faces. I concluded that article thus, “However, typical of Nigerians’ mistrustful attitude, many fear that the prevailing uninterrupted power supply may not be sustained; they fear that it could be a flash in a pan, that the authorities could disappoint them just when they need regular electricity most, during the hot season that peaks in March/April. The onus is on the power transmission and distribution companies to prove Lafia residents wrong in this regard”.
Alas, the Abuja Distribution Company (AEDC) with its Lafia area office has proved that those sceptics right, thereby exposing its inefficiency. What was thought to be the best new year gift ever to the citizenry turned out to be a Greek gift. No sooner did President Buhari leave on February 25, than we started experiencing outages the next day. Things began to deteriorate from thence onwards and today, we are almost back to square one in terms of irregular electricity supply.
You can well imagine its repercussions. Businesses, not least, small scale enterprises are once more experiencing downtime. Women operating small endeavours from their homes that was propelled by steady electricity, such as traditional drinks, sachet water, ice block, etc, are now recoiling back to their shells. Those that wish to continue by buying ice blocks from commercial sellers are seeing their profit margin shrink due to increased cost and this is making many quit altogether. The result is that these and other women with ample idle time now in their hands are resorting to the other ‘alternative’ of gossiping.
Setting in of the dry season with temperatures rising as high as 40 degrees celsius which was expected to be mitigated by constant power (via electric fans and air conditioners) has come with its own health hazards. Children are the most vulnerable to rashes and other health conditions brought about by the accompanying heatwave at this time of the year. This puts additional pressure on women as care givers. Working of any kind under this unconducive atmosphere is challenging. It is really tough for the masses at this time. It was learnt that only one of the substation’s three injectors in Lafia is working optimally the other two are down. All said and done, President Buhari’s good intentions of lifting the masses from doldrums of poverty through the federal government built 330 KV Lafia power station is seemingly coming to nought. Also the state government’s expectations in massively supporting this project in cash and kind – to accelerate its investment drive – is dwindling. Constant electricity is key to economic growth and development. As it is people are highly disappointed that such a gigantic power project on which the masses pinned high hopes of a new, enriched life is apparently turning out to be a mirage. What could be the cause? Sabotage? Crass incompetence and inefficiency of the electricity authorities, especially the Lafia branch of the AEDC? Whatever it is, they should be made aware that their actions/inactions are imperilling livelihoods and endangering lives. Nasarawa state residents deserve good life anchored on steady power supply.