Power supply in Niger State has generated a lot of controversy in the last few years, leading to series of protests and threats to shut down all the hydropower stations in the state.
With three hydro power stations – Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro, and the fourth one under construction in Zungeru, Nigerlites have continued to query the benefits of the state housing the power stations.
Residents of the state who are lucky only enjoy four hours of power supply in 24 hours – two hours in the morning and two at night, leaving the state without power supply for a longer period of the day.
After series of effort by different stakeholders, there was an improvement from four to six hours power supply which, according to stakeholders, is not experienced in most parts of the state, including Minna, the state capital.
Some villages like Ibeto are so unlucky that they have been without light for almost two years and nothing is being done to rescue them from living in continuous darkness.
Some residents of the community, who spoke anonymously for the fear of being intimidated by the state government, alleged that they have been without power supply for almost two years, adding that they have lost confidence in the Governor Abubakar Sani Bello-led administration.
“We don’t know what really went wrong but our light was disconnected in early 2019 and our council chairman tried all he could to reconnect us but unfortunately, the state government sacked him and the new chairman seems not to care or bother about our plight,” some of the residents of Ibeto lamented.
Many residents said they no longer need the four to six hours power supply as many claimed that the distribution company in charge of the state, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), has continued to bill them outrageously despite the poor and insignificant supply of light and still disconnects customers who refuse to pay for services not rendered.
They accused the AEDC of deliberately hoarding prepaid meters so as to continuously exploit customers.
The impact of the epileptic power supply is felt more in Minna.
The situation improved during the lockdown at the wake of the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic when the state government subsidized electricity with the payment of N85m.
Then, residents enjoyed up to 18 hours power supply daily but unfortunately, that fizzled away after the lockdown was eased and residents now struggle to get three hours supply daily.
Worried by the situation, the youths of Kpakungun area of Minna on one Monday morning, blocked one of the major roads in Minna, to protest the epileptic power supply experienced in the state capital and environs.
The outraged youths also sent away the Secretary to the Niger State Government (SSG), Alhaji Ahmed Matane, who came to appeal to them to open up the roads and stop their protest, and insisted on seeing the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello.
The youths declared that they were tired of the epileptic power supply, saying that the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) is taking the state for granted and they will not accept it.
The Kpakungun road is the only road that leads to the southern part of the country and one of the busiest roads in the state.
The councillor representing Minna South Ward, Honorable Aminu Ladan, who spoke with our correspondent, said there’s been no response from the authorities, while describing the protest as peaceful.
He said the people in the state, especially those in Kpakungun area, have been marginalized for long and they can no longer accept two hours of electricity daily.
“As you can see, the SSG was driven away in anger and the message he brought could not be passed. My people are demanding for the presence of the governor. As a political office holder, I understand that the SSG is a representative of the governor but the people do not understand that. They are not convinced and they want the governor to come himself,” he said.
The state governor, during an address to mark the country’s 60th independence celebration, had decried the poor power supply in the state, insisting that residents cannot pay for what they didn’t consume.
The issue also led to a meeting between the Niger State House Committee on Labour and Productivity and relevant stakeholders.
It was agreed at the meeting that the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company has failed woefully in the supplying of electricity to the state and that it must provide prepaid meter to all house-holds in the state, saying without prepaid meter, there would be no form of payment by households.
They also agreed that AEDC must ensure 24 hours steady supply of electricity and gave AEDC 21 working days ultimatum and that failure to implement the requests before October 24, 2020, it will be left with no option than to embark on mass action that will cripple electricity supply to the nation by shutting down the hydro generating dam’s in the state.
The state House of Assembly special committee on power, civil society organizations, labour and youth groups also met with representatives of the AEDC on improved power supply, but it ended in a deadlock.
The meeting, which took place at the Assembly complex at the instance of AEDC, was meant to starve off the planned mass action against them after the 21 days ultimatum issued to them by the State House of Assembly and its partners elapsed.
The House of Assembly had, during interactive session some days ago with civil society organizations and organized labour, threatened to shut down the three hydro electric dams in the state unless AEDC ensured 24 hours power supply.
At the resumed sitting, which witnessed huge attendance by diverse youth groups, civil society organizations, religious bodies, human rights activists, members of the state assembly and journalists, Hon. Abdulmalik Madaki Bosso-led panel insisted on 20 hours electricity supply or nothing.
He reiterated that the unique privilege of the state in hosting electricity generating plants, confer rights on its citizens to enjoy 20 hours power supply. He said anything less than that was insulting and therefore unacceptable to the people.
He said if at the expiration of the ultimatum nothing has changed, the people will take their destiny in their own hands.
In his remark, the chairman of the Niger State Youth Council of Nigeria, Comrade Bello Sharif, said mobilization of youths in all the 25 local government areas of the state has commenced in earnest, pointing out that if this effort fails, then the state is doomed.
Comrade Sharif said the AEDC has been taking Nigerlites for a ride, disclosing that they never honoured any of the pledges made in previous agreements.
The Youth Lead organization, a conglomeration of youth activists together with Centre for Democracy, jointly asked the AEDC to pack out of the state and allow other distribution companies to come into the state.
The conveners of the right groups, comrade Mohammed Etsu and comrade Abdullahi Jabi said while other electricity distribution companies were competing for the hours of electricity they supply to their customers, the AEDC were only giving excuses for their failure.
They said the only solution to their agitation concerning power supply in the state was complete metering of households and 20 hours of electricity supply. They said nothing short of this will be accepted.
However, the Chief Operating Officer of AEDC, Engr Sa’idu Gorobe, while explaining their position, said the highest the company could offer was 12 hours of electricity supply.
He said the company has enough energy to share but the problem was that people were not paying their electricity bills.
Gorobe said the company had been incurring losses in their sales of energy, especially in Minna, adding that with the poor state of distribution of infrastructure and shortfall in revenue, the hands of AEDC as a profit-making venture were tied.
He disclosed that for the state to enjoy 20 hours uninterrupted power supply, the electricity consumers must be able to pay N1.6b monthly to sustain the services.
He further disclosed that the company was losing N816m monthly when it was providing longer hours of electricity but could not afford to continue with losing such amount of money.
Gorobe stated that the state government has entered into partnership to provide five thousand meters to residents in the state, while the AEDC will complement the effort with additional three thousand.
Speaking to journalists after the session ended in deadlock, the Chief Communication Officer of AEDC said the company had tried to starve off the impending protest by the people of the state by offering up to 12 hours of power supply daily.
The planned protest was later cancelled over the fear of being hijacked by hoodlums following the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protest in some parts of the country.
Also, few days ago, the government came up with efforts towards stable power supply with an instruction from Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, to the Chief of Staff, Alh. Ibrahim Balarabe Kagara, who met with management of AEDC to discuss issues surrounding the epileptic supply of electricity in Niger State.
After deliberations with the Chief of Staff, there was an agreement that electricity supply be increased to 10-12hrs effective 1st November 2020, while residents were advised to pay their bills.
Although, some parts of the state claimed to have started enjoying 10 to 12 hours supply in the last few days, others say they still have less that 10 hours.