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Kept in darkness by abandoned projects

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Kept in darkness by abandoned projects

 

Imagine the experiences of people that live in an environment where there is no form of any electric power when the sun sets and when it is night. The once told story of unpleasant experiences and dilemma occasioned by lack of electricity is a now reality for more than 4,000 people of Pasepa, Zhito, Pazamu, Giope and Ijea Pisa rural communities of Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.

For Nuhu Maidoki, the hope of his three children lifting his family in future out of poverty is being jeopardized due to lack of electricity in Zhito village. Maidoki had expected that his children would have the privilege of going to school in an environment with electricity, but the only primary school attended by his children has yet to be electrified.

He said his children were not doing well at school because they could not read at night, attributing it to lack of electricity in his home.

According to him, the fear of health hazards associated with the use of inefficient light had restrained him from encouraging his children to study at night with kerosene lantern.

“There is no doubt that the hope of raising ICT compliant children, innovators, inventors in sciences from our community is threatened because of lack of electricity’’, Maidoki said. For micro business owners such as Ahmed Manga, who runs a grocery shop in Pasepa village, the absence of electricity impacts negatively on his business.

Manga had bought a deep freezer with his many years of savings made from proceeds of his agricultural produce to increase his chances of making more money for the upkeep of his family.

But absence of electricity in the village to power the freezer has restricted him from selling cold drinks and packaged water, among other items that required electricity to boost sale. Ahmed is also worried like many other members of the communities as absence of electricity prevents him from preserving some perishable food items.

That in no small way had made life frustrating for him and members of his family. The ordeal of Alima Dogo, a young widow of 38, with two children is pathetic. Alima sells farm produce to fend for her two children. Part of her produce entails the sale and supply of grinded corn to members of the community.

But lack of electricity supply leaves her and other corn dealers with no choice but to travel eight kilometres to mill the corn.

This, according to Alima is very challenging. There is also the challenge of insecurity in the villages as some families, individuals, young females had been attacked, molested by bandits in the night. For decades, these communities have been left completely in the dark with kerosene lamps providing light for them, while fire wood remained the only source for cooking.

The communities are perfect examples to understand what life without electricity is, as most of the inhabitants are so poor that they cannot afford, even the cheapest generating sets, to power their houses at the night. To them, life is frustrating and sometimes inhuman as many of them are traumatized by the absence of electricity, especially in this era of technological advancement.

They had expected that their proximity to the capital territory would have accelerated electrification of their villages, but this is far from been realised. More worrisome is that their hope of getting electricity is being stalled because of an abandoned electrification project awarded by Bwari Area Council in 2011.

Verifiable sources infer that the abandoning of the project was largely due to the disagreement between the contractor and the authorities of Bwari Area council over issues of disbursement of contract fund.

The investigation revealed that the contract for the electrification of Pasipa, Zhito communities was awarded on July 7, 2011 for N21.7 million to complete in eight weeks.

But seven years after, there was no trace of any form of electricity supply to these communities. On site assessment, less than 50 per cent of the project is executed with visible erection of electric poles in the communities and unutilised transformer left at an isolated part of the community. However, Alhaji Isyaku Kajuru, Managing Director of Sanbel Kajuru Enterprises Nigeria Ltd.

— the contractor– said the contract was awarded to his company in 2011 in the sum of N21 million. He said out of the total contract sum, N9 million had been paid to him after he concluded the initial work on the project but the council had yet to mobilise him with the balance of N12 million. He explained that he had utilised the nine million naira in the community to procure electricity poles, a transformer and other items for the project.

According to the contractor, he had also begun the process of procuring other required equipment using his personal fund. He urged the current management of the council to mobilise him with the balance N12 million of the contract fee to complete the project.

But Mr Momoh Ogwu, Head of Works Department in Bwari Area Council, said the council had requested the contractor to move back to site, insisting that the council was not indebted to the contractor because N9 million was paid for the initial job. He, nonetheless, said plans were on to revoke the contract after inspection, if the contractor refused to return and complete the project. Ogwu said the payment of the balance of the N12 million to the contractor would be made on the completion of the electrification project by the contractor.

“The contract sum is N21 million. He did some job and the total job he did was valued at N9 million and we paid for that. So, if he did not do any other job, how do we pay him?

“Government does not pay in advance. It is when you work they pay you’’, he said. Commenting further, Mr Peter Jagaba, Supervisory Councillor for Works in the council, also said the project was awarded by the last administration to the contractor.

“We have called the contractor several times that he should resume to site and he has not. “Now we have written to him officially to resume. If he does not resume to site, we are going to revoke the contract from the past administration and give it to another person, because the people cannot continue to suffer.

“We gave him one month notice since November to resume work and we have also been telling him verbally since past three months’’, Jagaba said.

Shedding more light on the development, Alhaji Bulus Wakili, the traditional ruler of Zhito community, said he saw the contractor three years ago and he pleaded with the management of Bwari Area Council to find out what was responsible for the non completion of the project.

Similarly, Alhaji Aliyu Pasepa, the General-Secretary for the communities, said that, “the electricity poles and the transformer were brought years ago by the contractor to our community.

“You see these poles mounted, it was the community and the councillor that contributed money to mount the poles three years ago. “The project is a Bwari Area Council project.

The contractor was given some mobilisation fee that was what he used in buying the transformer and the electric poles. “We have over 4,000 people living in these communities and the poles mounted in three communities of Pasepa, Zhito, Ijea pisa, while Pazamu and Giope have no poles.” He explained that the noncompletion of the project was telling on members of the communities.

“There are a lot of effects.

We have been carrying our corn to other villages for grinding. That is about eight kilometres distance from our village. This has been frustrating all this years. “We cannot charge our phones and use other electrical gadgets and this place is supposed to be with electricity because it is part of FCT.

“It has also affected the primary school because the teachers and the students don’t even have access to computer not to take of using it because of absence of electricity.

“Teachers posted to this place refuse to report because of lack of electricity and access road.

“The clinic is also adversely affected because most of the minor treatment cannot be done here as equipments that required electricity cannot be put to use.

“Drugs are not kept in the clinics because there is no electricity to keep the drugs in the refrigerator. “I want the council to complete the project because if by 2019 the project is not completed, we will resist the bringing in of ballot boxes into the community.

“We have not seen the dividend of democracy from the council and the FCT management in general because they abandon us. “If they don’t want to give us electricity and other social amenities such as roads and others, let the boundary adjustment be made before 2019.

“So we can be moved to Niger State and leave FCT, because we are tired of making request that fall on deaf ears of the government’’, he said.

The tale of these communities is not different from the ugly experiences of many other rural communities grappling with the challenges associated with absence of electricity.

But perceptive electricity analysts are of the view that various agencies of government at the Federal, state and local governments must intensify efforts at energising rural communities, using various options, especially the mini grids potential.

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