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Hope rises as 51 Ibadan communities end 14-year blackout

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Ona AraResidents in 50 communities in Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo state are at present getting set to dissolve their forced marriage with generating sets as the 14 years blackout in the communities is about to become history. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE who visited the community reports that expectations are high and the people cannot hide their excitement at the prospect of lighting a bulb without the cacophony of generating sets permeating their community.

For 14 years, life for people in over 50 communities of Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo state has been like a long moonless night; a community which lived without the brilliance or illumination giving the aura of the fall of a meteor. The people live in a weary community where candle and light beams reign supreme from dusk to dawn and only those that are financially buoyant can afford the cost of powering their generating set frequently.

From Olorunsogo to Akanran, Olorunda, Muslim, Olomi, Arometa, Olosunde, Ojebode, Gbada-Efon, Jigan, Odeyale, Origbo, Lanleyin, Arotedo, Arotedo Oke odo, Owaran, Alagbaa, Idi koko, Agbeja, to Oluku and many others, it has been a long 168 months of darkness. And for residents, especially artisans, to earn a living in the dim world that their community became is a herculean task.

The continuous absence of power supply is a plight that has sent many out of the area. And according to Kazeem (surname withheld), a mechanic who moved to the area four years ago, the absence of light has made many poor as economic situation in the community is almost grounded.

“I moved to this community four years ago and I can confirm that things are getting worse every day. More businesses are closing down due to the light situation and economic activities are at low ebb. Though the economic situation in the country is in stringent condition, it is worse in our area because of the light, most small businesses are closing up regularly because they can’t afford sustaining them without light. Poverty thrives and many people have moved out, in Amuloko community, there are very few tenants, only house owners remained in the community because they can’t abandon their properties,” Kazeem stated.

To many that spoke with Nigerian Tribune, life is a continual maze of frustration and trauma as though they belong to one of the biggest and oldest local government in the ancient city of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, living without light in this era of technological advancement is just like living in isolated in the midst of a community. And the complete blackout and resultant dive in social and economic activities in the area has continued to discourage prospective tenants, home owners and even people with business concerns from moving in.

Ona-Ara Local Government is a historic council which could be traced to an agitation by its founding fathers that too much emphasis was placed on urban areas to the detriment of the predominately agrarian rural communities after the creation of Oluyole Local Government. They had argued that they were cut off from all development projects and their lives were not touched positively by the government at the headquarters in Idi-Ayunre then.

And in 1989, the Military Administration of President Ibrahim Babangida created Ona–Ara Local Government out of the Old Oluyole Local Government with the headquarters at Akanran which was strategically chosen as the headquarters due to its central location with road networks linking other communities in the eleven wards of the Local Government before the creation of Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) by Senator Abiola Ajimobi last year.

It is therefore an aberration to the people that as important as their community is, they are living in darkness. But it wasn’t like this in the beginning; they used to enjoy power supply like all communities in the city until one act of vandalism turned things around. Though various narratives were given but the recurring theme is that some people vandalized the substation supplying power to the area.

Some stated that the community protested an outrageous bill while others said it was during the subsidy riot of 2012 that the vandalism occurred. The vandalisation of the substation that serves a part of Ona Ara, Oluyole, South-East, North, North East and Egbeda local government areas, totaling about 200,000 community members and burning of 11 vehicles belonging to the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) Plc then was to some a natural part of riot but after the incident, the residents have come to terms on how dependent they are on electricity and its importance to their socioeconomic life, having suffered for than singular act for about 16 years.

Nigerian Tribune learnt that not only did they vandalise the substation, 20 drums of transformer oil, computers and office equipment at the business unit of the substation were also carted away, leaving the substation in ruins while the residents continue to suffer untold agony as a result of the destructive act of some ignorant people.

According to Mr Isiah Toogun, a resident, some people who may not even be residents of the community in the guise of riots attacked the substation, put the community in darkness and left residents to suffer the consequence of their senseless actions by turning a peaceful protest into an act of vandalism.

In 2014, tired of not having light for two years with socioeconomic activities suffering, residents of Ona Ara local Government marched to the headquarters of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) located on Moshood Abiola Way at Ring Road to protest being blacked out for such a long period. The protest did not solve their problem as they were humbly informed that the situation goes beyond switching off their power supply for vendetta.

The officer that attended to them educated them on the need for patience as the Olorunsogo substation which was destroyed in the wake of the 2012 nationwide protest was critical to the return of electricity to their areas and the sum of N131 million was required to bring the facility back in operation.

Ona AraAnd over a decade of complete darkness, residents have now realized how dependent on electricity the community is; phones can’t be charged, businesses can’t operate, ironing of clothes is a luxury, pumping of water can be done by few households, few can keep food in the refrigerator for preservation and virtually all residents are groaning under the heavy burden of powering the small generating sets that most of them could afford for the long years they have been in darkness.

A resident even attributed the insecurity in the area to the blackout adding that some youths in the area use the cover of darkness and loud noise of generating set to perpetrate evil while many have left their vocation to become okada riders when they couldn’t sustain the businesses without power.

“People have moved out of this area because of the blackout; tenants especially. Even some landlords moved out because of this problem. We had to reduce the house rent in the community because tenants were not coming to this area. When people did not come to rent houses, we had to do what the few that came wanted,” another resident said.

Businesses aren’t the only ones affected, it had taken the conscious efforts of community leaders to avoid religious crisis due to the noise of generating set from churches during vigils.

Today however, the story is about to change and there is a ray of hope for the people of Ona Ara Local Government as a philanthropist has decided to wipe their tears and the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) is set to make constant electricity available to them.

The breakthrough out of darkness which has promised to put an end to their marriage of necessity with generating set is the result of Ona-Ara Local Government Flag-Off of the resuscitation of the Amuloko-Akanran Electrification Project on September 17, made possible by a business owner in the community, Engr. Dotun Sanusi, the Chief Executive Officer of Ilaji Stadium and Resorts Center and Ilaji Farms.

Engr. Sanusi has committed himself to the project and is ready to spend N40m to ensure that darkness becomes a thing of the past in the community in collaboration with the IBEDC. And to celebrate the good news and prove that the end of darkness is in sight, a formal launch of the resuscitation was held last week with all stakeholders and dignitaries which include the Alakanran of Akanran, Oba Oladipo Obisesan and his entourage; the President, Ona-Ara Development Union, Mr. Kola Bolomope, executives of the local government council and representatives of institutions present.

The Chairman of Ona-Ara local government, Hon. Buliaminu Ogundele, was full of appreciation to Engr. Sanusi for his constant and consistent philanthropic gestures which he said has done a lot to boost socio-economic activities in the council. He stated that he explored the relationship with Engr Sanusi as a result of Senator Ajimobi’s advice during the swearing-in of caretaker chairmen in the state to partner with illustrious sons and daughters in their respective locality, adding that this gave him the confidence to visit Engr. Sanusi in his farm to seek for his assistance towards the development of the council.

He said, “Ilaji Farms has been in our midst over six years ago without being visited by any political appointee in this council but upon assumption of office as the then caretaker chairman, part of the duties I embarked upon was to pay a courtesy visit to Ilaji Farms to solicit for their assistance towards the development of Ona-Ara local government as a whole and Amuloko-Akanran axis in particular.

He described the flag off as the commencement of efforts to restore light.

In the local government, particularly in Akanran and environ, adding that the condition given by Engr. Sanusi is that no individual will be given money for the project as it will be direct payment to contractors.

The Chairman of Akanran Electrification Project, Mr Muyideen Abiola, on his part assured residents of the communities that the money generated by his committee will be judiciously spent, adding that no one will use proceeds for personal gains. He further debunked information that he collected 40 million naira from Engr. Sanusi, adding that every his pledge to finance the project has been translated to action from the first day the committee members held a meeting with him as he had bought over 192 electric poles and other things required.

“Ilaji is responsible for the development and the cost implication, he has bought over 192 poles and we are grateful to him, he started the process immediately, just under two weeks and the poles are about to be erected,’ he stated.

Speaking with Nigerian tribune, Pa Reuben Olugbemiga, a community leader in Akanran stated that a committee was set up in February from across all affected communities and they decided to go round to seek for help. “We first went to IBEDC and they were willing to help us but they told us that that we can’t do it alone because of the cost implication and suggested we seek help. But they gave us officers to go round the community to see what needed to be done as the first step; they found that we will need 199 poles and about N36m to make things work again. They also helped to check the transformers to ascertain if they will still be functional as some have been vandalized.

“So at the first meeting of our committee, the idea came up that we should approach the regulatory body. So, we wrote a letter and took it to both IBEDC and Electricity Regulatory Commission to tell them our plight as a community.

“IBEDC was very helpful, so after we found out the cost, we wrote to dignitaries, political office holders and people we think could help so that they can collaborate with IBEDC but nothing came out of the letters until we were taken to Ilaji farm owner, Engr Sanusi and under two weeks, work has started,’ Pa Olugbemiga explained.

And on its part, the IBEDC has been doing its part to mitigate the suffering of affected communities as part of its resolve to change lives and sustain businesses.

The IBEDC management had sent its representatives to meet with some community leaders where it gave assurance that it will do its best to solve their problems though it was inherited. Three months after the February meeting, IBEDC commissioned its project to restore power supply to some communities that have been in darkness on June 29.

IBEDC’s Head of Technical Unit, Engineer Carl Aquino, had explained during the commissioning that the substation was designed to deliver power to about 30,000 customers who are affected by the damage done to the substation of PHCN in 2012, adding that as distribution of power progresses, more people would come in to apply as legalised customers and for the pre-paid metering installations.

“For the meantime, two 15MVA will be sufficient for the people. But in the future, there might be need for additional loads. The area is big enough to even accommodate a generating plant. We want to serve our customers, especially our legal customers, those that applied for electricity and those that are not legally connected. That is, those that are yet to apply for service, and are liable for disconnect,” he said.

IBEDC’s Head, Branding and Communication, Angela Olanrewaju, had said that the commissioning of the project was in fulfillment of the management’s promise and the commitment of the company to satisfy its customers.

“We are delivering on our promise so that our customers who have been without light for almost three years can enjoy power supply, which is their right. We will commission the project to deliver power to about 30,000 customers who are affected by the vandalised transformer,” she stated, charging members of the community to meet their end of the bargain and pay for the power distributed to them.

On the ongoing Akanran electrification project being sponsored by the community through Engr Sanusi, she told Nigerian Tribune that the Regional Communication Officer is the one that has the information and can comment on the issue.

On his part, the IBEDC Regional Communication Officer, Frank Williams stated that he will get back to Nigerian Tribune on the development, what his organization has done to help or whether there will actually be light in Akanran or if it is a mirage but he had not replied by press time.

But for the inhabitants of the 50 communities, the light at the end of the tunnel of darkness is already evident.

The post Hope rises as 51 Ibadan communities end 14-year blackout appeared first on Tribune.

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