Need To Replace Obsolete Equipment For Improved Electricity Supply In Ogwashi-Uku

BY INNOCENT OSAKWE
ELECTRICITY no doubt is said to be the bedrock upon which any society or nation that wants to achieve meaningful development in all facets of human endeavor is built.
This fact has therefore led to the channeling of several billions of dollars so far into the sector by successive governments and the current administration of Goodluck Jonathan with the sole aim of solving the prolonged problem which has become the bane of the nation’s development.
In a bid to finding a permanent solution to the problem of power, the present administration had to privatize the power sector with the aim of making electricity available to Nigerians. While the effort has been described as the right decision in the right direction, the effect of the privatization is yet to be felt by a good percentage of Nigerians.
In Ogwashi-Uku, a community in Aniocha South Council Area of Delta State, said to be one of the oldest local governments in Nigeria haven been founded in 1910 as the then headquarters of Asaba Division during the Midwestern era, the story has been pathetic, considering the age of the community which, as it stands today, has nothing to show for its long age, especially in the area of electricity and other social amenities.
Several observers in the community have often recalled what it were like some decades ago when the community did enjoy constant power supply with little or no interruption, starting from the days of Electricity Company of Nigeria, [ECN] which later metamorphosed into the Nigerian Electricity Power Authority, [NEPA] which fathered the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, [PHCN] and the current unbundled power distribution companies who are mandated to manage electricity in the various zones in Nigeria.
So far, Ogwashi-uku has found itself under the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, [BEDEC] in the new arrangement. While the privatization plan of the federal government of Goodluck Jonathan lasted, there were great expectations that things will change for the better for indigenes of Ogwashi-uku community who have had to rely on generators for the provision of electricity for themselves in the past.
Before the eventual privatization however, the community was in a quagmire over the electricity problem. This had led a few concerned indigenes of the community, especially the Iyase of the community, Olinzele Collins Afuwah who on several times and occasions championed the call for the Power Holding Company of Nigeria to find a permanent solution to the incessant blackout the people of Ogwashi-uku have been subjected to.
His effort paid off when the Benin Zonal office of PHCN had to delegate the then Zonal Protcool Officer whose name was given as Mr. Curtis to mediate over the electricity problem facing Ogwashi-Uku community in collaboration with the then Asaba Divional office of PHCN and to find a way to solving the problem. This was sometime in 2011.
The after effect of the meeting at Ogwashi-uku Town Hall which had Mr. Kennth Ogbogu leading the delegates appointed by Olinzele Collins Afuwah in accordance with the demand of PHCN and other prominent indigenes of the community was the slight improvement in the supply of electricity to the community.
Arising further from the meeting however, PHCN signed a memorandum of understanding with Ogwashi-uku community promising to give light to the community three days in a week.
Although, PHCN had in that meeting blamed their inability to give the community constant electricity on the little megawatts which the communities within Asaba and its environs had to share from the few megawatts they received from Obosi transmission line, they had also maintained that once the step down which was then being proposed to be built in Ibusa in Oshimili North Council Area was completed, the issue of power blackout in Ogwashi-uku and its environs would be a thing of the past.
That the then PHCN did keep to their promise, however cannot be denied; unfortunately, the promise was cut short by the hurricane that swept through the community sometime in April 2011, destroying most houses and PHCN installations in the community, especially electricity poles.
Since then, power had eluded the people of Ogwashi-uku who have to groan under the burden of providing electricity for themselves through generating sets and the extortion that goes with fuelling the generators on the part of petroleum dealers in the community, who overtime, had continued to adjust their pump meters to the detriment of the end users who queue up every day at the various petrol stations to buy the premium motor spirit.
For some persons who were into small and medium scale entrepreneurial businesses, therefore, the periods were no good times. While some had to out rightly close down their shops, the few that have managed to keep open are not able to break even much less making profits.
When therefore the federal government commenced the building of the 350kva step-down at Ibusa some three years ago, the people of Ogwashi-Uku and its environs lived under the hope from the promises of the authorities concerned that once the step-down was completed, the over three years electricity blackout of the community would be a thing of the past. Sad as it may seems, that has not been the case despite the said completion of the project.
Some of the community’s persons who spoke on the electricity situation, lamented what they described as unfulfilled promises and dreams from the federal government.
Mr. Francis Utomi, Chief Executive Officer of Blessed Utomi Farms, Isah-Ogwashi-Uku on his part wondered why Ogwashi-Uku and its environs appear to have been forgotten by government. “I have commenced the establishment of a pineapple processing factory here in Isah-Ogwashi-Uku. The little we are processing with a small machine is far from what we have on our drawing board because we do not have electricity to power the big machines when they are supplied and mounted for operations.
“For me, it is indeed a terrible experience that a community like Ogwashi-Uku will stay without electricity for three years and over, despite the high promises”, he had said.
A leading member of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom [a socio-political group] founded to champion the course of Ogwashi-Uku as a community who confided on our correspondent but does not want his name in print, had disclosed that efforts was being geared towards self-help by some concerned indigenes in collaboration with the non-governmental organization.
According to him, they have commenced moves to assist in replacing some of the vandalized power installations, particularly the electricity poles that link Ibusa and the community in anticipation of the take off of the step-down in Ibusa.
Hear him: “So far, our findings revealed that we need to change the 50 electricity poles carrying the high tension cables running from Ibusa to Ogwashi-Uku.The cables have been vandalized by hoodlums due to the long absence of current on the lines. This of course is estimated to cost well over two million naira. From our findings also, most of the sub-stations, that is, transformers located in most areas in the metropolis have been vandalized. In our last count, only 11 transformers are in working order, while four are beyond repair”, he had revealed.
While this was a move commenced towards the end of last year, things appear to have changed, as new songs are now being song by the community people who felt that it is the duty of BEDEC to replace the vandalized equipment; give electricity to the community and collect their tariff.
Confirming this new position also, our source in Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom Group had revealed that the Benin Zone of BEDEC had approved the replacement of all the damaged and obsolete BEDEC installations within Ogwashi-Uku metropolis; although he was quick to add that the approval does not mean the community should rest on their oars if they want result, but rather should strategize on how to ensure the approval was implemented. Although the information was not confirmed, it remains to be seen if something will start happening in that direction.
It will be recalled that sometime towards the end of last year, when contacted over the vandalized cables between Ibusa and Ogwashi-Uku high tension line, the Executive Corporate Officer of BEDEC, Asaba office, Esther Okolie had while confirming it, hinted that BEDEC would take the necessary steps to replace the cables, adding that they were only waiting for the completion of the step down which was yet to be completed then.
She had further revealed that BEDEC was being cautious of replacing the electricity poles and re-stringing the cables on the tension line between Ibusa and Ogwashi-Uku in order to avoid a situation where vandals might again capitalize on the fact that currents were not on the line to vandalize the cables for a second time. According to her, the damaged installations will be fixed as soon as Obosi discharge current into the step down for onward distribution to the feeder lines serving the various communities.
Further findings revealed that about 350 megawatts have been discharged from Obosi power station in Anambra state into the national grid which terminated at the step-down built at Ibusa sometime in December last year. The discharged megawatts, according to competent sources is the total completion of the step down and in effect, heralds its readiness to distribute power to the communities where it is meant to serve.
While this remains so, several concerned indigenes of the community have lamented that unless BEDEC installations are replaced and existing ones serviced, the completion of the step down and its attendant benefits to Ogwashi-Uku and its environs may remain a mirage despite the several years of blackout and the suffering of the people associated with it as there is no way electricity can be transmitted to the community when the necessary installations have broken down.
When contacted, the Secretary-General of Ogwashi-Uku Development Union, [ODU], Mr. John Nwaekete revealed that the electricity issue has been a source of great concern to the town’s union.
According to him, ODU has had to appoint committees to tackle the electricity issue, especially as it concerns assisting BEDEC in re-installing some of its broken down facilities and the obsolete ones. “The idea itself was faulted along the line when we held our last annual conference in December. A top management staff of BEDEC who attended our annual conference made it clear that it is not the duty of the community to start replacing the equipments.
“He even made us to know that no matter the amount we donate, BEDEC will still demand that we sign an undertaking that the donated equipments were done voluntarily and should have no effect over the collection of their bills for the period. It is on that ground we are looking at the whole matter. But then, that does not mean to say ODU has folded its hand over the matter as we are still strategizing on how to assist BEDEC in actualizing our dream of enjoying electricity once again”, Nwaekete had said.
Besides these however, a prominent member from the Umu-Obahai Royal family, Prince Clement Okonjo had once disclosed that Ogwashi-uku as a community was not suppose to be subjected to electricity problem if the 7.5kva mini-step down that was built in the metropolis about a decade ago is anything to go by.
He had disclosed that besides taken care of the electricity need of the community, the electricity need of other communities within Ogwashi-Uku environ could be taken of through the mini-step down. But that has not happened due to unending problems plaguing electricity problem in the community.
While all efforts appear geared towards ensuring that Ogwashi-Uku enjoy electricity once again, residents of the community are keenly watching and hoping that BEDEC will show some commitments towards replacing the obsolete equipment and at the same time re-energize the existing ones in order to bring the benefits of the newly completed step down to the door step of the indigenes of Ogwashi-Uku and its environs.