How Nigerians Utilise Improved Electricity Supply | Independent Newspapers Limited
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How Nigerians Utilise Improved Electricity Supply

Posted: Sep 30, 2015 at 12:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Power supply has been stable in many parts of the country in the last four months and as a result of this, Nigerians are eager to see these improvements in power supply translate into economic development of the country. To many, the improved power supply has not really brought about desired blessings to the country as they claimed that nothing has changed from the old system. In this report, third of five parts, by Sola Alabadan, Bamidele Ogunwusi, Apata Oyeniran, Nkasiobi Oluikpe and Ikechi Okoh, examine how Nigerians have been utilising the improved power supply and distribution to better their lots and improve the country’s economy.

Improved Power Supply: Artisans Speak

Before now, artisanship in Nigeria was more or less like dead, except for a few dogged ones who go out of their ways to survive. No thanks to the epileptic and more or less dead power sector, this almost crippled every facet of the Nigerian economy.

It became a common sight to see various shop owners sleeping as a result of idleness, not because there are no customers to attend to but because there is no electricity supply to effectively engage them. Virtually, every shop owner bought a power generating set. Those who could not afford the standard generators, ended up with ‘I pass my neighbour’ with its inherent noise and fumes, not to mention the frequent breakdowns

Those who could not afford to frequently keep repairing their generating set abandon them out of frustration and time themselves in the shops to make sure that once it is beginning to get dark, they will close for the day.

It was an embarrassment to see any shop lit with candle in the night. The owner would rather save his face by closing his shop early, than to have people pass by to greet and ask him if his generator was bad. Even the rechargeable lamps which were supposed to have substituted for the outage, themselves needed to be charged before they could transmit their temporary light.

It was really a bad situation, which most artisans could not fathom, making a good number of them to regret going to learn those vocations.

But however, recently, the story appears to have changed substantially for good. Today, it is easy to sight shop owners staying late into the night with customers in their shops, or even idle visitors keeping the shop owners company. At least, there are no fuel costs to consider, and no generator break down to chase them home. Even the barbers’ shops, which were notoriously known as a gossip centres for all the happenings within a neighbourhood are once again beginning to regain their steam. And of course, the multiplier effect cannot be over emphasized, the lights are high, at least, to an appreciable level and life is beginning to return back to normalcy.

With the recent development in the power sector, school dropouts can once again find meanings to their life, not only by confidently learning a vocation, but by being financially independent and making positive contributions to the economic development of the country; not just in being self employed, but also becoming employers of labour themselves.

Independent Newspapers Limited (INL) recently set out to feel the pulse of some of these artisans on how the improved power supply in the country is impacting on their businesses and lives generally. Here are the responses:

Mary, an hairdresser, who was once featured on the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) column of INL, beamed with smiles when asked about the improved electricity supply and how she is utilizing it.

She said: “My sister, you won’t believe that for over two weeks now, I bought N500 fuel and I have still not exhausted it. This change is working o’. Even when you are not having any customer in the shop, you can switch on the television and be watching movies. At least anybody passing by will know that something is happening in the shop. It is not like before when out of idleness and nothing to do, you begin to sleep and people passing by will be sneering at you, saying you are not a serious human being.

“You know I used to have a kid sister who is a ‘JAMBite’ staying with me. I was always begging her to come and join me in the shop. But she doesn’t like coming to the shop. Any day she reluctantly accepts to come, you will discover that she will just be sleeping and when she wakes up, if you see the way she will frown her face, you yourself will be forced to beg her to go home.

“If the light had been as regular as it is now, she would have learnt one or two things from me before going back to school. In fact, because of idleness, she was fast constituting a nuisance in the compound that I had to send her back to my mum. Even the little hair washing and setting are beginning to trickle in again. You know before now, it is difficult to get a customer coming in to do washing and setting and paying for generator charge alongside. Today, even if they take the light, by the time you finish washing and rolling the hair, the light will be back. I want to thank Buhari’s government and pray that they continue the good work o.”

When asked, ‘how you dey enjoy this light now’, Lekan, a barbing salon operator, responded, ‘Na so we see am o, abi now, wetin man go do. We thank God o’. On a further probe, Lekan said that during that period of acute outage, he was forced to stop paying his Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) bills because, he asked himself, how can he be paying for nothing, in fact for darkness. On one of the occasions, he was forced to tell the officials of PHCN who came to share the monthly bill: ‘One day, dem go beat una up for this street. Na so una go dey share yeye paper about. Una no dey shame say, una dey share paper for work wey una no do?’.

Lekan, whose shop also doubles as his home narrated that his friends who used to come around to keep him company abandoned him, as some of them would rather face the viewing centres where they run bigger generating sets because, he does not switch on his little generator in the afternoons.

“A lot of my customers who branch in to shave their beards also disappeared because they do not like shaving manually. Instead of doing it manually, they would rather shave in their houses as a good number of them have the equipment at home.

“But thank God sha, things are beginning to change. At least the light is becoming a bit regular now. I only have the shop rent to contend with. In fact, that one is another big headache. The landlord is not even asking you if you really made any profit before waking up to increase the rent. I wish government can also come up with a law that would regulate shop rents. That is the only way small businesses like ours will be able to survive.“

Asked if he has now started paying his PHCN bills, Lekan answered: “Before nko! Sister, no be say person no wan pay bill. Na if I use light work, I go use the money wey I make to pay bill. No be when I no see work do because of light, I go still go pay for work wey I no do. Na to go steal be that now. Abi where I been wan go bring the money. If we see truth, make we talk am. Now, light dey kampe, I dey see small small work to do. So, why I no go pay NEPA bill?

Sharp Sharp, is a Togolese fashion designer around Meiran. He said there are some jobs where at almost every stage you have to iron to get the right shape and size. So, he decided to resort to the manual charcoal and stove iron.

“My sister, what this has caused is that I have to do the ironing myself. You know it requires a lot of care without which you end up burning customers clothes. This has also contributed to delaying the jobs. Some customers will just enter the shop and if their cloths are not ready on the date given to them, they will come here and be shouting. They don’t understand what we are going through.

“On a particular occasion, while I was busy with a customer’s material, one of my apprentices was ironing a customer’s blouse. I just discovered that the shop suddenly became quiet. I then looked up and saw the apprentices exchanging glances among themselves. I asked what happened. Nobody wanted to talk. I then looked and discovered that the one ironing had burnt the blouse she was ironing with a stove iron. I quickly suspended what I was doing to check if I could get a replacement. I was not able to. I had to loose the material, and attempted changing the design and began some patchment work on it. At the end of the day, after raining all manner of abuses on me, the owner rejected the blouse.

“I was forced to be honest with her and narrated what actually happened. I can’t be doing everything when there are matured girls in the shop. The work load will be too much for me. She told me how much she warned me not to give her material to my apprentices. I explained to her that it was just the ironing and that, it had to do with the stove ironing the lady was using. Though she was pacified, she said I should look for someone else to dash the blouse that she has forgotten about it. You know the implication, she might not come back to the shop again. Since then, I handle all the manual ironing myself.

“I suffered a lot of loss during that period. But thank God for everything now. Sometimes, I even decide to work in the middle of the night when the weather is cool and quiet. At least, there is light now.

Asked if the improved electricity supply has brought down his charges, he replied. “NEPA bill never come down o. In fact, we pay more now. But that is still okay. If they increase the bill and give us light, we have no qualms with that. We are only praying that they don’t go back to the former situation.”

For Mfon, an Okada rider, admits the power supply has reasonably improved, but he said that does not give this administration the impetus to give themselves a pat on their backs. They have a whole lot of works to do.

Hear him: “Aunty, people are suffering. There is poverty everywhere. Even though I still thank God, but how much are we making per day. On top of it, we are paying different types of levies to operate.

Asked if he didn’t have any vocation, he said: “I am a professional vulcaniser. But I couldn’t continue in business because the thing was not sustaining me. When it was just me alone, I was managing, but now that I have a family, I am finding it difficult to cope financially. That was how I got into this okada business over nine years ago. At least, we still manage to see our daily bread from it unlike when I was doing the vulcanizing job which was full of uncertainties and left no hope for me. Sometimes, leaving the house, you are not sure if anything will follow you back home in the evening.

Asked if the situation then was not compounded by the poor electricity supply, he replied that it had to do with the economy in the country coupled with the fact that there are more vulcanisers around charging next to nothing as fees. “Except you add something else to it, it is difficult to survive with the vulcanizing job alone. It is not as if we enjoy this okada job where you are risking your life at the mercy of overzealous policemen. Even those who are not empowered to chase and arrest okada riders do so. But what can we do, we have to survive. A good number of us never had the privilege of attending secondary school while some dropped out of secondary school. Even people with university degrees are finding it difficult to get jobs, not to mention dropouts.

Mfon explained that if he must go back to vulcanizing job, he must have a very good reason to do so. But for now, he said, he hasn’t seen a reason to do so. “Except if you want hunger to kill my family. Even when the former governor of Lagos State attempted making our lives miserable with his numerous bans, I never considered going back to vulcanizing. There is just nothing there. Going back to it will spell doom for my family.

Except for the last speaker, there is no doubt that the improved electricity supply, has positively impacted on the economic lives of most artisans. Even those who operate at the cottage levels from their homes can attest to the impact of the improved power supply. It is the desire of these people and many more that the regulators do not slack.