Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Ilesa is a major city in Osun State. It is the ancestral home of the Ijesa. Some of the other popular towns in Ijesa land are Ibokun, Erin-Ijesa, Ipetu-Jesa, Ijebu-Jesa, Esa-Oke, Ipole, Ifewara, Ijeda, Iloko and Iwara. Others included Iperindo, Erinmo, Iwaraja, Idominasi, Ilase, Igangan, Imo, Eti-Oni and Ibodi.
Ilesa is the commercial nerve centre of Ijesa land as portrayed by the existence of several industrial outfits. The city is also reputed for having an enclave of religious as well as tertiary educational institutions.
But for close to two months now, life has not been the same in the town because it has been thrown into darkness due to electricity tussle between Ijesa land and the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC). The company had disconnected the entire Ijesa land from the national grid to protest an attack by irate youths on its staff.
All the towns, villages, communities in Ijesa land and parts of Ekiti State were affected by the disconnection and were thrown into darkness for close to a month. This sparked further protests by the youths, hoodlums and other aggrieved people of the areas until IBEDC later restored power supply to them.
But Ilesa is still in darkness; IBEDC has not restored power to the town. Apart from pains associated with the power cut, Daily Sun gathered that socio-economic activities have been at low ebb.
Genesis of the crisis:
Trouble started about two months ago when some aggrieved youths from Olomilagbala and Bolorunduro communities in Obokun Local Government reportedly attacked the Ilesa business hub of IBEDC and beat the staff of the company. A group of hoodlums armed with dangerous weapons and sharp objects from the communities under Isare Service Centre, swooped on the company’s infrastructure and vandalised them.
They shot sporadically into the air to create panic and chaos while their operations lasted. They also reportedly forced their way into the cash office, carted away money from IBEDC’s cash office as well as staff’s mobile phones. Areas mainly hit included Oke-Omiru Business Hub, Oke-Omiru Injection Substations, Isokun Service Hub, Isare and Ilaje Service Hubs. Parts of Ekiti State including Efon-Alaye community were also affected.
Piqued by what it described as uncouth, illegal and unwarranted act, the IBEDC decided to ventilate its anger by disconnecting the entire Ijesa land from the national grid to protest the attack. Since the crisis erupted, there have been interventions by the state government, the House of Assembly, community leaders and stakeholders to resolve the crisis.
Governor Gboyega Oyetola held a peace meeting with the IBEDC officials, traditional rulers in Ijesa land led by Owa Obokun of Ijesa land, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran and the Elegboro of Ijebu-Jesa, Oba Moses Agunsoye. The state assembly also intervened by directing its Committee on Public Petitions to meet with the management of the IBEDC as well as the representatives of the affected areas to work out the ways out of the crisis.
It was after the interventions that power supply was restored to some affected areas including Efon-Alaye in Ekiti State as well as Ijebu-Jesa and Osu. But the hope of restoring power to Ilesa town is still in darkness.
Managing Director of IBEDC, Mr John Donnachie, said power outage was due to the damages done to the electricity installations, which would require a whopping amount of money to fix. He, however, disclosed that the company had restored power supply to the neighbouring towns, villages and communities which installations were not affected.
Daily Sun’s investigations indicated that hoodlums have further jeopardised efforts in restoring power supply to Ilesa. In the early hours of May 3, 2019, hoodlums invaded some IBEDC installations at Fadahunsi, Ilesa, stealing some cables. To cover up the crime, they reportedly handed over the cables to the driver of the vehicle they brought to convey the stolen cables.
An eyewitness who spoke on the condition of anonymity disclosed that while the driver was trying to cart away the cables, the youths and other people in the area noticed and apprehended him. They handed him over to the officers of the Nigerian Securities and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), who dragged him to the palace of Oba Aromolaran.
The officers later took him to their office where he made useful confessions. While he was still being held at the palace, his accomplices were calling him on phone to deliver the cables at a designated place, unknown to them that he (the driver) had been arrested.
A palace source told Daily Sun: “Kabiyesi has intervened in several ways. When the problem started, he called a community meeting at the town hall. At the meeting, one IBEDC manager from Abuja said the company needed N232milion to repair the vandalised installations.
“After then, kabiyesi and some community leaders held another meeting with the governor and some IBEDC officials. IBEDC agreed to restore the light to Ilesa. But up till now, the situation remains the same.
“The situation has been very tough. We have been appealing to our people to be patient and never to embark on any further protest, which cannot solve the problem. They only need to give IBEDC more time to do the needful.”
Mr Olawale Akanbi, a retired civil servant and shop owner who sells household items said: “Though businesses are still going on, they are not bubbling like before when there was light. Just because of the problem of light, I recently bought a generator worth N120,000 to power my small scale business. A few days later, it was stolen. It is the absence of light that is causing all these problems. A lot of people who need light to do business but cannot afford generator have started closing shops. We pray that this will not result in more robberies.”
A female phone accessory seller and technician said: “Since the light problem started, life has not been the same in the whole Ilesa and there is nothing we can do. Businesses have dropped. No money to buy petrol.
You can see that my shop is dry. I repair phones but no light to work and I cannot afford generator now. I charge phones at the shops of my friends who have generators. Prices of things have also increased. Photocopy is now N30.00 instead of N10.00. A sachet of pure water is now N15.00 instead of N10.00. Life cannot continue like this.”
Petrol station operators are also hardly hit. A dealer, Olaposi Boladale, said: “Since the light problem started, we have been running at a loss. Last week, we bought N150,000 worth of diesel to power the generating plant because we use 30 litres per day.
“If you value this, it is about N6,750 per day, whereas our gain is N33,000 per month from a truck. If we pay our staff and take care of other logistics, where is the gain? IBEDC continues to promise that it will restore the light but to no avail.”
A barber, Adewale Olaitan, said: “Business has gone down since NEPA people cut our light three months ago. Customers are coming, but buying petrol to power the generator has not been easy. When we increase the price to meet up, it discourages customers from coming to the shop. So, business is no longer like before.”
A restaurant operator, Mrs. Dupe Olayemi said: “You can see that this place is hot. In fact, it discourages some people from coming to eat and drink here. It has not been easy to put on the fans for long because it costs a lot to fuel the generator.
“Most of the times, fresh meat, fish and other perishable items rotten in the deep freezer due to lack of light. We suffer a lot of waste most of the times,
“The gains started dropping since we started operating the restaurant with generator. We are begging NEPA people to give us light. Government and prominent leaders from this place should wake up and do something about this situation. We can’t continue like this.”
An artisan, Mr Okeowo Azeez who lives in a single room with his wife and three children said: “Heat is killing us here. There is no light in Ilesa here since three months now. Those who have generators can use fan. Some of us don’t even have generator, talk less of buying fuel, which is not even easy. We are begging IBEDC and government to do something about this terrible situation.”
A NEPA retiree who preferred anonymity said: “The big men here have their generator sets. That is why they don’t care about us. That is why they are not doing anything about this light problem. The real wahala will start when the light is restored because crazy bills will be issued and people will resist it.
“IBEDC’s excuse for not restoring the light to Ilesa is not genuine at all. If the workers are complaining of vandalism of their installations, was anything vandalised in the control room? Why were they able to restore light to Ijebu-Jesa and other places and abandoned Ilesa?
“This problem is taking too long. Where are the prominent people in Ijesa land? Where is the state government? They must come to our rescue soon. The situation is terrible. It is affecting every aspect of life and the economy of the town.”
A public analyst who preferred anonymity said: “Since this light problem started here, social life has dropped. I like to go to the club at weekends to enjoy life with my friends. But one is no longer excited like before since the whole town is in darkness. “You can only see light in places where they use generator. In any case, the town cannot be as lively as when there is electricity. This has even affected various businesses because club owners and other hospitality outfits can no longer get business like before.
“The situation is dangerous because when a big town like Ilesa is in darkness like this, it can encourage criminal activities. The absence of electricity has also affected the economy of the town and by extension, the entire state. Millions of naira must have been lost since this crisis started. IBEDC, stakeholders and government must put heads together and resolve the problem and make life normal for the people.”