Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
In Nigeria, once the electricity distribution company restores power in an area; shouts of ‘Up NEPA’ usually rent the air. For some communities like Asa, Awara, Mgbirichi, Ohuba, Obosima and Obiti, in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State; they have no cause to join in such shout because they have not seen the blink of electricity from the national grid for about ten years.
In fact, residents of these communities are still oblivious of the fact that the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) has long taken charge of electricity distribution in the area.
It would not be out of place to say that residents of these communities are completely in darkness. While some countries celebrate years of uninterrupted power supply, many oil bearing communities of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas of Imo state lament of their years of living in darkness.
They people in these communities have lost hope of enjoying power again in their area as they now resort to locally made solar panels to illuminate their surroundings at night.
The few privileged ones who can afford “I pass my neighbour” (small generators) buy them, but have not been finding it easy as the cost of running them daily leaves a large hole in their pockets.
So, it is a common sight in these communities for streetlights to be powered by locally constructed solar flashlight mounted on bamboo pole. During the day, the solar panelled flashlight is charged and ready to provide light at night.
Daily Sun sought why the communities have been allowed to live without electricity all these years and the residents blamed the Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (ISOPADEC) for failing to defray their electricity bills.
According to the President General of Ilile autonomous community, Napoleon Amadi, “We have been having light during the administration of Achike Udenwa but since the advent of this administration, no light at all.”
He explained that since the ISOPADEC which had the responsibility of paying their bills declined doing so with the coming of the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha, the light totally disappeared with the ISOPADEC.
Amadi said: “The communities actually entered an agreement with the state Government to offset our electricity bills monthly in exchange for our oil, and the State Government was doing it. I could remember that it was so during the administration of Udenwa but the arrangement was halted when the present government neglected ISOPADEC.”
The oil rich communities have therefore sworn that the arrangement must subsist insisting that those exploring their oil must render some services to the communities.
Our correspondent gathered that the youths of the area also share in the blame why their people are still in darkness despite effort of the State Government to restore electricity there.
During Governor Okorocha’s first year in office, the administration made frantic effort through one of their sons in government, Kingsley Uju, who was then Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations), to energise the communities again, but it could not work because most of the equipment brought to restore the electricity had been vandalised by the youths.
Amadi disclosed that the youths at some point became angry with the Government and resorted to vandalising the materials meant for restoration of their light.
Another indigene from Asa community, Emeka Nwankwo also lamented the pain and anguish his people are going through as a result of the absence of electricity in his community.
Nwankwo said that business activities are in slow pace in the community forcing many of the vibrant youths to abandon their areas for the towns and cities. Night life in the area, he equally noted, is agonising as most people go to bed as early as 7:00pm.
Regardless, an indigene of Obiti, another community that has also been in darkness, Mr Uche Uzoma has flayed some of the oil companies operating in the communities for totally neglecting the electricity situation in the communities.
“If only the oil companies here could assist us, we would not be in darkness; are we supposed to beg them? Every day they put on their big generators and all we could do is to dance to the noise coming from them,” Uzoma bemoaned.