- ‘People are looking for money to eat, and you’re talking of generator’
By Ola Kehinde-Balogun
MR. and Mrs. Shodeke James, a newly married couple resident in Lagos posted on one online platform an enquiry on where to get an original electricity generating set in the metropolis. In no time, they got an answer to their quest. Many respondents directed them to the Oyingbo Market in Ebute Metta.
Oyingbo market, which dates back to the 1920s, has grown over the years. The popular old saying that ‘Oja Oyingbo ko mo pe enikan o wa’ (Oyingbo Market does not know if anyone isn’t present) still resonates. The market is a popular one for generating sets.
Wherever you look within the market, generators of different shapes and sizes flood many major streets and roads around Oyingbo Market in Lagos Mainland Local Government Area of Lagos State. A large part of Cole, Prima and Kano streets in the area are inundated with generator sellers. They are also found in large numbers along Borno Way, among many other inner streets in the area. Technicians and specialists in generator repair as well as dealers in generator spare parts are also in the market.
“You cannot claim that the generator you want cannot be found in this market. The problem might be the lack of funds to purchase,” the couple said.
But Oyingbo isn’t the only market in the country where you’ll find generating sets. Indeed, the products litter almost every neighbourhood and town. Whether in a roadside shop, by a market or not, generators are being sold in virtually every part of the country.
Over the years, generating sets have become a common item in every house. Even, those that live in one-room apartments in densely populated homes would boast of generating sets. They often go for the smallest size, which have overtime acquired a popular name ‘I better pass my neighbour’. The generators are arranged behind the windows of each room.
Because of the unending epileptic power supply in the country, more people are always in need of generators. While the poor and low-income earners go for the easily affordable generators to supplement the epileptic power supply in the country, the very rich often install a power plant in their homes.
For long, the generator markets and shops were the daily destination of many in need of electricity in their homes. Generator sellers made good sales and smiled to the banks with great profit.
But all that has changed, the reporter learnt. These days, generator sellers are complaining. The economic crisis, bedevilling the country has caused a great lull for generator sellers.
According to Mr. Chukwudi, a trader, selling generators at the Oyingbo Market, the market has been unstable in recent months. Chukwudi affirmed that unlike other goods whose owners could confidently expect some good returns from time to time, the generator business largely depends on regularity or otherwise of power supply in the country. He admitted though that he was making good money from the business when he first started selling generators eight years ago. He blamed the current discouraging situation on the high costs of generators, which he said was occasioned by the poor value of the naira in the international market.
His words: “In the last four years or so, we experienced good sales. The country has been experiencing epileptic power supply. If you noticed, many developing areas around Lagos and Ogun states don’t have electricity at all, yet more people move into these areas because houses are cheap there. For people to survive in such places, they rely completely on generators. I have some shop outlets in those places like Ibafo, Mowe, Ota, and I know what I have made in those shops.
“But since this era of ‘change’, things have really changed for us, and the change isn’t very positive. Sales have really reduced. Sales began to decline about a year ago now. Between late last year and March this year, when there was intense heat in the country, we experienced some boom in sales. But as the dollar kept going up against the naira, these commodities were increasing in cost. And customers refused to buy.”
Between Mosan and Akinogun Bus Stops on Ipaja Road in Lagos, there are a number of generator sellers. The reporter monitored the movement of customers around the shops, to see if they would buy new generators. But even as many customers went inside the shops, not a single one came out with a generating set.
The reporter spoke with Tunde, one of the salesmen at Ola Oluwa Ventures. He identified the high cost of generators as one of the reasons for the dwindling sales. But he said he was still making some sales.
Said he: “All the prices have gone up, and this has greatly affected the demand. For example, generators like Elemac or Sumec of 2.5KVA that we used to sell for a little above N30,000 now go for over N50,000. The 11.5KVA that we were selling for N80,000 now goes for N140,000. Even, the small ‘I better pass my neighbour’ that we were selling for N13,500 now goes for around N19,000.
“Some people still buy them, but very grudgingly after much persuasion and negotiation. This is because when you give a price to customers, most of them would exclaim and wonder why the price is so high. Then, we would begin to argue back and forth.
“As we are fast approaching the rainy season now, sales will automatically drop further, coupled with the poor economy of the country. The main reason people buy generators is to fight heat, to help them power their fans and so on. But once heat is reduced by regular rain, the business gets low.”
Uche, who works with Christian Investment at Mazamaza, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, also recounted a similar tale. He said the business had reduced by over 60 per cent.
He said: “Generally, there is no money in the country, so, we rarely have as much patronage nowadays as we used to record in the past. As we set up our shops daily, mounting one generator over another, that is the same way we dismantle them and put them back in the night. About a year ago or so, we could sell like five pieces a day. But nowadays, we thank God if we manage to sell only one in a day. And there are days we don’t sell at all.”
Mr. Adebangbe Alabi said generators were not a priority for people in the country right now, as many could barely eat. “Many are still looking for what to eat and you’re talking of generators. Is it not a man who has fed his family that will be looking to buy generators,” he wondered.
Mr. Tajudeen Olorunnibe, an engineer and a generator maintenance expert with a renowned publishing house, said many people had resolved to continually maintain their old generating sets, no matter how rickety they become. They would rather do that than procure a new one, he observed.
“The generator business has really gone down because of the poor economy in the country. If you remember, a generator company around Anthony area of Lagos recently downsized. That is because the business is no longer booming,” he added.