Tony John, Port Harcourt
Kaani community in the old Ogoni Division, now in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, is far from development. Basic necessities of life like electricity, good roads and water are tall dreams for the natives.
While in some areas people complain about over-estimated electricity bills, shortage of power supply, rationing of power and ‘low current,’ in Kaani, none of these services is provided.
Daily Sun visited the community recently, and spoke with some residents. It was discovered that the community has been without electricity for the past 40 years. That was when the then government tried to install electricity in the area. The people said government mounted some poles, which have since been abandoned with no cables connected.
The traditional ruler, Mene Godwin Apere, Menebua Kaani, said several letters were written and provisions made by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to bring electricity to the community.
The pitiful condition of the people, with no good health facility, schools, market and others, has really held back the community, compared to other neighbouring communities.
Kaani is a few kilometres from Bori town. Yet, it looks out-dated and neglected. The people have blamed their plight on the absence of their sons or daughters in government, which they regard as a setback.
The Menebua Kaani lamented that the non-existence of electricity in his community has denied them needed development thereby making the community look abandoned: “Electricity is the source of power and it brings development. If there is no light, there will be no development.
“And light will also help the security of the community. Evil cannot thrive in light, but in darkness; business are affected, security of the community is affected, the youth influence from the urban areas to the community is also affected.
“Light is one of our challenges in terms of development. We have the manpower, population, size and the closeness to Bori. Yet, development is far away from us.
“You can imagine how a community will grow to this level without electricity. The poles were laid in the 70s by the Directorate of Rural Infrastructure, Rivers State. Since then, nobody has spoken about the non-existence of power supply here in Kaani. Crime also increases in a community where there is no light. If the boys are engaged, the issue of crime will reduce.
“My community is agrarian. We are agricultural people and hardworking. But, because of lack of necessary amenities, like light, the community is not making much progress.
“There are professionals from this community. We have professors, medical doctors, engineers and others. But, of course, the political space has not allowed us to benefit from these good amenities of life.
“Those poles were mounted by the Directorate of Rural Infrastructure during the tenure of Ibrahim Babangida as Head of State. Once the government was overthrown, the project was abandoned and the directorate was dissolved. But, to show that people were willing to have light, nobody has tampered with the poles after so many years since they were mounted.
“The closest agency to us these days is the NDDC because they can intervene quickly. We submitted survey plan to NDDC. Of recent, they said they included our light project in their budget. But, you know NDDC more or else can swallow you without you knowing. For now, NDDC is not doing serious work because of the forensic audit going on there. There is nobody to talk to now.
“But, I expect the state government should also know how the situation is because they came around during elections. This community is part of Rivers State it is part of Khana Local Government. We are calling on government to consider our plight and come to our aid as it affects installation of light. We also need health intervention.
“The governor has been trying in his developmental projects. He should also consider our community for these projects. Abandoned health centres should be revisited and revived to curb the high rate of mother and child mortality.”
Mrs. Dum Blessing, a civil servant, said: “Since I got married to this place (Kaani) 25 years ago, I have not seen electricity or water. We have been in darkness for years and there is no headway. If government can come to the aid of this community, it will be good for us.
“Due to lack of electricity, (Kaani) business is not going on well. We cannot do any perishable business.
“I was running a cold room business before; my business died due to lack of electricity. There are places we don’t have good roads and there is no government facility in this community.
“The secondary school we have was built by the community in the 1930s. Even the health centre the government promised to build for us has since not been completed. It is a government that is near Bori town, but we are in darkness in Kaani.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Francis, a farmer, told Daily Sun: “To my own understanding, I believe, maybe, God has not approved that we should have light yet. We lack everything in this community and, especially, the light, which brings development. If electricity enters our community, business will start booming and development will come. But, there is no light for us to enjoy the community.
“We don’t have portable water to drink, no good health centre. We have been struggling to build secondary school by ourselves. Government has not helped us in anyway. We are paying tax. Yet, the government cannot develop our community. Government cannot remember us especially in health facility.
“This season, children are suffering, they have small pox, measles, and different types of sicknesses because of the bad water they are drinking. Two weeks ago, a beautiful young girl died here as a result of lack of good health centre.
“If government can give us good water, connect electricity light to us, give our children good education and provide us with good health centre, we will be happy as development will enter our community.”
To 27-year-old electrician, Isaac Barirugbene and 32-year-old Peterside Nwuiyerazor, before they were born the rusted poles were already mounted with no cable wire. Barirugbene said: “There is no work since there is no light. The only people that call us for job are those that use generator sets. Most people without generator cannot call us because they do not have means of power supply.
“We believe if there is light, we will have more work to do. We have many electricians in this community but they all complain of no work to do. If government can provide work for us, I believe we will all be productive and busy.”