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Atom Lim: Thanks to my community, not GEJ, I have light

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Atom Lim: Thanks to my community, not GEJ, I have light

By Atom Lim

As excited as we were about our collective achievement and anxious to enjoy good light, it took a further wait of three months before the transformer was finally installed. Reason? Someone at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria requested N150, 000 for installation! We had bought the transformer for them. Now, they were asking us to pay for its installation! Again, my community association levied everyone and came up with the money, after three months.

Public power supply in my area has been better for about a week now.

Ahaa! I know the pro-government readers would already be gloating about Jonathan’s power reforms and how they are working. Permit me to quickly kill their joy: the Jonathan government has no hand in this improved situation.

You see, I have lived in Ota for over a year now. In this period, I have spent over N200, 000 on petrol for my ‘I Pass My Neighbour’ generator. I didn’t realize this until my colleague and co-tenant, Ibraheem, did the math.

Ibraheem had figured that since we were compelled to spend an average N4, 000 a week on petrol, 52 weeks of our one year in the house would have gulped over N200, 000 on fuel. He was right.

Before last week, my area had no meaningful power supply. The problem was simple; we had an overloaded transformer. The solution: A new transformer to complement the old one.

For years before I moved there, residents of the area had waited for government to do something about their plight. Even when they were not sure whose responsibility it was to provide them a transformer, the good people of my community waited. In that time, they must have spent millions privately generating electricity.

In 2011, however, the Community Development Association (CDA) decided it needed to stop the foolish and endless wait. The CDA then imposed levies on landlords and tenants for the purchase of the transformer.

Whether a resident was Yoruba, Igbo, Tiv or Igede didn’t matter. We all paid. A year later, my community had made about N1 million (I am told) and bought the transformer.

As excited as we were about our collective achievement and anxious to enjoy good light, it took a further wait of three months before the transformer was finally installed. Reason? Someone at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria requested N150, 000 for installation! We had bought the transformer for them. Now, they were asking us to pay for its installation! Again, my community association levied everyone and came up with the money, after three months.

I am certain the story of my community buying a transformer is not news to most readers. Increasingly, Community Development Associations are playing more important roles in the lives of Nigerians than governments. They are providing solutions to problems that directly affect the people and are gaining confidence in the people.

To the best of my knowledge, the imposition of the levies we paid was illegitimate. Yet, no one in the area contested the legality of it because the levies helped to solve a critical problem.

This is what has become of Nigerians. We trust our communities better than we trust our governments. Yet, governments and their agents are failing to see why they need to partner with communities for effective service delivery or even governance.

I am appalled that the PHCN requested a fee from our community for the installation of the transformer we bought. But more than that, I am ashamed that I forgot all the hard work the youth leaders in the community put into mobilizing funds for the transformer and attributed the electricity I enjoy now to Jonathan.

Overwhelmed by the full voltage and the long hours of power supply since last Saturday, I had gotten on Twitter and unusually sang praises of the Jonathan government. Damn, I even promised to vote him in 2015!

Whatever it was I was high on finished after I had grown used to the improved electricity in my area. Now I know better.

It is true the Jonathan government says it is working to improve power supply across the country. It might even be true that Nigeria now generates an average 4, 000 MWs daily. But, you see, the Jonathan government could have very well generated 20, 000 MWs of power in the last year and I would still be in darkness if it wasn’t for the year-long efforts of my community to buy a transformer.

Indeed, it’s my CDA that will be saving me a significant part of that N200, 000 or so I used in generating power last year, not Jonathan.

P.S

My community has warned that it will lynch anyone, especially PHCN staff, who as much as loiters around OUR new transformer. Good for Reno Omikiri they haven’t included those who will take credit for their efforts.

Atom Lim is a commentator and development worker. In his former life, Atom practiced journalism and frequently blogged for leading media organisations. He is also a recovering corrupt Nigerian, having participated in a few rackets. He regularly expresses his views on twitter with the handle: @atomlim

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