Kinsmen of Okonjo Iweala, Nigeria’s past Minister of Finance and coordinator of the national economy, are not happy over the state of their village, Ogwashi Uku community in Aniocha South Local Government Area Delta state, Southern Nigeria have appealed to the Federal Government restore electricity supply which had eluded the community for more than seven years.
Mr Sam Obidi, who is a member of “The Forum’’, made the plea in an interview on Monday in Asaba.
The Forum is a body working with the Benin Electricity Distribution Company to restore electricity supply to Ogwashi-Uku,
Obidi said the economy of the area had deteriorated over time.
Obidi said that while some of the communities had been restructured and reconnected and receiving power supply, Ogwashi-Uku, Illah and some other communities, had been left out and every effort to reconnect these communities remained a challenge.
He said that micro and small businesses in the communities had suffered a great setback due to lack of public source of power.
Obidi said that there was no doubt that the economy of Ogwashi-Uku community, being host to a state polytechnic would blossom, jobs created and criminality checked and a peaceful and secured state promoted, “if electricity is restored’’.
According to him, computer business centres, barbing saloons, fashion houses, welders, other operators, have suffered losses and some have closed shops due to the high cost of operating in the area.
He said, “Those who managed to stay with their businesses in the past seven years have operated at higher cost and charges higher prices for their services at the expense of the community.
“The situation here seemed hopeless as most recently repaired transformers in Ogwashi-Uku have been vandalised in spite of the huge sacrifices made by the stakeholders in the community.”
He said that stakeholders in the community in 2016 committed about N20m to the contractor handling the project to fix the transformers in the area.
Obidi said that the delay in restoring the power by BEDC which had insisted on metering the community had remained a major challenge.
He said, “We complained to the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission, which directed that BEDC should supply electricity to the community with or without metering.
As it is now, life in the community is not rosy for the people. A cold room operator, Mr. Ignatius Okobi, said he and his colleagues had no other option than to venture into other lines of business since it had become extremely difficult for them to operate cold rooms with power generators.
He noted that several enterprises in Ogwashi-Uku, which depended on electricity supply, had been forced to close down because of their inability to cope with high costs of production.
Okobi said the situation had forced many artisans, including welders, air conditioner and refrigerator repairers, tailors, barbers and computer operators, among others, to relocate from the community.
Mr. Nwaka Okorie, a retired civil servant, recalled that he once led a 17-member delegation to PHCN’s zonal office in Benin about three months ago to discuss the power supply problems.
He said that the PHCN officials admitted that power supply was generally poor around the country, adding that they, nonetheless, pledged that something would be done to improve electricity supply to the community.
Okorie added that the officials assured them that they would work out plans on how to supply electricity to the community at least three days in a week.
A prominent son of the area, Chief Andrew Okocha, Managing Director of AC Okocha Motors, is not happy with the happenings in Ogwashi Uku. Although he has all he could to take care of himself and his family, he has a serious concern for the growth and development of his community.
Efforts to reach the public relations officer of BEDC, Asaba zone, was to no avail.