Omotosho community: Two power stations, a decade of blackout

Generation and transmission section of the Omotosho Electric Energy Company Limited Phase 1

Blessed with the rare ‘gift’ of two power stations, residents of Omotosho community in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State can only lament the irony of their situation as they have been living in darkness for almost a decade. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, in this report, highlights the experiences of the community and efforts so far to remedy the situation.

 

A parody of S.T. Coleridge’s ‘Water, water, everywhere…, for the people of Omotosho community in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, would read something like: ‘Power plants, all around us… Yet in darkness we ‘flourish.’

Privileged to have a multibillion Naira energy project, the Omotosho Power Plant, in their domain, yet they have lived in perpetual darkness for close to ten years. Situated along the ever-busy Ijebu Ode-Ore-Benin expressway, occupants of Omotosho community heaved a sigh of relief when the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration, took the decision to locate the power plant in the area in 2006. However, their joy was short-lived, as immediately after the inauguration of the power plant in 2007, the community was plunged into total darkness, a situation, which has since paralysed both economic and social activities in the area.

Following the terrible state of electricity supply, some investors who had moved into the area to do business when the plant was newly installed were forced to relocate, citing power as the major challenge confronting their businesses.

After series of protests organised by the people of the community to draw the attention of government and the management of the two power plants in the area to the ugly situation facing the community without any positive result, a recent attempt happened to attract the attention of the minister in charge of power, works and housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, who made efforts to ensure that the power plants, as a matter of urgency, were put in functional capacity to supply energy to the power generation host community without delay.

A visit by Nigerian Tribune to the community revealed that the situation remains the same. Sadly, the no-light situation has further succeeded in making the community a breeding ground for criminal activities, as notorious individuals take advantage of the darkness engulfing the agrarian community to perpetrate their sinister acts.

 

Social, economic activities at a standstill –Traditional ruler

The traditional ruler of the sleepy rural community, the Oluoso of Omotosho, Oba Omopariola Christopher Ogungbemi, lamented that the community had been in total darkness for more than a decade, noting that several efforts had been made by his predecessors before he became king of the town which yielded no positive result.


Oba Omopariola Ogungbemi

Expressing his disappointment over the action of the management of the power plants, Oba Ogungbemi stated that each time they protested the total darkness in the area, they always came up with various tales to cajole them. He also expressed his dissatisfaction over the non supply of electricity to the community, despite being their host.

He said: “We have visited the plant times without number to register our displeasure over the negligence of the management of the power plants towards us, but there was never a time they addressed our plight despite being their host. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo came here to inaugurate the plants, electricity was restored, and it was our hope at the time that we would enjoy these facilities since it was located in our area. However, immediately the installation was concluded, electricity took flight as well.

“We decided to dialogue with the management of the power plants and we were assured that light would be restored very soon; this is the tenth year. We have written several letters and protested the development, but there has been no positive result and we don’t want to disrupt their activities because we are a peace-loving community.

“When the minister of power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, came recently, we tabled our plight and the minister ordered the management of the power plant to immediately do the needful. They promised that electricity would be restored before April 1st, but this is June and nothing has been done.”

The traditional ruler lamented that social and economic activities over the years had come to a standstill, noting that the situation had encouraged the periodic visit of armed robbers who raid the community, using the darkness for cover most of the time.

 

We urge them to be patient –MD, Phase 1 Power Plant

The Managing Director of Omotosho Electric Energy Company Limited, Phase 1 Power Plants,  Engr. Samuel Kuti Itsekiri, disclosed that the community would soon heave a sigh of relief as the process to light up the community had reached advanced stage. He explained that the power station understood its social responsibility to its immediate environment and would not fail to carry out these responsibilities.

Generation and transmission section of the Omotosho Electric Energy Company Limited

According to him, it is a normal practice across the globe for immediate host communities to benefit and enjoy electricity wherever such projects are sited, noting that the company strictly adhered to this.

He specifically said that anywhere power plants were installed, the company must extend power to the host communities within its five kilometer radius, and said there was an ongoing project to provide electricity to the community and other adjoining communities.

Itsekiri said: “As far as I know, the process to light up the community is at the advanced stage and we have made it known to them, and urge them to exercise a little patience. We are trying to put in place a standard project for them. We don’t want a situation where there will be lapses and we are taking it step by step.”

He conducted our correspondent round the power plant to ascertain the level of the project, noting that “The people of the community are just being impatient. We are trying to secure protection for the lines.”

He, however, said apart from installing power to the community, the company had carried out several projects in the area as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility to the community. He listed some of these projects to include: sinking of boreholes; building of school library; renovation of the health centre in the community, and the absorption of some indigenes of the town into the company.

 

Most CSR projects were poorly executed –Youth leader

While affirming the presence of the power generating company in the community, a youth leader, Umar Ajisafe, said most of the projects were poorly executed and failed to stand the test of time.

Umar Ajisafe

According to Ajisafe, four out of the six boreholes sunk by the company are not functioning. He said: “Though they tried to provide us with potable water, the projects were poorly executed. Of the six boreholes constructed for the community, only two were working because the people living around it contribute money to buy fuel in their generating sets to pump water and most of the boreholes have been abandoned.”

He told our reporter that the most important thing the community requested from the power company was electricity and noted that the company had been foot-dragging on providing electricity to the community. He also urged our reporter to visit other projects executed by the electricity company within the town to confirm his position.

“The two power stations are not a blessing to the community at all; the community never benefitted from the company and we have been in perpetual darkness for over ten years. So how do we expect development of the town when there is no light?” Ajisafe queried.

He, however, said the energy producing company, some two years ago, installed transformers and poles across the town, but that there was no light in the town in spite of such efforts.

 

A virtually empty library

A visit to the library built by the electricity company at Omotosho Community Grammar School revealed that aside the structure, the library was not equipped. There were no chairs, shelves or books in the library. It was simply a structure bereft of necessities.

Borehole project executed at the community

Some of the students who spoke with Nigerian Tribune expressed disgust at the non functioning capacity of the library donated by the electricity company. They said the few books on the floor of the library were donated by the some teachers.

While some of the leaders of the community claimed the power plant company had done nothing for the community, an indigene of the area and an employee of the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the private Electric Energy Company Limited, Phase 1 Power Plants, should be commended.

He said no fewer than 11 traditional rulers and four title chiefs had been laying claims to the place, while the company has been settling them on monthly or quarterly basis.

“They all have representatives working here, and they are fully employed. The problem the electricity company is facing is that everybody is laying claim to the land and it is always difficult to settle where everybody is laying claim. I believe the darkness in our community will soon be a thing of the past in a few months because the transformers would be mounted soon,” he stated.

Efforts to speak to the Executive Director of the Niger Delta Power Holding plants known as Phase II were not successful as our correspondent was told the director was in Abuja for an official assignment, while the reporter was told to reschedule his visit to the plants.

 

‘I travel as far as Ore everyday to buy iced blocks for my business’

Nigerian Tribune, however, noted that most of the timber and wood companies that relocated to the area in the wake of the power plant installation, in the bid to ensure better access to power supply, and take advantage of the availability of timber and forest reserves in the area, have closed down or relocated. A few of them that still operated at the sawmill, counted their losses as they used diesel to power their machines.

Akin Olamidipupo

Fusho Ariyayo, who operates a drinking joint, said he travels as far as Ore everyday to buy iced blocks to run his shop. He said: “My freezers now house rats and cockroaches and I am not sure the cooling freezers will ever work again since there has not been light to power it for a long time. Most of my boys have been sacked because the business is no longer as lucrative as before; I run the place on my own now.

Also confirming this, James Akinlagbe,  a farmer, said business was no longer as usual as the light situation had affected so many things in the town. Another resident and businessman, Akin Olamidipupo, who runs an aluminum company, said the money he spends on diesel and petrol affected his business. He also complained of low patronage, which he said was very different from what obtained a few years ago when some industries relocated to the area.

Though the Managing Director of the Omotosho Electric Energy Company Limited, Phase 1 Power Plants,  Engr. Itsekiri, has assured that electricity will soon be installed in the area,  following the directive from Mr Fashola, residents of Omotosho can only hope that this is not an addition to the list of never-ending promises that never come to fulfillment.


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