A town in Nigeria, home to over 500,000 people, has never had public electricity, with residents either living in darkness or providing their own electricity using generators.
Toungo Local Government Area, created 25 years ago, is located in the southern part of Adamawa State.
Carved out of Ganye Local Government Area in 1996, Toungo is one of the 21 local governments in Adamawa State. It is, however, the only one in the state yet to be connected to the national grid.
This is despite the budgetary provision of almost a billion naira since 2015 for the electrification project.
“Electricity can improve the economic status of the town and as well improve the lives of the inhabitants in many ways,” Bitrus Briska, a mechanic in Toungo, told this reporter.
Mr Briska said the lack of electricity in Toungo has contributed to its “backwardness”, explaining that “if there is electricity, Toungo will compete with other major towns in the state.”
While residents of Toungo have long waited to be connected to the national grid, it was not until 2017 that headway was made on the actual connection.
Connecting places within Nigeria to the national grid is the federal government’s responsibility. However, the federal government, which had failed to perform this role for almost two decades, in 2017, gave administrative approval to the Adamawa State Government to execute the project. But there was no cash backing to the approval which delayed the commencement of the electrification project, a senior official of Adamawa’s rural infrastructure ministry said, asking not to be named as he has no permission to talk to journalists.
Findings by this reporter show that between 2015 and 2020, almost a billion naira was included in the Adamawa State budget for the electrification of Toungo. However, while about a quarter of the amount (N202 million) was budgeted between 2015 and 2018, it was not until 2019, two years after the federal approval, that a contract was awarded for the project and money released.
The Adamawa government budgeted N386 million for the project in 2019 and N390 million in 2020.
A few months after Umaru Fintiri was sworn in as governor in 2019, the Adamawa government awarded a contract for the electrification of the town to Mac Jones Construction Nigeria Limited, Jimeta, at the cost of N355 million. Findings by this reporter show that the contractor has already been paid N272 million of the sum with a balance of N83 million yet to be paid.
However, the project has now been completed and will be inaugurated today, putting residents of Toungo in an expectant mood.
Toungo residents express hope
Some residents of Toungo said the absence of electricity in the town has discouraged investments there.
“Lack of electricity has retarded the development of the town as there are no existing small scale enterprises in the area,” a resident, Yunana Whyclif, told this reporter.
He expressed gratitude to Mr Fintiri for connecting the area to the national grid but called for the establishment of a higher institution or a campus of any higher institution to cater for the growing population.
For Mr Briska, the mechanic, “The area has been deprived of electricity since 1999, but we are happy now that work is going on the electrification, electric generators are beyond the reach of a common man, but with the electricity, lives will be better for us.”
Another resident, Jibrin Adamu, stated that there are few small scale businesses like cold soft drinks sellers or hair salons in the area due to the absence of electricity.
“Businesses can thrive in the future after getting electricity more than twenty years after the local government came into existence,” Mr Adamu said.
State Government’s Reaction
When contacted, the Adamawa State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Umar Pella, said the government has resolved to complete all projects initiated by the present administration and those abandoned by the previous regime in the state.
“If you remember, during our campaign, one of the promises we made to them was that once we are voted into power, they are rest assured that they would be connected to the national grid.
“Part of the narrative we want to take away from Toungo and the rest of the places is that politicians can promise and fulfil. Because at a point in time, because of the nature of politics in this part of the world, people are losing confidence in all the promises politicians make.
“We want a situation whereby at the end of this time, people can look back and hold us accountable for everything we have promised them and can be satisfied.
“Toungo is one of the stories we want to leave permanently on ground in the history of the state. We have changed the fortune of that place,” he said.
This story was produced as part of the Udeme project, a Social Accountability and Transparency Project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ). The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher.
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