Across Bayelsa State, several projects embarked upon by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) litter communities that make up the 8 LGAs. While some are completed, others remain uncompleted, abandoned or not started at all. This story investigated NDDC projects in the state, specifically, electricity/power, school and road, bridge and erosion control projects.
In Sagbama Local Government Area (LGA), Ebedebiri community lives in darkness.
“Determined to make a difference” reads the motto of the NDDC. Each signpost of a proposed, ongoing, completed or abandoned project of the NDDC carries this signage. However, the people of Ebedebiri of Sagbama LGA cannot say the difference NDDC is having in their lives as they live in darkness.
It was Thursday, October 24, 2019, and the afternoon sun had just begun to rise. Eunice Ewepu sat on a wooden bench in front of her house with a wrapper tied around her waist. At intervals, she uses the left side of her wrapper to wipe-off sweat from her face.
“This is how we have been staying for some months now,” Mrs Ewepu said. “The last time we saw light was during December last year (2018) and they use to bring us bills to pay.”
Mrs Ewepu, 25, shares a one-room apartment with her husband, Ayakpo. A few meters away from their home is an old box of transformer placed inside a 3-foot squared block house specially built for it and is located by the side of the road. The area is water-logged.
Ebedebiri community in Sagbama LGA had not had electricity supply for over a year. The last time they saw electricity through a shining fluorescent bulb was in December 2018. The situation persists at the time of this report.
The reason their electricity situation worsened was a damaged transformer.
On July 31, 2013, a contract for the installation of two transformers was awarded by the NDDC. The contract was awarded to Ayakoko & Sons Enterprise. While the transformer has been installed and is looking very old, the signpost at the site where it is located is relatively new – an indication that it was placed there just before the October 2019 visit.
Mrs Ewepu could not remember when the transformer was installed in the community. Also, an observation by this reporter shows that only one transformer was installed in the community even though the contract description says two were to be installed at that location.
“At the end of the month, they bring electricity bills for us to pay,” Mr Ewepu said. “Our television and fans have gathered dust because there is no light to use it with.”
No reason has been given to residents for the non-utilisation of the installed transformer or the reason only one was installed instead of two as the contract states. However, a review of the NDDC’s finances showed that less than 20 per cent of the money budgeted for electricity projects in Ebedebiri were cash-backed.
Out of the N148,920,000 budgeted in 2016 for electrification projects in the community, only N22,338,000 was released, according to the 2016 NDDC Appropriation Act.
Mr Ewepu said they have taken action to launch complaints about the instability of power supply to the community but their complaints have not been successful in producing the desired result.
“And I cannot afford a generator because I am a fisherman,” he said.
In the 2016 NDDC Appropriation Act, N363.6 billion was set aside as the budget for projects in the state while N44.5 billion was released. Out of this, over N20 billion was budgeted for the electrification of the communities in the state. However, the impact of these funds cannot be seen in the communities in terms of electricity supply as most of them still live in darkness.
Street light installed but not working
As residents of Ebedebiri in Sagbama LGA lament lack of electricity supply, other parts of the local government have similar challenges. This reporter observed the installation of solar-powered street lights across the local government. However, the residents of the community say some of them are not functioning as they should.
In Sagbama town, N240 million was budgeted for the provision of solar street lights, according to the NDDC 2016 Appropriation Act. Of this amount, N40 million was released in 2016 while N53.8 million was released from the 2015 Appropriation Act.
“They are not working for now,” Fred Ogbuma, a resident of the community said. “There was a time when they were working especially at night but not anymore. If you go to the other side of the community, some of the solar light whenever darkness approaches,” Mr Ogbuma explained.
This reporter could not verify the authenticity of the claim that it works in the other parts of the community as he was only there during the day time and not at night.
“They work at night,” another resident who identified his name as Peter corroborates Mr Ogbuma’s claims. “I have been there at night and saw some of them working. But the ones we have here are not working at all.”
In Ekeremo LGA, the NDDC awarded a contract to Gedrian Resources Ltd for the provision and installation of solar-powered street light in communities at the LGA. When this reporter visited the communities, the street lights with NDDC inscriptions were seen installed along the streets. But most of them were not working, according to Daniel who lives in the community.
NDDC signage for the provision and installation of solar-powered street light in Ekeremo LGA. Photo by Patrick Egwu
“Sometimes ago when they installed them, they were working at night but it suddenly stopped and they have not come to fix them,” he said. “If you stay here until night time, you will see that they are not working, just one or two of them that are working.”
The Appropriation Act also showed that a total sum of N700 million was budgeted in 2016 for the provision and installation of solar-powered street light in the communities in Ekeremor LGA. Of that amount, N38 million was released in 2016 while N33,698,000 was released in 2015.
Yenogoa: state capital in partial darkness
Goodluck Adogbeji is a local tailor in Yenogoa. Every week, he spends more than N5,000 in buying petrol to power his small generator so as to work and meet the needs of his customers.
“Power supply stays for just 30 minutes whenever they bring it and I can’t rely on this to do my work,” Mr Adogbeji said. “So what I did was to buy this generator here so it can serve me whenever I need it.”
Some parts of Yenogoa are in darkness as a result of the unavailability of power supply. Even when the power is restored, it lasts for some minutes or hours in best cases.
Residents said that the development started a few years ago as they normally enjoyed steady power supply previously. Presently, communities that enjoy power supply do so with a ‘sharing formula’ from one community to the other.
In front of Mr Adogbeji’s shop in the city is a 500KVA transformer carefully secured with a barbed-fence. A document seen by this reporter shows that the transformer was installed by Emmy Global Venture in 2015 to supply power to Mr Adogbeji’s community.
“You can see it there but we don’t have light all the time and that is the main issue,” he said.
About a kilometre from Mr Adogbeji’s shop is another transformer installed by the NDDC. The project was awarded to Oxbow Resources Services International Limited in February 2013. While the transformer has been installed, it was not working as at the time of visit.
A resident of the area, Johnson Ayafa said some parts of the transformer were stolen about a month ago.
“The NEPA people told us to bring money so that the things would be replaced but no one has agreed to do that,” Mr Ayafa said.
Perhaps, the most affected by the development is Titus, a metal welder who has a workshop a few meters away. When this reporter visited his workplace, he was busy lifting a metal bar into a white truck.
“Since this thing happened, I have been the one providing electricity with my engine. I know how much I spend in doing this,” he said.
However, at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, a transformer project awarded by the NDDC was sighted at the hospital’s gate when this reporter visited. The project, which was the installation of one transformer at the University was awarded to Gbaranbiri Nigeria Enterprise in January 2013.
A gateman, who works there, told this reporter that the transformer provides electricity to the hospital. But the hospital’s generator was in use as of the time of visit as there was no power supply.
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