After the decades-long challenge of grappling with the problem of lack of access to grid electricity, it now appears respite is here for the people Ugwu-Isiokwe, a hilly community in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, thanks to community efforts.
Ugwu Isiokwe is within the larger Akama Oghe community; but while other areas have access to grid electricity, Ugwu Isiokwe has had to suffer lack.
Anthonia Neke said that she was born “on this hill and has lived here all my life.” She said she has only barely seen electricity. It is only festive periods that members of the community connect cables to other villages through the bushes.
Mrs Neke also lamented how they have been left behind by other neighbouring villages: “you know that light (electricity) is what makes a community, you know light is water, in fact, light is everything.”
Geoffery Okongwu, another member of the community, took this reporter round the hill to see first-hand and interact with the villagers.
He noted that initially all areas in the larger community had electricity but later termites ate up the wooden electricity poles and the people of Ugwu-Isiokwe could not afford to acquire new poles. They have since been in darkness.
He said that the only means through which they get electricity into their houses is by tapping from those living in the valley through the bushes with bamboo sticks. He said they do this with electric poles and with inferior wires which at the end of the day connects few houses and can only power wall sockets to charge their phones. This is done mostly during the Christmas period.
Mr Okongwu is a graduate of Industrial and Production Engineering and he is the supervisor of the community-led electricity installation going on at Isiokwe village.
Living in darkness
Ijeoma Eze, who has been living in the community since 1996, added that since she got married into this community she has never seen electricity. She said there is electricity in the other parts of the village but not on the hill.
Similarly, Chinedu Obi, one of the labourers involved in the installation work, who was born in 1982 on the hill, said there has never been electricity. Some survive on generators while the majority, who cannot afford, rely on asking from those who have generators, he said.
“Don’t you know where they sell a generator,” he quoted generators’ owners as saying.
Stanley Udedi, Dean of Students’ Affairs at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said that the electrification of his village is “a child of necessity.”
Mr Udedi narrated how the lack of electricity in the village has caused emigration. This, he said, had depopulated the village and also brought about low self-esteem “which many cannot see yet but it will begin to surface soon if the problem of electricity persists.”
He also said that he had to seek the support of his friends within the university to fund the project as it was highly demanding financially.
He noted that it was on a 60:40 percentage, where he brought 60 per cent of the capital and his friends, 40 per cent.
“The Vice-Chancellor of the university also contributed and I am happy about it,” said the professor who is also the lead promoter of the electrification of Ugwu-Isiokwe,
When asked what he thinks the electricity will do for the community, he said it would provide job opportunities.
“Young men into welding will have a source of livelihood. When the power is restored, all the houses will need to be wired and someone needs to do the wiring job and in turn, a job has been created. More provision stores will spring up on the hill and people will no longer have to travel 2km down the hill to purchase cold drinks and other items.”
He added that the restoration of power will help bind families as “it will bring men who have to go as far as 2km to drink closer to their homes as they can now have their drinks within or even at home.”
“The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) has also promised to provide a feeder and also two risers for the community,” he said.
Attempts to reach the lawmakers representing this community were unsuccessful as calls and messages were not taken or returned.
Chukwuemeka Ezeh, head of communications at EEDC, Enugu State, said that the stakeholders from the community requested the creation of additional ‘upriser’ to improve the quality of supply to the community.
This request was approved by management for the district to execute, he said.
The feeder manager, Ezeagu Service Centre, and his team are on it to ensure that all needed materials are obtained and task concluded, he said.