For the woman in the rural area, the basic needs a home requires are energy (wood//kerosene) and water. She needs energy to prepare food for the family, keep the family warm and for production if she is involved in local industry like herb preparation, frying or cooking of food like akara, pudding, rice, beans, etc for sale for daily upkeep.
She also needs energyfor light at night. In the more urban areas, reliance is more on energy fromfossil fuel-gas, kerosene and electricity but unfortunately, this is notreadily available especially in Nigeria. Years gone by electricity power supplywas steady and thus women could plan their homes, cook and store in the refrigerators, keep the familyclothing ironed and invest in small businesses like hair saloon, dry cleaning,cold water sale without stress.
Over the years, thisprivilege has whittled down as electricity supply become erratic all over thecountry thanks to poorly managed power plants and power distribution centre.
According to Womin, anAfrican women extractive industry impact tracking organisation, “We needelectricity and other clean energy sources for our development andwell-being. Without it we are stuck Ipoverty. Without it, girls and women especially, will find it difficult toescape the many hours they spend everyday collecting wood and water, cooking,washing clothes and ironing. They will continue to be stopped from doing otherthings like going to school, planting food and enjoying free time.”
Womin noted further,“Most of us live in patriarchal families and communities. Men are in control.Girls and women are expected to do housework and obey men. It is especiallyimportant for girls and women’s future that we win the right to electricity andclean energy sources which we control,” as it is called for energy equality.
Steady energy sourceespecially electricity being the man in Nigeria, aids planning. Why women cancook all her meals, store in the fridge for the week, shop for the month and befree of running to the market ever often or cooking even when not convenient,with electricity, you do your washing using machines and vacuum your housewithout much stress. But with the current epileptic power supply in thecountry, planning is difficult and the result is that what should have been freetime for women and girls is spent addressing house chores. This also means lesstime for the school girl to read and do her home work.
Panting this picture clearly, a female lawyer and NGOexecutive said the poor power supply in the country is causing havoc on thelives of families especially, women.
“You can imagine that Ihad to wake up my family at 4am when they brought light so that we could startfetching water and ironing. We just had to take advantage of the light since noone knows when next it would come.
We got to church laterin the money, drained and lived, at some point I was even sleeping,” shenarrated.
You have to have analternative source of power to be able to overcome this stress. Even the cellphone, the wonder product that has changed the way we communicate and even dobusiness needs to be charged to be of use.
A friend come visiting from Rukpokwu area ofPort Harcourt and narrated that most times, for as long as four days, residentsget no power supply, so as she stayed, she had to sit by a charging point torecharge her phone and also keep up with the flow of events on her phone.Without power supply, she is cut off from news around and some opportunitiesinherent in the social media in addition to amusing herself.
The power distributioncompanies delight in harassing customers to pay their bills which are oftenestimated rather than offering them service.
In Nigeria, it isestimated that about half of the population have no access to electricitysupply and most of those without, are in the rural areas.
Nigeria is an oil richcountry but her energy infrastructure is very poor. Though, billions of dollarshave been continually ploughed into the sector to boost power supply,corruption that manifests in the form of electricity business being handed overto people who know little or nothing about the business and have no capital toinvest to raise the stakes, has resulted in low performance. About 75 millionNigerians have no access to electricity according to the World Bank while thecountry loses $5million yearly to gas wasted through flaring by oil extractingcompanies and at the detriment of the health of women in host communities.
With the wrong handshandling the power sector, the new private owners go back to government to begfor support. To survive, they resort to distributing power to industries andaffluent Nigerians who can pay more for their services. Thus the generality ofthe people are forced to live without power, further reducing theiropportunities of pursuing their livelihood.
Barbers, saloons, restaurants,mills, wielding workshops, etc., do not operate with power supply. To worsenmatters, the mass of the people receive ridiculous bills at the end of themonth for irregular short-lived power supply, usually from 9pm to 6am, periodsthe companies can sphere power change.
Wominan Africanalliance of women in the extractive sector captured this well. “Powerstations that produce and supply electricity do not make sure all people canbenefit. They focus on getting electricity to big businesses.
For example, inLesotho, South Africa and Tanzania power lines that carry electricity to thebig mining companies pass over communities. People below still have to usekerosene or burn wood for energy. These give off pollution that makes peoplesick.”
Coming back home, in Rivers State, Afam and neighbouring areas cannot access electricity though they host the Afam power station. The Benin Electricity Distribution Company covering Edo and Delta States has been having issues with customers in both states because of poor power supply. The people in Ogwashi-Uku/Ibusain Delta allege that BEDC factories and big businesses in Asaba, the state capital buy up power from BEDEC so that power distribution meant for these communities really get there.
Ezenekwe, a NSE fellowsaid there are technical and non-technical problems which until tackled byeffective management, will continue to hinder power supply in Nigeria.
According to him, 60percent of power generated is lost due to transmission issues while only 29 percent of power so generated, are adequately captured for distribution, a wastepaid for by consumers connected. He added that 80 percent of the population,are not connected to the national grid and revenue collection realized is low,only about 25 percent and that is putting the power distribution companies,Discos in trouble with threatening bankruptcy.
“Transmissionstructures are dilapidated and operating at 50-60 percent efficiency; systemcollapse between January and June 2018, stood at six and Discos are resorting to load-shedding toavoid further collapse, the former senior Shell official stated.
He blamed communicationgap in the three business units of power generation-Generation, transmissionand distribution units-due to lack of policy and poor control. Questioning therationale for placing the overall management of a specialized and criticalsector in the hands of anon-professional as minister, Ezenekwe said the matter is made worse with thefederal attorney general as next on theladder.
To understand the power problem, Nigeria was generating up to 6000 megawatt of energy from 4000 megawatts in the 60s and about 4000 megawatts in 2015 but today from recently released figures, this has further dipped to about 3000 megawatts even as the Power minister, Tunde Fashola was trying to deceive Nigerians that many states are enjoying 24 hours power supply.
Ezenekwe identified limiting means of transporting generated power as a major challenge. “The country has capacity for transporting only 7000 megawatts of power while it can generate 12, 532 megawatts. At least 3000 megawatts of energy is lost and the cost of all wasted power generated is built into the consumers tariff causing high payment for less power even though the Nigerian tariff is low compared to other countries.
Ezenekwe alsoidentified corruption as a detractor. “Corruption is also a detractor includingputting square plugs in round holes. Politicians are our main problem; notlooking the direction of empowering the people but thinking self”.
Stating that energy isthe most vital tool for diversification of the economy, being the base of industries, transportation andcommerce, the speaker called for the adoption of some measures to correct theexisting anomalies.
“Immediate effortsshould start with an effective management system-create room for technocrats tomanage the three critical segments of the power supply chain-GeneratingCompany, Transmission and Distribution companies”, he suggested.
Power supply is a rightthis government must address better as it comes into a second term. Poor powersupply or non-supply plays a major role in the worsening state of insecurity inthe country as well as the daily increasing poverty level in the country. WithNigeria as the poverty headquarters of the world, it is evident that many womenare being dispossessed of the opportunity to hop out of poverty as the presenceof power supply opens doors to overcoming poverty.
Even the more commonlyused power for cooking, kerosene has become a scarce commodity as the genuinekerosene is fully channeled to the aviation industry while the populace resortsto unrefined kerosene sourced from illegal refiners. The reward for this is themany recorded incidents of death and injuries from explosions of stoves andlanterns of users. Many families have lost dear ones and properties arisingfrom this contaminated source while the government that should protect citizensfrom this danger pretends nothing is happening. Those afraid of this fate goback to the forests to fetch firewood.
Other African countries are encouragingalternative and affordable energy sources which is helping ordinary peoplepursue their dream and create economic opportunities to beat poverty. Nigerianeeds to thread that path especially so that the burden of living will becomeless heavy on the women.
ConstanceMeju is the publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper anddedicated gender equality and human rights advocate.