By Oghenekparobo Ehvwubare
September 17, 2022, was a sunny day in Akpobome, an agrerian community whose occupants are predominantly farmers, a quarter in Mosogar kingdom of Ethiope west Local Government Area of Delta State, where Abikono Jeffrey was sitting outside only with his short in the corner of a two bedroom bungalow with a canton made hand fan to ease the heat.
Jeffrey who was a former farmer, cultivating tomatoes, cassava, yam, plantain had just returned from his Okada riding job after spending about five hours riding a motorcycle (Okada) in a nearby Sapele Local Government for a living, like every other day, it took him and his co-riders time to endure the heat in a sunny day, after an exhaustive session of his work. At that moment, his body craved cool air from the nearby electric fan, but this was just a mirage because of the over eight years of energy poverty.
“I really want to sleep, but this heat won’t allow it,” Jeffrey said, as he tried to adjust his sitting position while his friend looks.”
“I will be 24 years old in December. Since I became an adult, I have never set my eyes on regular power from the national grid in this town, and this is how we survive here,” he said, wagging the canton which he used to fan himself.
Multiple sources told this reporter that the entire Akpobome, Mosogar main town, College road, Amori street, Palace road among others have also suffered deliberate neglect from getting connected to power by the contractor and BEDC.
Till date, residents of the Mosogar community still wallow in darkness. Even the deceased and new monarchs of the kingdom, Udurhie 1 and Uduaka 1 respectively were installed as monarchs under perpetual power outrage, transformers are rotting away being covered by weeds.
Amid these deplorable conditions, the road network in the kingdom could be described as death traps, amid gully erosion ravaging the community.
The cottage hospital in the community provides conducive atmosphere for reptiles, with mosquito infested only fits for animals.
Amid these sufferings faced by occupants of Mosogar community, their sufferings was further compounded by unending energy poverty. Findings revealed that Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa led Delta State Government awarded installation of two 2.5KVA transformers to Aghokari international with the aim to ameliorate the energy suffering of the people.
Accordingly, Aghokari International mobilized to site, allegedly brought two refurbished transformers, installed, and worked for hours and developed faults. The contractor came and took the refurbished transformers away but never return with it.
Contractor executed project shabbily -Residents
Findings showed the multi million naira project was awarded to Aghokari International Limited. Eight years after the project was awarded, some of the materials already losing value, such as the cables, which had dropped off. The concrete poles, according to electrical engineer, would normally serve for over 10 years, but they were found rotting away, and the old existing transformers were neglected, only useful for reptiles.
Sources on ground confirmed that the project was completed but was never put to use, hence, denying many occupants access to electricity.
Investigations revealed that despite the rehabilitation and mounting of the wires in Mosogar, residents did not enjoy the multi-million naira project, describing it as waste of public funds.
Though there was a constituency project in Mosogar influenced by member representing Ethiope east and west at the green chambers, Ben Igbakpa meant to restore power, yet no electricity.Transformer influenced by Hon. Ben Igbakpa.
A top politician in the community, Chief Ighoyota Conference Amori, spoke with Sunreporters, blamed the contracting firm, Aghokari International and BEDC for plugging the community into total darkness for many years and still counting. He said the contractor have received over 70 percent payment of the contract sum yet no light.
“Aghogho Meretin of Aghokari International is the contractor, He supplied refurbished transformers which never worked for a day and he took them back and till date no transformers and no light.”
Amori said the community and Delta State Government has done their own part of the deal but BEDC and the contractor decided to pay the community with evil deeds. Hinted that BEDC asked the community to make upfront payment of Two Million naira (N2, 000,000.00) yet BEDC and the contractor never gave them light.
“All the blames are on the contractor and BEDC, Government and the community have done their part 100 percent, BEDC is even owing the community Two Million naira deposited for upfront payment for recharge fees of which we have not seen light.”
Amori also alleged that the Contractor bought two refurbished transformers for installation which never worked, and the contractor took it back with the promise to bring another one but till date, they never saw the two brand new transformers awarded to him by Delta State Government; hinted that each time the community ask the contractor the whereabouts of the two transformers, he always said community never awarded contract to him, as such they don’t have right to question him.
Contractor absorbed self
Amid the allegations of shabby job execution, this reporter contacted Mr. Aghogho Meretin who happened to be one of the directors of Aghokari International said at first that he had completed the project about a year ago but after much interrogations, he later told the reporter that Delta State Government through the ministry of energy had since asked him not to re-mobilize to site pending the governor directives, after Chief Ighoyota Amori launched a complain of poor execution of job to the governor.
He also said a committee was set up to look into the contract awarded to him, said the committee report was presented to State Executive Council meeting, awaiting Gov. Okowa further directives. He said.
Igbakpa Cries to Abuja
In a bid to save his constituents from the unending power outrage, Member representing Ethiope east and west Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Ben Rollands Igbakpa, took the sufferings of his constituents in the hand of BEDC to the green Chambers of the National Assembly for possible end to the power crisis in his constituency.
Ben Igbakpa on December 20, 2021, came under motion of urgent public importance on the need to address the protracted blackout in Mosogar and Edjemuoyavwe communities in Ethiope West Local Govt Area of Delta State.
Igbakpa, while speaking on the motion after it was moved and seconded, noted that “for about seven years, major parts of Ethiope West Local Government Area, particularly Mosogar and Edjemuyavwe communities, have been in total blackout as a result of total failure by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) to discharge their duties in the distribution of power/electricity to the affected areas.”
He further said that the electricity distribution company in 2016 insisted on the community paying its calculated outstanding bill of N12 million before the supply and installation of a stepdown transformer, adding that after the payment and installation of the transformer, it broke down two days later.
According to the lawmaker, the community cried to the Delta State Government which provided two transformers which were installed, adding that when invited to energize them, BEDC again insisted on the payment of N10 million as reconnection fees. “This money was paid by the community, but shortly after the BEDC installed the transformers, they crashed again.”
The House resolved to “Invite the management of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for proper interaction to ascertain the root cause (s) of the perennial lack of or total failure of electricity supply and/or distribution to Mosogar, Edjemuoyavwe and other affected areas in Ethiope West LGA of Delta State with a view to finding a lasting solution.
Unemployment Abound in Mosogar Community
Findings revealed it could solve the unemployment crisis in Mosogar community in Ethiope west LGA and the State, even increase its IGR as the community has resources to take care of its children who have graduated from institutions.
Eseoghene told Sunreporters that he is a professional photo/graphics editor who had once dreamed of establishing a career in his hometown. But today, all the gadgets are kept somewhere in his room due to the absence of electricity to power them.
In 2019, Eseoghene almost left his town for Asaba, the State capital to pursue his goal before he realized his kind of business is too many in Asaba, thus, narrowing his chances of succeeding to the hitherto bubbling Mososgar kingdom.
Today, Eseoghene’s dream has been cut short as he finds it difficult to power his gadget, leaving him no choice but resorted to riding motorcycle popularly called Okada for a living.
Blackout affects education, promote crimes
Investigations by this reporter revealed that Mosogar community, the host community to Delta State College of Physical Education among other technical and vocational institutions lack the illumination (electricity) in the kingdom enabled easy theft of sorts as students in the community resorted to using solar street light illumination to read at night, a development night marauders took advantage to rape innocent students, rob them of their phones and other values.
When this reporter visited a vocational institute in Mosogar, he discovered that the science students did not have access to experiment on most of the topics that require electricity.
According to a teacher in Ogbokpa, who pleaded anonymity, said the bad state of education in this area ranges from not having electricity to study at night lead children not being exposed to experimental works and computer studies.
“I teach Computer, but I have never been able to show how to ‘practicalize corel draw or photoshop’ work in the lab. Most times, we have issues with our students having poor performances, but we realized that there’s little we can do in the absence of electricity. Most of them go to the farm immediately after school hours, and in the night, darkness prevails, therefore, restraining them from doing assignments, let alone reading books.
Delta Govt, BEDC silence
Mixed feelings has greeted the attitudes of the duo of Delta State Government and Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC over their silence on the energy poverty suffered by Mosogar community.
This reporter visited Benin office of BEDC to obtain comments from the company but his visit was greeted with resistance from the gate.
Delta State government through the office of the ministry of energy has refused to speak despite efforts made to speak with the Permanent Secretary of the ministry October 13th, 2022, but the ministry PRO confirmed to this reporter that there was no commissioner in the ministry at the moment, requested for the clarifications the reporter requesting so she can liaise with the Permanent Secretary and revert, but did not get back as at the time of filling this report.
This report was done with support of Sunreporters Media.