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Iliyasu Gadu: TOTAL DARKNESS IN TARABA, ADAMAWA AND GOMBE AND NO ONE CARES


For going to four weeks now, the states of Taraba, Adamawa and Gombe have been thrown into total darkness following the reported vandalization of the main power trunk line somewhere in Gombe by yet to be identified person. As a result, electricity supply to the three states has been disrupted throwing the entire area into total darkness since then.

The three states cover a combined total area in the region of a hundred square kilometres and collectively contain a population in the thereabouts of twenty million. Of the three states, Taraba and Adamawa share long international border with the Republic of Cameroon which is porous and can be easily infiltrated at different points.

In many ways these are what one can call the boondocks of Nigeria; extreme, off the beaten track, neglected in virtually all the scheme of things and sometimes even forgotten as they are far removed from the centres of attention and activity in the country. As a Nigerian too often I get flustered when I proudly tell them I am from Taraba and they retort with an annoying dose of  blissful ignorance ''where is that''? Or some will say ''Is that near Jigawa''?  

In the past four weeks of this continuing total darkness, some twenty million Nigerians living in these parts have been reduced to a Hobbesian state of existence; nasty, brutish and short. Before the coming of darkness, the area was already grappling with acute shortage of fuel in the filling stations. You could not find fuel anywhere to buy and if you did find at the black markets it was going for 1,500 naira per litre. The price of cooking gas too went through the roof.

Then the darkness set in. This is a particularly inconvenient time of the year in these parts as temperatures hit 40 degrees and beyond sometimes. When light was available even as epileptic as it was people could enjoy some respite when the put on their fans or air conditioning. If the light came on at night they could enjoy few hours of coolness air into the night as the temperatures fall so that when the light goes off one would have gone to sleep.

But without the light in totality everything literarily went haywire. Total darkness meant total breakdown of everything; Hospitals, schools, heat, food and essential household items, transportation, crime rate, insecurity, inflation, the whole lot rose to high heavens. A satchet of ''pure water'' if one managed to get it rose from twenty naira before the darkness to fifty naira and then to 100 naira. Water vendors were making a killing as they jerked up their prices in a take-it-or leave it way. Before the darkness, to fill a medium size GP tank you needed at least 5 thousand naira; now you need N20,000.       

These are the areas then that have been in total darkness for the past four weeks and the rest of Nigeria has carried on without a care in the world. In the media, the news was carried as if this was happening in some remote corner of the world far removed from Nigeria.

The Federal Government did not as much as showed even a token concern at the plight of the twenty million Nigerians living in those areas.

But by far the worst example of lack of care concern and vicarious responsibility exhibited in the whole issue has come by the state governments, the state assemblies, Members House of Representatives and Senators from the three states. The Governors of the three states should have promptly mobilised jointly and addressed the media on the magnitude of the issue and the negative effect it was having on the people of the area. They could have strongly called on the Minister of Power to act promptly on the matter. They could have done this in one of the states at first instance with all the governors in attendance. If nothing concrete was forthcoming in terms of action on the part of the Federal Government, they could mobilize their legislators and shift their action to Abuja the Federal Capital bringing attention to a wider Nigerian audience.

The legislators themselves have not done enough. No legislator either at the state or federal had seen it fit to raise the issue in the floor of the various state assemblies or the National Assembly. No Senator or House of Representatives member from any of the three states has been seen raising the issue as a matter of urgent national assembly to warrant a summons to either the Senate or House of Representatives of the Minister of Power and Chief Executives of the Power sector agencies and companies.

So if the representatives of the people of these areas have not shown sufficient concern to push their case why then should anybody else from another part of the country care even if it is there duty and responsibility?

On this particular case of power outage and total darkness in the three states the only notable and commendable exception has been the Taraba Commissioner for Energy Ms Naomi Agbu. I watched this remarkable young lady address the media raising concern about the untold hardship the people of Taraba state had been facing as a result. She was passionate and teary eyed as she made her point. She upbraided the Minister of Power and operators of the power sector for their cavalier attitude towards the issue and exposed their incompetence for the whole world to see on attending to emergency issues under their purview. It was as a result of her efforts that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) saw it fit to wake up from its slumber and begin to provide updates on the issue with timelines. This young woman stood like an amazon for the whole of the twenty million people of Taraba, Adamawa and Gombe.

As far as this issue of the power outage and the accompanying hardship in Taraba, Adamawa and Gombe, I doubt very much if this could happen for this long if it were in any other part of the country. There is no way the capital of any other state outside of the northeast region could suffer this type of neglect for this long without outrage. But here we are with three states under total darkness for upwards of four months now and the people who are expected to raise the issue and follow it to a swift resolution did not seem to care.

The neglect and disregard we suffer has been largely due to our own doing. Not too long ago we had a Minister of Power appointed from our zone. It was then seen as an opportunity to push for the Mambilla and other potential power projects to gain traction. But alas it never got off the ground and the Minister was eventually removed due to non-performance.  

If there is anything that the on-going power outage and darkness being experienced in our region it is that we must learn to stand up and fight for ourselves in a country that can only consider you if you do so.

In the short and long runs we must press the Federal Government to expand the scope of the Kasimbila power dam to include central and northern Taraba. And we must also press the government to revisit the Mambilla dam. Its potentials are too great to be neglected of put in abeyance. And Taraba sate government must urgently begin to invest in alternative domestic energy sources like solar, wind etc.

If truly necessity is the mother of invention and that every cloud has a silver lining then for what it is worth this hardship occasioned by the power outage should snap us out of our lethargy and inertia in starting an alternative power project and in the timidity and we often exhibit when we need to pursue our issues like others do in the country.

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