Housing delivery and the energy albatross


By Akhigbe Dominic M.

MON, 22 AUGUST 2016-Energy has been a major requirement by man from creation. The importance of this factor in human life can not be down played. It is so important to nature that it was the first thing God in His infinite wisdom created before He lined up other necessities. This is how important Light is. For us in this part of the world, it has continued to be a major source of challenge.

Governments across levels have come up with one formula or another to tackle this seemingly endemic challenge; at some point, it was more of ‘the more you look, the less you see’ a kind of abracadabra! Sometime before Jonathan decided to take the bull by the horns and privatized some parts of the Electricity subsector, some House Vendors found it a huge Marketing strategy to say; ‘regular electricity supply’ as a way of attracting a more favorable attention from the prospect. It was most likely to get a better bargain with such a slang attached to a publicity pay-off for a property in the market than without it. This was the situation till then President Jonathan attacked the challenge frontally and broke the hegemony of ‘NEPA’ (National Electricity Power Authourity-now an acronym for an inefficient electricity delivery system ). Somehow, in some part of the country, this singular action seems to be yielding some reasonable result. Places like Lagos and some major parts of the North seem to be enjoying very reasonable level of improvement in Electricity supply. Though this has come up with its own level of challenges. We will leave those challenges for another day’s discussion.

As good as this improvement in electricity supply has been, it is clear that this improvement is yet to be felt round the country. Ogun state, a proximity state from Lagos seems to be one of such disadvantaged states in terms of improved electricity supply. A colleague friend of mine told me that the last time he saw ‘NEPA’ electricity in his community; Ibafo area of Obafemi-Owode local government of Ogun State was eight years ago. I was shocked to hear this. This situation, according to him has been severally discussed, each time, the electricity authority would promise to restore soon. Now, it has become a system. The residents of this large part of the community are now used to it. In fact, to drive home his point; he said his daughter that was born the night NEPA blinked last is now in Primary three and she has never sighted electricity from the public system one day. Bad news you will say. Another friend that lives in the same community and in fact runs a thriving Real Estate outfit in the same vicinity invited me for a business meeting sometime in September, 2015. When I got to his premises, I saw about five power generating sets. I quickly asked him if he has added generator’s repair to his line of business considering the number of generators I saw around; he simply laughed and said’ do not forget you are in Ibafo where every resident generates his own power’. He corroborated what the lawyer colleague of mine told me earlier on. They have for long resigned their fate to generators, inverters, solar and all forms of alternative power supply. This has been the lot of this thriving community.

Despite this decimal power situation in this axis which coincidentally plays host to a lot of residential estates belonging to some of the frontline Real Estate companies, I curiously watched as most of these estates advertise their products with ’’24 hours electricity supply’’. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to take a tour of some of these estates during the yuletide season. I needed to be sure that the Nigerian people were not being taken for granted. To me, it is an irony for an estate located within the axis of Ibafo that has not had public electricity supply for over eight years to boast of 24 hours electricity supply. Where will it come from? Well; I needed to find out.

My starting point was one Neighborhood estates located somewhere not too distant from the Deeper Life Camp. I drove into this estate at about 7:15pm on a Saturday evening. After the usual security check at the gate, which is common among those estates on that axis, I drove through the gate. Though the neighborhood was in total darkness except for some spots of light dotting a couple of houses you could count with the tip of the finger; majority of the houses surrounding the estate were in total darkness. I was pleasantly shocked to find out that the estate was totally lighted up with street lights. This brought to fore the serenity of the environment and you could feel the tranquility that pervades the estate community. Good enough, I have an old colleague who has a home within the estate. I drove to his house straight as if I had come on an unscheduled visit. Typical of him, he immediately decided to lunch me into an evening of a sumptuous treat. Of course, my journalistic instinct set to work immediately. I then asked him how long the street light was going to stay. He said traditionally; till 1a.m first of all. Then, at 4a.m, the power will come up again. He said the estate management has kept up with this tradition religiously for the past three years he had been in the estate. The strategy is; the state had installed heavy duty solar panel within the common streets of the estate. In the day, these panels are charged up. The energy gathered is what is used to power the street lights from that 7pm to about 1a.m. there is a back-up generator that takes the 4a.m till 6a.m. this is the time those that work in offices on the Island of Lagos and Abeokuta prepare and leave their various homes. This slot makes it convenient to drive or move out of the estate. For me, this is ingenious. This has actually endeared this particular estate to a lot of people who have bought lands in the estate and are building with speed.

My next port of call was one other estate that is actually financed by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, FMBN located within the Ofada axis of the same Obafemi-Owode Local; government of Ogun state where electricity supply seems to be gold despite the relative improvement of the public light supply in other parts of the state. This estate has two units of 24kva generators mounted by the security gate. By 7:30pm, one is powered. This gives light to the long stretch of electricity bulbs lining the long outer fence of the estate and the streets within the estate. This is left till 4am. For this particular estate, the electricity situation is not as perennially bad as the Ibafo experience. Once in a while, the public supply is restored to them. At such instance, the generator is powered off. This is alternatively done to ensure the estate is not left in the dark. This is a very encouraging development for those that have houses or reside in these estates. They are seen to be delivering on their marketing promises. The residents are full of praises for the developers of these estates.

I spoke with one of the CEOs of one of these estates. I asked him how convenient it was to keep this up. He actually lamented that it was not easy to sustain. However, since this was one of the sales slogans, they must deliver on it if the inflow of customers must be sustained. He lamented that at the peak of the fuel scarcity, he at some point bough a liter for as high as 180naira. To him, this was not funny. He added however, that he has started to adjust the prices of land purchase within the estate to accommodate such endeavors. He concluded by appealing to the relevant authorities to urgently do something to salvage this unsavory situation. According to him; he is ready to play his little part in the drive to house all Nigerians, but as a business man, cost must be covered.

As we look forward to the expected change in all spheres of our lives, I join my friend to appeal to the authorities saddled with the responsibility to provide electricity to these areas to urgently do the needful. This will certainly impact positively in the lives of teaming Nigerians that live in these areas and ultimately drive down the cost of doing business and housing delivery.

Akhigbe is a consultant in Real Estate & an investment portfolio manager and a seasoned Nigerian Micro, Small & Medium Scale Business Coach. Contact:08034846284

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