Gnami: A community’s story of ‘uninterrupted’ power supply
Gnami in Kagarko Local Government Area and Pakau, a neighbouring community came to the limelight when the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing announced they have been enjoying uninterrupted electricity for two years. This is a rare feat in a country bedevilled by epileptic power supply.
Gnami is located on the BwariJere expressway. This milestone was achieved through the flagship solar power project by Huawei in partnership with the Ministry of Power.
The power ministry said the solar power generation system in Gnami with a distribution system, house installation systems, street lights and metering system, supplied uninterrupted electricity to the community for two years, a position Gnami residents corroborated.
The residents said 100 houses were connected to the 40 kilowatts solar photovoltaic mini-grid and were only permitted to use four energy saving bulbs, one fan, a television set and an electric socket.
They paid N300 monthly to maintain the solar panel and the security guards employed at the mini grid.
The Huawei Off-Grid Solar Power Plant project in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Power was commissioned in the community in 2014. Since then blackout became a thing of the past but for only 100 of the over 900 households, the community head, Ibrahim Yerima, said.
The solar power is the only source of electricity in the community with 100 solar panels installed at the mini grid for the 100 houses under the scheme. All the houses are connected to batteries kept within the shelter provided for the panels.
They also said that the 10 street lights erected from the community’s entrance to the chief ’s residence have helped in addressing security challenges in the community.
A resident, John Alfa Dogo said they would have loved to use other electrical appliances especially for their businesses.
He said the connection was also not transferrable because the contractors wired all the houses to use only approved appliances. He said it was not possible to add extra bulbs or use more sockets adding that should any resident want to move to another house, the electrical installations are irremovable.
He said the situation has forced some tenants to remain in their apartments while electricity connection tops residents’ consideration while looking for accommodation.
“If you want to move to a bigger house, you will have to leave the installations behind. It is not even possible if you’re relocating to a different room in the same building,” he said.
In addition to the limited electrical appliances, residents especially small scale businesses rely on generators to power their refrigerators and other electrical appliances.
Despite the challenges, Yerima said the electricity supply arrangement has helped residents as they can now charge their phones and even watch news.
He said the community would be wrong should they reject the project due to the few houses connected. “If we reject supply to only 100 houses and demand that they connect the whole village, it will look like government gave us something and we rejected it. At least we are charging our handsets freely,” he said in Pidgin English.
He continued, “Every day we get light unless when the weather is dull. If it rains from morning till evening, the light will go off. But if the weather is bright we don’t have any problem.”
He said electricity supply would also be affected should any of the users plug energy sapping appliances like two television sets, refrigerators or pressing irons.
And in curtailing these incidences, a committee was constituted to enforce compliance. The committee members disconnect first offenders for one month and permanently removed anybody that contravened the directive more than three times.
One of those permanently disconnected was Abiodun Adegoke whom Dogo said had abused the opportunity craved by others.
Residents like Adegoke were usually forced to return to generators or rely on other connected houses in charging their handsets.
Tanko Yerima, another resident said the power project had been working well in the community. He said the activities of residents such as Adegoke put other users at risk.
“If someone uses a pressing iron or other prohibited appliances, the light would shut down and won’t be restored until the person was disconnected,” he said.
Tanko, however appealed to the government to upgrade the project to enable them use other electrical
appliances and more bulbs even as he appealed for more households to be connected.
However, some residents have expressed concern that the project does not cover all the houses in the community.
A resident, Emeka Chukwu, said the street lights have not been switched on for a very long time, adding that only 100 residents are connected to the grid.
“This one no be light. Light that can’t carry fridge and pressing iron but only fan. The street light no work again since,” he said in Pidgin English.
Chukwu, who owns a motorcycle spare parts business in the community, said most businesses are not connected to the grid.
“This is not my town and no be this light carry me come here,” he said adding that he barely bothered himself with the electricity supply.
Chukwu who has only a bulb in his shop, said he took the situation in good faith adding that the house he lived in was not connected and people still relied on generators.
The community head, Ibrahim Yerima, said the frustration of aggrieved residents like Chukwu is understandable.
“They are feeling bad, they are not happy and we are sympathising with them,” he said.
On how he managed the situation, he said, “Our community is peaceful and we are very understanding and that has helped.”
He however said the street lights are in working condition but are usually switched off because they consume much energy, adding that whenever the street lights were switched on, residents are told to reduce their energy consumption.
The street lights are programmed to switch on automatically and the residents are required to conserve energy especially during rainy season, he said.
Despite the reduction in the need for generators, at least in the 100 houses, they are still faced with some challenges principal among which is their inability to use some electrical appliances.
Yerima said each household was only allowed to use one television set, four bulbs and an electric fan.
Visitors to the community are greeted with streetlights
The solar panel bed in the community