One of the cities earmarked to drive the federal government’s Made in Nigeria campaign is Aba, the commercial capital city of Abia state. Remarkably, the Abia state government has also been running a Made in Aba campaign to boost the use of locally made goods.
However, the “Made in Nigeria” initiative aimed at growing the economy, and expected to be driven by Small and Medium Enterprises is at risk of being derailed by the activities of power distribution companies (discos).
In the south-east of Nigeria, Aba, the Enyimba city also popularly called “the Japan of Africa” because of the ingenuity of its people in the production of shoes, bags, cosmetics, fashion designing etc, also the hub of SMEs, is expected to be at the forefront of this initiative. Sadly, it is suffering under the weight of inefficiency and dishonesty from discos.
The story of Aba and its power challenge is best seen from the perspective of a small or medium scale business operator who has to self-generate his power for production and is equally forced to pay estimated bills for little or no power or face disconnection, and is made to contribute towards the acquisition of a new transformer, in addition to other costs of production. This situation is likely to lead to an increase in the cost of production which can run a business under or lead to the use of inferior raw materials to bring down the final price of goods.
Earlier in2016, it was revealed that the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, had brokered a deal between Enugu Electricity Distribution Company and Geometric Power, the two power companies seeking to supply power to the city. The minister said with the settlement of the dispute, the people at Aba and Ariaria market would now have electricity to boost their businesses. The deal carved a ring fence for Geometric to supply.
The implication of this agreement would have led to the establishment of new industrial clusters, an increase in production of shoes, bags, clothes etc. which will translate to the creation of more jobs and increased patronage for these goods with the right marketing strategy in place.
One year after, the story is the same. Prepaid meters are yet to be installed in Aba to check estimated billing and communities are still made to buy and install their own transformers. The promise of having at least 13 hours of constant supply once Geometric takes over is now a mirage. Just like the people who took to the streets in Enugu and Ebonyi states recently to protest against EEDC, Aba residents have started to protest poor electricity supply and exorbitant bills.