Some 48 hours after the minister of state for power, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil, disbanded a technical committee charged with the responsibility of reconnecting Borno state to the national grid for poor performance, the state “shone bright” again last week. It had been in darknessfor seven months as a result of a Boko Haram attack on Damboa power sub-station,
We recall that the July 4th, 2014 the destructionof the 132 KV Biu-Damboa-Maiduguri power line supplying power to most parts of Borno compounded an already epileptic power supply. Prior to that, even the more reliable industrial 33kv power line that served highbrow areas was reportedly sabotaged just as were efforts to procure electricity from neighbouring Niger Republic that, ironically, gets electricity from Nigeria a gratis.
Reconnection to the power grid had been impossible due to the lingering insecurity in Borno whereby staff of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) were routinely assaulted, harassed and even killed by insurgents and the military constantly subjected them to questioning.The situation was not helped by counter claims by both the military and TCN staff over who was responsible for the vandalisation of power supply facilities.
All that is history now, it will appear, according to the federal ministry of power. A statement from the office of the minister of state for power, Mohammed Wakil, apologized for the long blackout of Borno. “I apologise to our people for the long delay in reconnecting the state…The Federal Ministry of Power has repeatedly moved to reconnect Maiduguri to the national grid but insurgency and sabotage delayed the realisation of that goal,” he explained.
“In the last seven months when the power lines and sub-station at Damboa were attacked, the ministry through the Transmission Company of Nigeria made at least seven attempts to rectify the problem but on each occasion the officials were attacked.” The ministerial aide said that two other attempts were successfully accomplished in spite of the security and sabotage challenges facing the state, a feat that has ensured that some parts of Maiduguri are enjoying electricity.”
We commend this bold step to restore power supply to the state and call on the military to increase its presence around the facilities as well as ensure that staff of TCN are not ambushed and beaten up, as had been the case since the upsurge of insurgency in the North-east. Rather than politicise the marathon blackout or engage in a blame game to score political points, the federal government should ensure that power supply is regular, sustained, and affordable.
Sabotage of power transmission and distribution facilities is a weapon the Boko Haram has used effectively. It makes intelligence gathering by the military difficult because locals are unable make contact with security personnel through cell phones on the movement of the Boko Haram terrorists. For that reason, the latter move effortlessly and attacks are reported only after they occur.
It was a mistake when the government once ordered the closure of GSM providers’ facilities in the state in the erroneous belief that Boko Haram was taking advantage of them. As it turned out, the sect operated a communication system that bypassed the GSM networks. That realization caused a policy rethink by the government.
In the same way, keeping Borno in the dark for all of seven months also played into the hands of the murderous sect. It is a huge relief that this mistake has been corrected. Restoration of power will not only help the war effort but also will make social and economic life more bearable.