By Adedotun Ajayi
For the past couple of weeks business owners and residents in many parts of Ondo state have been in total darkness as socio-economic activities have been paralyzed particularly in the state capital, Akure.
The worsening situation was said to have negatively affected lives and smooth running of business activities in the state.
A source who worked at the Akure office of Benin Electricity Company BEDC said no official case of power failure was reported and probably it’s just a connection error in some communities which would surely be corrected.
The privatisation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in November 2013 which involved the unbundling of PHCN and privatisation of the power generation companies (GENCOs) and distribution companies (DISCOs) were received with much hope by Nigerians, especially with the epileptic services rendered by the defunct PHCN.
However, almost ten years later, nothing much seems to have changed with some Nigerians arguing that the situation has even gotten worse under BEDC.
In any economy, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) constitute the engine room and the key to economic development and growth.
In Nigeria, the SME sector accounts for about 45 percent of the rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP), this means small and medium enterprises should not be undermined. However, unstable, and unreliable power supply has remained the strongest factor militating against the survival of SMEs in the country.
Those who shared their views and experiences with The Hope expressed concern and urged government at all levels and stakeholders concerned to rise to the challenge so as to prevent businesses from further collapse thus crippling the economy.
Nathaniel Ubom, who runs a frozen food business in Oke Odu said the situation has become difficult for his business because he can only make profit when there is steady supply of electricity.
According to him; “I deal with perishable goods, and steady electricity supply is what I depend on to run a smooth business, now that electricity has not been available for the past few weeks, I had no other option than to sell at a cheaper rate just to make sure I don’t run at a total loss, on a good day when there was no fuel scarcity, I would have been running on generator, but now there’s no fuel, there’s no electricity, it has been really difficult for me as a business owner, and it is telling on my family already, the government should please come to our rescue,” he lamented.
Just like Nathaniel, another shop owner, Mrs Ololade kehinde, told our correspondent her ordeal. “The only reason why people patronize me in this area is because of what I’m known for, that is cold drinks, anytime you get here, there was always cold drinks but not anymore, the people who sell ice blocks to us have increased their prices drastically which we can’t afford, buying at that price would only make us go out of business in no time, talking about fueling our generator is out of it for now, because if we increase our price, nobody would buy, the only thing is for the BEDC to restore electricity,” she said
Olubunmi Adewa, a baker in Oba Ile area said electricity has not been steady enough to run steadily for the past few days and it’s telling on her business .
According to her; “some of my neighbors in this complex who cannot cope with this high cost of running generators have closed shops, while others that are managing to stay afloat come once in a week or twice. The situation is really disturbing, our freezers hardly get frozen these days, we don’t know what else to do with our goods than to sell them out fast, making it go for cheaper prices, the government and all concerned stakeholders, should do something about it as it is a matter of urgency,” she reacted
Oluwasola Ojo who runs a barbershop said he was at the edge of closing his business for a while.
According to him; “the situation is very sad. There’s no stable electricity for the past two weeks. Even when there’s electricity, it doesn’t last for an hour in a day and most times it will still be at low voltage, we increased an haircut from N500 to N800, but our customers are not having it at all, they are refusing to pay. And combined with the fuel scarcity, we can’t operate our generators like we used to.
“Yesterday, I had to move from Akure to Idanre just to get fuel at N400 per liter to run my business, how long will I have to continue like that? it has not been easy these past weeks, we need a rescue,” he lamented.
In the same vein, Johnson Adeniyi, a dry cleaner at Aule road, explained that when there is no electricity, it slows down work because he has to go somewhere else to do the work and satisfy his customers.
He said “we use generator most days, we increased our fees from N200 per shirt to N300 but customers are complaining, forgetting the fact that we operate mostly on generator, coupled with the fact that fuel for laundry is expensive, including starch. We are just managing to survive, we plead to the authorities to do the needful by addressing the problem once and for all”
Meanwhile, Sunday Mekusi, a generator repairer at Ilesha Garage, Aule Road said the situation has brought blessings to his business.
Mekusi appreciated the current situation, saying it has increased his business patronage. He noted that they used to have plenty of work only when the ambient temperature rises, but the situation has changed for good as people use generator more now and they have to service it when the machines breakdown which will happen sooner due to steady use.
Some said adequate power supply is the most important factor for national development, a prerequisite for cost-effective investment, and an absolute precondition for survival and sustenance of SMEs in the country. With steady supply of electricity, there will be a boom in economic activities from the domestic level and the cottage industries, through the small and medium scale industries to large-scale manufacturing companies.
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