It was supposed to be a busy day at an internet cafe owned by Victoria Adeyemo, a woman in her forties, but she had slept all day.
His business located in Anifowose community in Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State is largely dependent on electricity and has been on a downward spiral for the past six years due to erratic power supply.
Adeyemo traced the cause of his business depression to the neighborhood’s main processor, which had served the community for more than a decade but was now flawed and intermittently throwing the community into obscurity.
“As a business centre, I cannot function without electricity. Most of the time, I stop working or don’t turn on these laptops if the power supply current is low. My customers will not pay extra to buy fuel if we tell them there is no electricity,” Adeyemo said.
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Sometime in 2016, Adeyemo and other residents of the Anifowose community felt a stab of joy when masons began erecting what would be the fence and protection for a new transformer in the community.
Hon. Olayonu Olarinoye Danlad, who won the Offa/Oyun/Ifelodun Federal Constituency seat in 2015, had facilitated the supply and installation of a transformer in the community as part of one of his riding projects, but the giant engine would not work for six years.
The project, estimated at N40 million, was reportedly approved and expected to be completed in 2016, and the Federation Accountant General’s Office said in its 2016 report that all projects approved for the year were fully funded and completed.
However, the supposedly completed constituency project in the community of Anifowose was not connected to the power grid, and residents said thieves had started scavenging transformer components.
According to the information on the transformer panel, the project was awarded to MM. Murix Technology Ltd.
However, a check on the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), a government agency responsible for registering companies in Nigeria, revealed that the company is “inactive”, a term used to refer to a company that has refused to pay its annual dues in two years.
INSIDE ABANDONED TRANSFORMER
When this reporter visited the site in August 2022, the iron poles that carried details of the project had begun to turn gray, a faded version of its original green color.
Flanked by two concrete posts and placed in the center of a four-cornered fence at waist level, weeds from different families had begun to overtake the transformer. Inside, the giant object was still visible but without its cable, a material that carries electricity from electrical substations to
transformer stations, which unknown thieves had taken away.
“Don’t risk your life; you don’t know what’s in there,” a commercial cyclist warned as this reporter approached the entrance. “Snakes and other dangerous things are playing around this thing. Stay here and watch this.
Residents accused Hon. Danlad of refusing to pay the 1.5 million naira needed to complete the project.
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Community leader Abdulrasaq Anifowose said the transformer and the fence erected around it had once given hope to residents.
“It would have been beneficial to us if he was connected [to the power grid], but Danlad did not pay the contractor; it just sits in the trash. Now everything has been vandalized. We don’t need his money; we want this project completed. We need light here,” Anifowose said.
Ridwan Oke, a Lagos-based lawyer, said an unfinished project serves no purpose and only undermines the morale of citizens.
THE LAWMAKER REACTS AND ACCUSES THE COMMUNITY OF LEVITY
Speaking to FIJ, Danlad said the vandalism was a major setback in completing the project.
“After the project was delivered to the community, while waiting for the transformer to be connected to the electricity grid, I hired a security guard, who I paid monthly, to take care of it,” he said. .
“I don’t know how thieves stole the cable from the transformer despite this.”
“If the community appreciated the work, I don’t think they would leave it to be vandalized in this way. Transformers at Isale-Offa and Iyana Station [two neighbouring communities] always have a power outage drop too and that’s why I took a full substation not just for this community but for all three locations. Anifowose refused to let it go. So when my aim failed, what did you expect me to do?
“I facilitated the project because I knew their problem was a power outage, but can an ordinary person who doesn’t know the city go there to commit the theft? Vandalism has always been the story. Let the owners of the region do the rest.
Danlad also said that the burden of supervising and completing the project rests with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which sponsored the project, and that the ministry alone should be held accountable.
All messages sent to the e-mail address and telephone number of the website of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have not been acknowledged or replied to.
“POOR EXECUTION, COMMUNITY AT DEFECT”
In response to Danlad’s claim, Wasiu Oro, a community leader, said he believed the delay in completing the project had created the opportunity for the thieves to operate.
“If everything was done properly, there would be no vandalism. The thief used the delay as an opportunity. Nobody knows him,” he said.
Ilevbaoje Uadamen, the leader of Tracka, a social accountability group that tracks government projects, noted that a community where a project is carried out has the responsibility to oversee it because it is their property.
“A community project is the property of the people. It is carried out thanks to our money, that is to say the taxpayers. They [community] should be the gatekeeper for the project,” Uadamen said.
“But if things go wrong like this, the legislator has questions to answer. The legislator should contact the agency or ministry and the contractor in charge of the verification of the facilitation. With this, anything fishy would be lucid.
While the project is in ruins, Kemi Pepper, who sells beers next door, continues to count his loss. She said she watched her business, a once noisy joint popular in the neighborhood, degenerate into a cramped space. His customers wouldn’t buy beers if they were
not cold, so they stopped visiting his shop.
“These days, I hardly see customers coming here. I’ve invested my hard-earned savings in buying a large fridge to chill the bottles, but it feels like wasted effort. My profits are spent on ice blocks. A block is sold for N150, almost the price of a bottle of Goldberg. Now tell me where the payoff is,” she said.