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Tension rises as Ondo youths block Lagos-Benin expressway in protest over blackout

Tension rises as Ondo youths block Lagos-Benin expressway in protest over blackout

- In protest to prolonged power outage, some youths of the Ondo south senatorial district on Wednesday, August 1 blocked the Lagos-Ibadan expressway

- The youths claimed that they have suffered blackout for over 10 years, claiming that the state government has turned a deaf ear to their plight

- They therefore demanded that the license of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company should be revoked

A massive number of youths in the Ondo south senatorial district of the state on Wednesday, August 1, marched to the Lagos-Benin Expressway in protest against poor power supply to communities in the area for the past 10 years.

Punch reported that over 1,000 communities in the six local government areas of the senatorial district had been without electricity for more than 10 years after they were allegedly cut off from the national grid following their alleged indebtedness to the then Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Punch reports.

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The protesters, including members of all the youth associations in the area, alleged that the state and federal governments failed to find a solution to the economic problem of the affected communities which was caused by power outage in the area.

The placards which the youths displayed during the protest had inscriptions such as, ‘Revoke the licence of BEDC,’ ‘Is this democracy of kleptocracy?’ ‘Ten years of darkness, wetin we do,’ ‘Blackout has crumbled our economic activities,’ ‘This darkness is enough,’ and ‘Bring back our light,’ among others.

Consequently, there was a traffic logjam on the highway for hours and it took the intervention of the state police command and other security agencies to clear the road.

Kunle Ajayi, the leader of the protesters, stated that they resolved to shut the busy expressway so as to secure the attention of the government and compel it to find a permanent solution to their power problem.

He explained that some members of the community had met with the government and other stakeholders with no positive response.

Ajayi said: “For over 10 years, our people have been living in darkness and this government has kept mute over our plight despite our pleas.

“The current Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, used this problem of power supply to campaign. He told us that he would resolve it, but nothing has been done till today.

“So, our demand is that we want the licence of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, the new firm managing power in this area, to be immediately revoked by the Federal Government. We want Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, to step down because they have failed us completely.

“We are also asking the government to immediately restore electricity to the affected local government areas because this suffering is enough.”

The protesters gave the state government a 14-day ultimatum to address the issue, adding that failure to do so would lead to further protest.

In its response, the Ondo state government said it was resolving the matter, adding that it had approved the fast-track off-grid electricity project in the area to end the blackout.

Tunji Ariyomo, the special adviser to the governor on public utilities, revealed that 12 firms won the contract to set up modular independent power in partnership with the state government, “using variety of energy mix technologies.”

Ariyomo also disclosed that the vision of the government was to expand the electricity value chain in the state by powering the most energy deprived parts of the state and their productive clusters which would enhance micro-economic activities.

He said: “We want to turn estimated 18,000 households into a powerful engagement force to escape the paradox of energy poverty in an oil producing state.”

He added that, apart from the mini-grids, the state government had reached advanced stage in the completion of the abandoned 30MW tri-fuel power plant near Ore.

Meanwhile, in Ogbomoso, Oyo state, commuters had a torrid time on Wednesday as residents of town staged a protest and blocked the Oyo-Ogbomoso road for hours.

The protesters said the action was to vent their anger over the slow pace of work on the construction of the road for the past nine years, which they said had led to the death of thousands of people over the years.

The youths on Monday, June 11, embarked on a protest in which they called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the minister of works, power and housing, Babatunde Fashola, to ensure the completion of the road before Wednesday, August 1.

It was reported that hundreds of youth gathered at Takie roundabout in Ogbomoso, for the common good of their fellow indigenes and other Nigerians plying the route.

Israel Olaniyan, the chairman of the Ogbomosho community, said in his address that it was time the federal government responded to the construction of the road more seriousness.

He stated: “We deemed it fit to organise this peaceful rally after the one on June 11, 2018, to call the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, to our plight on the snail-speed construction of the Ogbomosho-Oyo Expressway.

“We found out that the road was awarded in 2010 and was meant to be completed in four years. However, nine years after, it is about 58 per cent completed.

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“We found out that only N2.8bn is appropriated for the road in the current budget, which is grossly inadequate. Our plight is that the present Ogbomosho-Oyo road has become a death trap. It kills more people than HIV/AIDS does. Statistics at our disposal indicates that an average of 25 people die on the road per week. When this is multiplied by fifty-two weeks, it means that averages of 780 persons are lost annually on this road.”

He went on to say that an average of 7,020 lives were lost in nine years was alarming, calling for an urgent action from the federal government to complete the repair of the road.

Meanwhile, reported that the national power grip reportedly collapsed on Saturday, June 16, plunging the whole country into total darkness. reported that all the nation’s power plants had been shut down following the system collapse.

A top executive of one of the nation’s electricity distribution companies who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the reported collapse of the power grid.

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