How Power Outages Kill Small Businesses In Kaduna

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By UMAR ABUBAKAR

Residents of Kaduna have had to contend with incessant blackouts from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) with its attendant consequences.

Electric power has undoubtedly become part of our lives in Nigeria and every other society, as it powers our many domestic and industrial machines and even simple electrical appliances.

But with the spate of current power outages experienced in and around the city of Kaduna, especially with the heat that has come to greet the season, residents are definitely not finding life any easier.

Residents of the highbrow Unguwan Sarki, for example, had to remain in perpetual blackout for two consecutive days. Their problem actually started from Monday when the residents said they had electricity supply almost throughout the day but, as one respondent quickly puts it, that was the day Jamaatu Nasril Islam (JNI) celebrated its fifteenth anniversary and as such nearly all first class and other traditional rulers of the northern region had converged in Kaduna, at the JNI headquarters for the celebration. In attendance also was Arch. Namadi Sambo, Nigeria’s vice president, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the occasion. They posit, therefore, that that explains why they enjoyed uninterrupted electricity supply on that faithful day.

The seriously epileptic power supply, residents believe, is actually costing them a lot, especially in their various endeavors in life.

Madam Mary operates a kiosk at the Kawo Motor Park. She told this reporter that the poor electricity supply in Kaduna has affected her business negatively.

“Let me tell you Oga, I have been in this business for a little over 14 years now and all I can say is that it is a real success for me and my family until when things started diving for the worse last year. There was no light to refrigerate my drinks and customers don’t buy hot drinks. This seriously affected my business until I started buying ice blocks as substitute for the fridge.”

She said she is currently striving hard to save money and buy for herself a fairly big electricity generating plant that can supply power even to the deep freezer in her shop.

Malam Nasiru runs a business of making iron gates, doors, burglar proof, iron fences and so on. He told DESERT HERALD that he learned the trade at far away Bida in Niger State before coming back to Kaduna after his ‘freedom’.

Presently, Nasiru has about 20 young boys working and learning the art and science of cutting, bending and generally shaping iron bars and plates into desired items.

According to him, his apprentices do not pay anything to him before they are enrolled to begin to learn the rather challenging but rewarding trade. “I only need to see the parents or guardians as the case may be to sign some papers for me and the young man is on as my apprentice,” he narrated.

Nasiru however lamented that he now has to make do with quite a reduced profit margin since he now uses more of his electricity generating plant to power his workshop than the public power supply, and that eats further into his profit, as he has to fuel the set with expensive diesel.

“The trade is good and business too. We produce quality and good looking gates, doors and other items here. People come to buy from far and near and there are young boys brought here by their parents to learn the job.

“Our profit margin was very good until the power supply situation degenerated for the worse. We now spend a lot of money to buy fuel for our electricity generating plant because as you know, power supply is now so very poor. We used the public power supply as our main, while the generators were used as our stand-by. The situation has changed now. The generators are our mains, while the public supply is only our back-up.

“It is really expensive to buy the type of generators we use and not anybody can afford it, so many of our colleagues are now out of business. It is really sad that we depend more on our generators than we do on the public supply,” he said.

Similarly, the inadequate power supply also takes its negative toll on Abdul and his barbing business.

He told DESERT HERALD that his business was okay at the start with customers going in and out. He was making good business but everything turned upside down when the poor power supply deteriorated.

“I was doing fine at the beginning, but I started losing all my customers when the poor power supply further dropped and I could not start a generator to continue to service my customers. This was because I didn’t have the money to buy one.

“Actually, I had to close this shop for about 4 months and go look for loan with which I bought the small generator I now use almost every time, as there is in truth no light most of the time. It is this small type of generator that was sold for as little as Ten thousand naira or even less but I didn’t have such money.

“So when I bought the generator and finally reopened the shop, all my customers have found other barbers and I had to start all over again. I thank God I am back now and my business is picking gradually,” Abdul volunteered.

When contacted, a senior staff of Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, who pleaded for anonymity, declined comment on the poor power supply in Kaduna, saying he has no authority to speak to the press on the issue.

So let’s not forget that there are a lot other Marys, Nasirus and Abduls out there trying hard to make a living with some degree of financial independence even in this harsh economic situation in the country. A little more effort from the government in terms of improving the power supply situation will go a long way in not only preventing blackouts and power outages, but it will also provide the much needed jobs and put food on the tables of several families. Will this call be heeded to, time will tell.

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