By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” – Genesis1:3
For every household in Nigeria, visibility particularly immediately after the arrival of darkness is an essential necessity. Due to the epileptic supply of electricity across the country, most homes have switched to traditional alternatives like lanterns, kerosene burning lamps, candles, and for those who are averagely comfortable, generators with their grievous health hazards.
On average, a candle to light a household in Nigeria every night is N50 while a litre of kerosene sells between 150 and 200. To put light on sticks of candles all through the year would amount to N18,250, almost Nigeria’s minimum wage. Not to talk of calculating for kerosene or other alternative sources of lighting households. That’s a different level of expenses, yet every home needs to be lighted at night.
Indeed, the state of the power infrastructure has created an environmental nightmare across the country. Despite transmuting from National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), and the privately-owned distribution companies, keeping the lights on has been difficult, forcing many into using generators. Today, Lagos state is notorious for the poor quality of air caused majorly by fossil fuel-powered generators.
Not having light in a household amounts to psychological blindness wherein you open your eyes but all you see is darkness with socio-economic implications that tells on productivity and relaxation of citizens. Enters Honourable Babajimi Benson representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, National Assembly, who in his quest to ameliorate the suffering caused by the unavailability of power and provide clean alternative energy for households in Ikorodu, partnered with the Rural Electrification Agency to facilitate the provision and installation of 800 home solar systems for households in the Division. The standard kit deployed to households includes one 50wp solar panel with a battery to store solar energy, 4 Wired LED bulbs, 1 solar-powered fan, and a rechargeable mobile radio.
The clean energy power pack can power up to 6 USB-powered devices or 12V powered appliances with the capacity to eliminate the need to rely on Ikeja Electric in charging phones. The idea behind the project is aimed at ensuring universal access to affordable electricity by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy. Solar lights are powered by photovoltaic panels, meaning they produce clean and sustainable energy.
No doubt, amongst the constituency projects facilitated since 2019 by Rep. Benson, ranging from 13-storey building schools, 2 healthcare centres, 1 Mini Stadium, 2 connecting roads amongst other human capacity development training for youths in Ikorodu, the #LightUpIkorodu project seems the most far-reaching because of its immediate benefit in the light of the epileptic situation of the power supply in the country.
From the testimonies so far, it would not be out of place to request that Rep. Babajimi Benson facilitates more of such people-inclined projects and encourages his colleagues to do the same. Maybe, just maybe, the self-serving discos with their crazy estimated billing would realise their uselessness once citizens can power their fans and provide light through solar.
Unknown to the federal lawmaker, the provision of the solar lights to the vulnerable is an exciting check on the attitude of Ikeja Electric, an organization seemingly impervious to change. The project can be equated to obeying God’s command of “Let there be light”. It means for 800 families, Rep. Benson has removed darkness from their lives at no cost since it is solar panel-enabled lighting.
Unlike many political poseurs we have around, Rep. Babajimi Benson seems to know his onions with the deft ability to blend human needs into political experiences. Aside, the home solars, he also deployed a good number of solar-powered street lights to troubled dark spots and night markets within his constituency.
The immediate impact of the deployment might not be visible beyond being able to see what is happening in our immediate environment but in a broader sense, the solar lights to vulnerable households mean saving another naira that would have been deployed to buying candles, kerosene, petrol and even gas. It is a kobo safe to improve what the girl-child will eat every night when her parents are safe from the hassle of providing light by all means necessary.
The clean energy provided by Rep. Babajimi Benson also means our children can read more and be in an environment to innovate and create solutions to issues around Ikorodu Division. A child who reads with solar light devoid of the attendant noise pollution that accompanies generating sets would be more positioned to think broadly and creatively.
There is a general belief that “outdoor lighting plays a key role in the design of public space and can have a profound impact on its structure. Whether it is used for roads, cycling paths, footpaths, residential areas, or parking lots, its quality has a direct impact on the community.”
Installing solar street lights in selected markets, youth centres, and health centres provide an opportunity to extend night-time opening hours for these infrastructures and encourage access. Solar lights are more cost-effective in the long run for rural-urban dwellers and perform the dual function of illumination and protecting the ecosystem by reducing carbon dioxide emissions particularly from our ”I better pass my neighbour” killer generators. As important as deploying solar panel street lights to market places and communities in Ikorodu are, I must admit what struck a core of reasoning in me as a community member is the deployment to over 800 households In Ikorodu, many of whom are not politicians.
On average, a low-income earner in Lagos State buys N2000 worth of petrol to power their generator in a week, with the home solar installation, the money can now be deployed to other uses. For young people trained to deploy the solar panels to homes, this is a new frontier of knowledge, source of employment and a clear positive impact on the community.
Today, Rep. Babajimi Benson marks his 49th birthday, I can’t help but extol his rare qualities, particularly the compassion and responsiveness he has displayed since he assumed office as our representative in the green chamber. To say that he has raised the bar of leadership beyond the reach of opportunistic politicians whose major interest is to serve their pockets rather than work for societal good is to state the obvious. Rep. Benson is one light that illuminates the dark, like an incandescent flashlight in a dark alley. Without any shadow of a doubt, he has changed the narrative for the better.
As he marches towards a new milestone, I wish him the very best in his unshakeable pursuit of welfare for the good people of Ikorodu Division.
Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni writes from Ikorodu.
Twitter handle: @OmoMojeed