Nigerian pastor initiates power surge to address energy gap

By Ecumenical News International
November 2, 2009

When church leaders launch "Let there be light" campaigns, people normally prepare for spiritual activity. In the case of a Nigerian church pastor at the Daystar Christian Centre in Lagos, the drive is for improved electricity supply in the energy-rich country where many citizens say the power situation is abysmal - writes Lekan Otufodunrin.

Pastor Sam Adeyemi, the senior pastor of the centre in the commercial capital of Lagos, earlier in October 2009 led more than 5,000 members of his church in a peaceful march to the state government house to protest at the erratic and inadequate supply of electricity.

The pastor submitted a protest letter to President Umaru Yar'Adua through local state governor Babatunde Fashola. The 16 October petition urges the president to dismantle the monopoly held by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria to resolve the chronic power situation.

Electricity supply in Nigeria is both unstable and of low quality with the majority of the west African country's 149 million citizens and organizations relying on alternate sources of power, which some people see as an anomaly in the continent's largest oil producer.

"The crisis of electric power supply is impoverishing us as individuals, as organizations and as a nation," Pastor Adeyemi stated at the start of the march. "Whole families have died in their sleep because of fumes from power generating sets. Small and large businesses have folded up because of their inability to sustain the high cost of production. The list of woes goes on and on."

So serious is the problem, the federal government has declared a state of emergency to deal with the situation. Many Nigerians also rue [the fact] that massive oil revenues are used to fill corrupt officials' pockets rather than to fund infrastructure development.

Adeyemi said the campaign by the church is a clear message that Nigerians are tired of being impoverished as a result of the poor power situation which leads many people having to rely on emergency power generating sets. "We have spent millions of naira buying generating sets and diesel oil for the use of the church. We can't continue this way," Adeyemi stated.

The pastor also condemned vandalism and stealing of power cables and transformers across the country as well as dishonesty and the siphoning of money from government ministries, departments and federal and state agencies.

He commended recent government efforts towards the breaking up of the monopoly of the federal electricity agency to allow private investment and for state governments to generate and distribute electricity.

Still, he said, the church will continue its campaign until the necessary steps are taken to redress the situation. "Let us get involved in issues that concern our lives. We should not leave it to some few people to decide for us. It is not as difficult as it seems to be."

Responding to the campaign, the chief federal government official in the ministry of works and housing, Yemisi Ajayi, commended the church for the peaceful protest and promised to convey the protestors' grievances to her government.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

Keywords:nigeria | energy
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