After decades of darkness, over 50 Lagelu communities may finally light a bulb

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Over 50 communities out of the 1076 communities that make up Lagelu Local Government and Local Council Development Areas of Oyo State despite being part of the city of Ibadan, still live primitively without electricity thereby threatening development. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports the daily frustrations of the communities and the possible ray of hope for them.

Looking down from Nathaniel Idowu Comprehensive High School in Olorunda Aba community, Lagelu Local Government Area of Oyo state reveals nothing but an area just opening up to civilisation and development, as one moves father down however, the story begins to change as it begins to look like a journey to nowhere. But after ten kilometers of a bad dusty road, spanned by thick bushes on both sides that cannot accommodate more than a car at a time, an anomaly emerges suddenly on that route; beautifully laid out buildings amidst well sculpted lawns, a beautiful garden, well swept orchard and a courtyard in the middle of corrugated roofs and mud huts.

This village can be described as three neat rows of a little over thirteen corrugated iron sheets of rural mud edifice sleeping peacefully under the bright afternoon sky on an endless vast of land surrounded by nature at its best. This is Adeyipo village, the location of many blockbuster films and home of the largest African studies library in Africa with over 100, 000 volumes, the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Center (AHRLC), following only, the North Western University in the United States which has 250, 000 volumes.

Aside the library however, nothing else indicates civilization in the sleepy agrarian community, Adeyipo, though has produced many great men, is as rural as it was since its over 100 years of existence; no electricity, no government school, no roads, no healthcare center and no portable water. In fact, to the people of Adeyipo, the best thing that could happen to them is the AHRLC, as the only well depended on by the community for water belongs to the library and the only school for the village children is the private school organized by the library and which presently occupies a two-room building set aside by the library for the Adeyipo supermarket.

Indeed,  the only opportunity for them to watch the news, listen to music or watch films also comes through the library which powers its generator to show films to them in the audio visual/ computer room, an arm of the village community library on a weekly basis and sometimes when people come for retreat at the library. To charge their phone, villagers send it to Olorunda Aba community, many kilometers away and pay a hundred naira per phone for the service aside the bike fee of N500. Without the library, the village as it is would not find its way into any journal nor know what is happening beyond its tree borders.

However, Adeyipo is not the only community that suffers this fate in Lagelu Local Government Area of Oyo state. Indeed, the seven communities of Elerin district in Lagelu, which form the setting of Dr Bayo Adebowale’s novel, “The Virgin’, suffer this fate. This is also the situation in many of the villages scattered across Lagelu. In fact, the people of Adeyipo live a better life than their counterparts from neighboring villages like Orita, Agbede, Kufi, Jagun, Ogundipe, Butubutu and Aba Oje among many others in the same local government area who do not have the opportunity of the luxury provided by the library to the inhabitants of Adeyipo.

Lagelu community is an integral part of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital right from inception as according to history; the council was named after Jagun Lagelu who was one of the progenitors of Eba Odan, now known as Ibadan. Today, Lagelu is a Local Government Area in Oyo State with its headquarters in Iyana Offa town and is subdivided into 14 wards. It was created in 1976 from the Ibadan East District council consists of over 1076 towns and villages.

And recently, two Local Council Development Areas; Lagelu West LCDA, Olorunda Abaa and Lagelu North LCDA at Oyede were carved out of Lagelu Local Government  which is one of the largest in the state. The people of Lagelu are known for farming as well as production of palm oil and black soap. In spite of the fact that these communities are not very far from civilization geographically, every atom of development is far from them, the poverty level is high while light is an innovation beyond their immediate reach and dreams as they live without electricity and mainly rely on light from kerosene lamps, palm oil lamps popularly called atupa and other local inventions that put them at risk.

And while the world continues to move forward and develop on all spheres, the communities in Lagelu remain stagnant and lag behind in all forms of development; no healthcare centres or basic social amenities and life generally is an uphill movement devoid of comfort on a daily basis.

But this may soon be a thing of the past for three out of these communities as there is an ongoing collaboration to bring them out of darkness and light them up. What had been an unattainable dream now hovers on the horizon as in a few days; Solar Economy Kits would be installed in 40 different households to put smiles on the faces of the residents courtesy Salpha Energy, Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability Africa (REES Africa), Push Foundation and Guild TV.

Jagun, Abaoje and Ogundipe communities have been identified as the first batch of beneficiaries of the Light up Lagelu campaign. Aba Oje is the flagship community and the remaining two get to enter the first batch because of their proximity to Aba Oje community as they are between 10 -15 minutes trek from each other.

Adeyipo and Kufi were selected to be among the first set of beneficiaries in the original plan of the light up campaign. However, contrary to views that they had been dropped from the list of beneficiaries, REES Africa has stated that they were not dropped but will come up later as beneficiaries have been distributed into stages and the distance from Aba Oje does not make it feasible now.

“They were not dropped, like other communities, they had never had light and deserve to benefit. Also, all communities in Lagelu will be touched as we intend to cover the whole Oyo state before moving to Osun state. Lagelu is just the start and Adeyipo and Kufi are important villages within Lagelu, we took communities near Aba Oje now due to issues of logistics and distance. This is just the first stage, we will soon get to them,” the founder of REES Africa said.

The Light up Lagelu campaign by REES Africa intends to give the gift of light to the people of Lagelu in order to make socio-economic and environmental impact on their lives. The plan originally was to light up Lagelu communities for Christmas by installing the lights last December but due to the inability to meet the 500, 000 Naira budget needed for the project, it was postponed to February 5-9 to afford the organisations involved ample time to reach more people and make a better impact.

So instead of the light up Lagelu at Christmas, the project has been retagged, Light up Lagelu this valentine. REES Africa, a non-governmental organisation focused on redefining African future lifestyle with the tool of renewable energy and environmental sustainability, advocates and takes proactive actions in tackling challenges that deter sustainability especially through reformation of the energy sector across Africa.

The continuous yearning for light to make life easier in these three communities may be at a climax if REES Africa fulfills its promise, they may soon move from the realm of inhaling dangerous smokes to engage a lifestyle that is more environmental friendly.

The off grid energy solutions with at least 40 solar installations, will give a minimum of eight hours supply of light after charging and will be distributed evenly among the beneficiary communities. If this works, it will be farewell to darkness, carbon emission, waste of money and resources on primitive lighting processes and an improvement on environmental condition as dangerous fumes from smoky light providing appliances is eradicated.

For the residents, it means owning a television set, putting on light bulbs, ironing their clothes, using electric fans to dispel heat and starting businesses that use power for survival. Also, it means there is no more walking for hours and paying through their noses just to get their mobile phones charged.

Indeed, a dream that seems beyond reach is about to become a reality as residents of these communities will spend this valentine in luxury that was hitherto farfetched when the first light bulb is switched on.

With the success of this project, life as it is known in the villages will be given a new lease.

 

We are working on it —Caretaker Chairman, Lagelu North LCDA

Hon. Akanmu Adewale Taofeek Arowomole, the Craetaker Chairman of Lagelu North LCDA confirmed that there are communities that do not have light within the council area, adding that efforts are on to ensure this becomes a thing of the past.

“It is true that some communities do not have light, the whole Elerin district is affected; villagers like Kufi, Adeyipoand Ogundipe among others, others like Olode, Makinde and Kusenla to mention a few, face the same challenge. But we are working on it; concerted efforts are being made, the communities are also making efforts, no one is taking it for granted.

“We have informed the relevant authorities because approval for such does not lie with us. There was a time Hon. Sugar used his office to install poles and get a transformer for Oyedeji but the work got truncated along the line due to some factors and now the poles are now falling and the community still has no light.

“But we are not just watching, we are working to ensure those communities get light and the communities are also willing to pitch in efforts to change their situation. I am sure we will soon have a change of story,” Hon. Arowomole said.

 

They need to inform us —IBEDC

In his reaction, the Regional Communication Officer of the Ibadan Electricity Development Company (IBEDC), Frank Williams, stated that “It is possible that we have villages like that in Oyo state because all over the country, there are villages that are far from civilization. For us, since we took over few years back, we have been working to reach such communities; it is an ongoing process because electricity is a right for all Nigerians though it must be paid for. But we are very passionate about rural electrification.

‘The important thing is we need to be informed about such, if they don’t come to us, we will not know that they have such challenge as you also confirmed that the villages are in the interior and far from civilization. If they had been on the grid before, we will be aware that they have a problem. So they need to come out and inform us. Also, any organization that intends to help them as a social corporate responsibility should also involve us, when they partner with us, it becomes easier and even cheaper for them.

“That is why we are here and we should be partners in progress to ensure every individual by right gets light.”
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We are giving out 40 solar installations to Lagelu —REES
Yetunde Fadeyi, the initiator of REES Africa is passionate about renewable energy and environmental sustainability. She speaks on her interest in lighting up communities and why Lagelu became a beneficiary.

 

What influenced the light up Lagelu project?

I am devoted to renewable energy and environmental sustainability. I believe that sustainability should be a lifestyle for every individual irrespective of status and statistics. Experience and a degree in Chemistry from the University of Ibadan exposed me to the intricacies of energy poverty, climate change and global warming. These issues made me realise that they exist because of our unsustainable lifestyle. As an Eco egalitarian, my perspective is human equality as it also encompasses gender equality. I believe in equal rights, opportunities and resources in relation to the environment for all irrespective of the labels.

 

What is REES Africa about?

REES Africa, fully known as Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability Africa is a social enterprise positioned to redefine Africans future lifestyle with the tool of Renewable energy and environmental sustainability. We have eight initiatives and the focus right now is REES Lights Africa. Under this, is the Light up Lagelu Campaign, we believe that 24 hours sustainable and off grid electricity is possible and a reality by 2030 in accordance to the United Nations sustainable development goals. The campaign at hand satisfies the rural electrification part. As stated, our objective for this initiative is in line with the UN Sustainable development goals.

 

Lagelu is large, do you have a particular focus?

Lagelu comprises over 1076 towns with prominent towns such as Lagun, Monatan and Iyana Church. The village we are focusing on is Lagun and it has more than 50 communities.

 

How many of the communities are in darkness?

Out of the estimate of more than 50 communities, there are many that have never experienced electricity. We have picked three; Aba Oje, Ogundipe and Jagun. They are in total darkness. Although the government made an attempt to install electricity generated by fossils in one of the communities but it got abandoned even before it started.

 

How did you come across these communities?

I was having a conversation with John Adesina, Initiator of PUSH Foundation and he mentioned that one of his representatives, a missionary who runs a prayer mountain in Abaoje told him that some communities have never experienced electricity. It struck my interest and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do for them.

 

What criteria did you choose to pick the beneficiary communities?

The major criterion is that they are in perpetual darkness. This issue brings about poverty, respiratory issues, low quality of life, stunted education, less productivity as well as climate change. All these, are experienced by these indigents and for eons, they have been living the life, exposing themselves to slow killer smoke from kerosene and palm oil lamps.

 

What is the estimated cost for the project?

Due to partnerships and collaborations, the estimated cost is 500, 000 naira.

 

What is your plan?

Our plan for Light up Lagelu, Lagun to be precise is to give out at least forty solar installations this February to these three communities. We would also be sensitizing them on the SDGS in indigenous languages as well as empowering a number of individuals on how to diagnose these installations.

 

Who owns the project?

REES Africa spearheads this initiative. We belied in the power of partnership and collaborations hence we have strategic partners namely Salpha Energy, PUSH Foundation and Build TV.

 

Do the communities have any input in the project?

These communities are filled with indigent people. The only input expected from them now and for which they have expressed is interest but in the nearest future, a pay as you go plan will be set up in each community as we are very particular about sustainability.

 

Will it be easy for the communities to maintain?

We are all about sustainability and solar is sustainable, clean, easy to use and maintain; it is affordable. The installations have a five year warranty, lighting up a home which means they can save at least five year worth of kerosene in Naira to satisfy other issues. There is also no need for extensive wiring or burning of fossil fuels and they will be taught how to maintain from daily routines to weekly as well as the individuals we would be teaching to diagnose issues.

 

You are asking for contributions?

One solar installation at present costs 12, 000 Naira which means that about 42 well-meaning Nigerians contributing 12, 000 Naira or 100 Nigerians contributing 5,000 Naira makes tremendous impact forever. The life of many will be altered; it will be a turning point even for generations. It means a lot to these indigents whose days begin in darkness and ends in darkness but there is a ray of hope in people helping out
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I haven’t heard about that project —Adeyipo traditional head
Dr Bayo Adebowale, a university Don and founder of the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Center (AHRLC), is the traditional head of Adeyipo village. He speaks on the light situation in his village and efforts.

 

When was the last time you had light at Adeyipo?

We have never had light, there was no time power supply got to Adeyipo. So the village had always been in darkness.

 

How old is your village?

It is well over 100 years old.

 

What have you done to change the situation?

We have done a lot, gone to various agencies and filed required papers with various authorities. A project of this nature is beyond the ability of the villagers because we are so far from the communities that already have light. We wrote series of letters to the state rural electrification scheme but nothing came out of that. So we tried the federal rural electrification scheme and they took up our matter; they promised to put a transformer at Kufi, the next village and erect electric poles from here to Olorunda, those are the poles you see part of the way but along the line, they abandoned the project and told us they ran out of materials, so we are still grappling with darkness

 

How does this affect your people?

The community as a whole is affected; we are behind the times in every way. We sincerely and desperately want the situation to change.

 

Light up Lagelu will change that soon, Adeyipo is one of the beneficiaries of a light project by REES Africa?

What is that about? I don’t know REES Africa and I haven’t heard about light up Lagelu. It is strange to me and as the head of Adeyipo, I should know what is happening in my community. If I am ignorant about it, then I doubt it is real.

REES said Adeyipo is in subsequent batches

Well, it is a laudable effort if it is true. But we should be informed since we are beneficiaries. Though I am skeptical but it may be the answer to our prayers. They should talk to us if we are indeed a part of this. As the head, I should be carried along so that I can educate my people. If it is real and not just on paper, we will be very appreciative because it is true we need it dearly but they should talk to us. We are praying for them to be successful in this.
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I am happy we are coming out of darkness —Baale Ojeleye

I am Alhaji Muritala Salami Ojeleye, our village is Aba Ojeleye popularly known as Aba Oje and we have never had light. We have been in darkness for so long and I am particularly happy that they want to give us solar light. This is a major breakthrough and I am happy that it is happening in my time. I thank God and REES Africa and Pastor P.K. Adigun who brought them to us. This is a development we have been craving for decades.

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