Terrorists operating in various parts of Northwest Nigeria have been threatening to cut power lines that supply electricity to various states of the sub-region, particularly Kano and Katsina, just as Non-State Armed Groups have done in the Northeast.
According to a source within Nigeria’s Ministry of Power, the terrorists have cut off access to some of the power facilities in the areas they operate in and threatened to vandalise them if the Federal Government fails to meet their demands. The threat, which the ministry has since forwarded to senior authorities, came as efforts to repair some faulty power lines were hindered by the close presence of terrorists.
“No one can move close to the facilities because of fear of being attacked,” the source said, adding that the result has been a dwindling supply of electricity to some states in the Northwest, particularly Kano, the industrial capital of the sub-region.
This is not the first time that a state in Nigeria has faced the threat of power outages, especially since Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists have denied Maiduguri residents access to power for the past few years. But analysts believe that this particular threat attracts more concern, particularly in Kano which is located in Northern Nigeria’s economic square. The rising cost of diesel will also make some businesses almost impossible to run.
Apart from the total darkness that many residents have been forced to endure as a result of the unstable power supply and its constant collapse, many small and medium-sized businesses are suffering in silence, with thousands of people losing their jobs.
Some have changed the way they run their businesses by instituting “work from home” policies for companies that can accommodate it, and others are downsizing due to the skyrocketing price of gas. The greatest concern now is how they will cope if terrorists destroy the power lines.
Isma’il Ahmad works for Liberty FM, one of the about 20 radio stations in Kano. He said the erratic power supply in the region, combined with skyrocketing diesel prices in recent months, has forced his station to reduce the number of working hours from 24 to 18 and then to 16 hours. He believes that if the price of diesel continues to rise and terrorists achieve their goal of destroying the little power available, many businesses will close, resulting in the loss of many jobs.
“Private and independent broadcast media practitioners have already expressed concerns to the government about the issue of power supply and the rising cost of diesel. This occurred prior to the recent threat; imagine what will happen if it occurs,” he told HumAngle.
Ahmad added that the alternative method of obtaining stable electricity, which includes the installation of a solar energy system, cannot be as effective as using diesel engine electricity. Also, some stations are already losing money because they are unable to adapt to new competition.
Kano State is home to the largest industrial plant in the Northwest. It is a commercial hub and business owners say it will be extremely difficult to conduct business activities without power. “It will be more devastating than anywhere else in the North because millions of people rely on it to get a job here,” said Balarabe Abdullahi, a public analyst in the state.
“Some may argue that people will continue to buy products regardless of price if industries have high operating costs. But that is not going to happen. People will move to another market in another state to buy products or import from foreign countries, and this applies not only to Kano residents, but also to those who come to Kano to buy products from Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa, and other states.”
Kano, for example, has been losing its relevance as a commercial power holder in Nigeria since the early 1990s and 2000s due to power issues, according to Abdullahi. Many industries have been shut down.
Gaskiya Textile Mill, a once-thriving industry that nourished today’s popular Kwari textile market, is a prime example of this. Despite the Federal Government’s intervention, the company’s collapse due to power issues resulted in the loss of approximately three million jobs. “People switched to low-quality but less expensive Chinese textiles and abandoned high-quality locally made ones because they were too expensive,” he recalled.
Lack of power has already had an impact in some areas of Kano. According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria, small business owners in the state are leaving their jobs because of the issue. This could get worse if the state’s power sources are attacked. “Some artisans who cannot afford generating sets have turned to Okada and commercial tricycles,” said barber Babale Usman.
Isa Ahmad Ilyas, who runs an arc welding business, has already begun to feel what it is like to be without reliable electricity and to run a business at a high cost. Coming from the Fagge Local Government Area, where thousands of shops provide tailoring services, he understands how a lack of stable electricity could affect businesses on a large scale. According to him, the tailors in his neighbourhood will never be able to survive without a reliable power supply because not everyone is willing to pay more than usual for tailoring when they are struggling to feed themself.
Ilyas said that even with the current power supply, he buys diesel worth about ₦10,000 ($24) every day to run his welding business, which necessitated an increase in the price of his work. “We used to collect ₦2,000, but now we have to collect between ₦3,000 and ₦3,500 because we occasionally lose power for more than 23 hours. Consider what would happen when there is no power at all,” he stated.
However, Ibrahim Almunabbih told HumAngle that a lack of power and rising diesel prices have forced him to reconsider. “Everything in my block industry business is expensive. The lorry transporting the sand is powered by diesel, and the block engines and boreholes are powered by either electricity or diesel. With all of these issues, I was forced to devise an ineffective mechanism to assist me in running my business but at a less expensive rate,” he said.
Almunabbih’s company is no longer reliant on power from power stations. He employs a petrol engine in an innovative manner, but he claimed that not all similar businesses can afford to do so. Many have closed as a result of the current power outage, and things will only get worse with a total blackout.
According to Gausullahi Buhari, a commercial tricycle operator in Kano, the real problem with the lack of power is the presence of darkness due to the absence of street lights that run on diesel or electricity. While some major roads are illuminated, many others are not, resulting in criminals hiding in dark places and pouncing on people to rob them of their belongings.
“It means more criminals hiding to steal phones or confiscate bags,” he said. “I may not feel a direct effect of terrorism if I’m in Kano and the incidents are taking place in Katsina or Zamfara. But if the power is cut off, I’ll feel an indirect terror attack on me through the criminals in my area.”
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