Issues pertaining to the supply and distribution of electricity at the University of Ibadan is first-off, to be very factual, not a recent event. On the 29th of April, 2016, the erstwhile leadership of the Students’ Union, under the leadership of Olateju Aliyu, through the then Public Relations Officer, Ayantola Alayande, apprised the students community of its move to ensure a redress against the inadequate supply of electricity to the students community.
The Union leadership had sounded so sprightly about its desire to root out the issue of inadequate power distribution on campus.
“Through our findings from Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), the cause of inadequate power supply in the University is either a result of technical faults within the system or deliberate shortening of electricity supply by the Works & Maintenance Department of the University, to conserve the rate of power usage thereby reducing the expenses that may be incurred.” The special release went further, “It was concluded (after a meeting with the University management) that a 13-man ad-hoc welfare committee be inaugurated on Thursday, 5th of May, 2016, to see to the quick redress of the falling state of students’ welfare as regards power distribution and water supply, to (as well) make necessary recommendations to the management and report back not later than a week after its constitution.”
Besides the fact that the issue of electricity distribution is age-long, it cannot be de-linked without its trace to the country’s state of electricity production.
Electricity as a time-worn concern traces its discernible cause to the nationwide defective generation and distribution of electricity in Nigeria. All issues on power which seem to evade solutions cannot be discussed without its trace to the nation as a whole.
Nigerians share an insufficient supply of 3,500 megawatts load offtake from the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI). The power sector, commonly known for its unreliable supply of electricity, has remained an industry characterized by tariffs that slopes arbitrarily upward, with service delivery that is not enough for economic growth.
Just like the inadequacy in generation, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), on the other hand, is conspicuously a distribution-oriented company, characterized with weak infrastructure for the dispatch of power to homes and to the industrial sector.
Although the company has about 13,000 megawatts generation capacity, the repeated uneventful collapse of the TCN-controlled grid in a country where the government has often said it has no business in business is a premise on which a further cycle of boom, bubble and bust fundamentally rests upon.
Erratic power situation being experienced in Nigeria, despite privatization, has made local businesses or livelihood for vendors difficult to run, just as end-users are obliged to pay inflated utility bills. It is a grim reality that the general outlook of poor electricity in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized.
The bug of this critical concern has categorically caught the education sector, just like other reliant sectors, within its snare.
Although it may seem that the University community, which often appears to ‘enjoy light’ is shut out of the somewhat infrequent supply common to neighboring communities, the absolute truth remains that it is not exempted from Nigeria’s power crisis. The Unibadan students community, for whom the campus exists, has been one of such end users who, considering recent events and the past years, have been affected by the spate of poor electricity distribution.
Challenges Faced By UI Students In Accessing Electricity
Tuesday, September 26th, 2023 marked the beginning of a sudden ten-day power outage at Alexander Brown Hall, a student residential community within the University College Hospital (UCH). Brownites had found it hugely difficult to obtain water that could be used for even domestic purposes. Residents of ABH were additionally strained between infrequent opportunities to reinvigorate their devices for use.
A similar situation was experienced by residents of Queen Idia Hall in early October. In that case, residents of Idia Hall experienced a three-day blackout, which forced them to use nearby halls of residence and the Students’ Union Building as places to power their devices.
The experiences cited are not exclusive. Halls like the Great Independence Hall and Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall have had times during this session when they resolved to outsource water for use.
The result of irregular power supply to student communities has had several consequences. The aftermath often occurs as a result of technical depletion in transmission, unanticipated breakdowns of transformers, grid collapse, uneven distribution of electricity, deliberate disconnection by the distribution companies, planned maintenance, or it may even be caused by natural weather phenomena.
For students in rooms or blocks that have experienced being cut off from electricity supply, there is the overwhelming challenge of being unable to put it to personal use; whether it was needed for reading, research or relaxation.
A dead-end situation, especially with blackout, can push them into discomfiture, as many would be ordinarily left without choice than to move themselves and their device(s) to a friend’s room, cafeteria, reading or common rooms.
Such places being locations they would not ordinarily be found if their proportion of electricity was supplied without hindrance. This effect goes further to produce situations where block members are forced to fetch water from other blocks, until water is exhausted therewith as a result of higher demand and insufficient supply for the halls.
This particular experience is quite common in halls such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Lord Tedder and Great lndependence halls, where electricity is occasionally shared unequally. Many times, it is said that the volts of appliances used in some rooms or by some students is the main cause of the possible supply’s detachment as experienced in some of the halls mentioned.
In instances where students use basic necessities as appliances, it would be wrong to solely fault students, without recourse to evaluating the state or quality of cables which are used to distribute electrical energy.
Communication And Adequate Maintenance As Important Tool Boxes During Outages
At times when students are finding it difficult to domesticate the use of electricity as a result of power outage, the need for effective communication between authorities cannot be undermined. Students refer to a population of intelligent people.
While the concerted effort of a body like the Students’ Union must be given due recognition, communication as a tool must not be underutilized.
The student community should be carried along whenever the fallout or faults of any kind occur. Although it may seem difficult to measure the effectiveness of communication, it nonetheless gets a message across and helps to establish an understanding with listeners.
Also, the need for general maintenance of insulated electrical conductors in the University cannot be denied. Although electrical power cables may be installed as permanent wiring within buildings, buried in the ground, or run overhead, the need to have a general introspection should be considered by the Department of Works and Maintenance.
Despite that underground cables have been known for its several advantages, such as its lower vulnerability to damage through storms, lightning, as well as its low maintenance cost, a lower chance of faults, a smaller voltage drop, and a better general appearance, the repeated or frequent breakdown of electricity distribution should draw the attention of concerned authorities for enduring solutions.
Other concealed factors may include the protracted delay in response after reported cases of mechanical disruption, the insufficiency of workers who are versed and readily available to resolve inadequacies the moment it arises.
In the face of all the irregularities that surround electricity supply and distribution at the University of Ibadan, students appear to be more impaired by the situation.
Energy inadequacies has posed more challenges in the universities as it grounds a barrier to effective research, student learning and general smooth running of the tertiary institutions.
The provision of an independent power plant, upgrades of all existing distribution infrastructure, street lighting to improve security within the universities’ campuses, as well as the development of a world class training centre on renewable energy for each university are recommendations which the University and ultimately the Government must begin to consider.