10 October 2018

Liberia: Protracted Power Cuts Hamper Businesses, Homes in Nimba

Photo: Jon Sullivan/Wikimedia Commons
Power cuts.

The main LEC line

But JEP says situation is beyond their control

Abrupt power cut in the distribution of electricity across Nimba County under the Jungle Energy Power (JEP) is creating problems for many businesses, homes, and offices.

The Liberia Electricity Cooperation (LEC) Nimba Grid is run by a private firm, "Jungle Energy Power," and has been managing the flow of electricity supplied from the Ivory Coast.

Since JEP took over the Nimba Grid in 2016, the flow of electricity has not been consistent, due to abrupt power cuts which sometimes takes weeks to restore, without any notification to the public.

The larger business community and homes across the area under JEP are finding the situation frustrating as it has left many appliances damaged.

When the Daily Observer asked JEP about the cause of the abrupt power cut, JEP's Overseer Keita Aliyou Musa said the abrupt power cut was done by the supplier from the Ivory Coast, which is beyond their control.

He said as a business entity, "we have no intention to frustrate our customers by cutting power for no reason; but it happens without any notification to JEP Management from the supplier in Ivory Coast."

"The Ivorian supplier does not inform us in advance, so we too cannot alert our customers," he said. Musa explained that any problem within their reach, whether accidental or deliberate, can be solved in a shorter period of time.

A high-tension line in Nimba County

The cross-border electrification of rural cities and towns along the border with Ivory Coast was highly welcomed by the beneficiary counties, including Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland, which many believed would contribute to the socio-economic well-being of the people.

"Our expectation was high when this electricity entered Liberia, but we are not treated fairly because of the frequent power cut, which has caused damage to our iceboxes and other appliances," said Jonathan Harris, a father of three who earns a living selling cold water.

According to Musa, customers pay US$0.25 per kilowatt. But most customers say they can sometimes pay flat rates of US$50 or US$100 for their prepaid meter. "We pay our bill, but don't enjoy it at all, because the electricity is not stable," he said.

The Nimba Grid under JEP begins from Loguatuo and ends in the commercial city of Saclepea, which comprises about a quarter of Nimba County.

Presently, many parts of Sanniquellie, Ganta, Saclepea and other towns along the road are yet to be connected. Many attribute this slow pace of development to too much bureaucracy in getting connected. Some customers allege that they have had to purchase their own poles or wires out of pocket, a claim JEP has disputed, saying material constraints was the main cause in connecting other communities.

The JEP management said since 2016, about 5,000 homes were connected, while at the same time the company was trying to connect Yekepa and other towns far from the main power line.

The rural electrification program was implemented by the West Africa Power Pool and sponsored by the European Union (EU). It covers three counties along the border with Ivory Coast and was initially managed by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) until it was turned over to Jungle Energy Power, which comprises of both Liberian and Ghanaian companies, in 2016.

Transco equipment passing through Ganta, heding for Bong earlier this week.

The JEP said the LEC left liability of about US$1.6M to be paid to the Ivory Coast supplier and they are gradually deducting the amount from the customers who owed them.

In a similar development, another electricity company known as Transco, is currently bringing equipment to supply or distribute electricity across the northern belt of Liberia, including Nimba, Bong, and Lofa counties.

Transco has already procured 10 acres of land between Sanniquellie and Yekepa, where the construction of its camp and substation is ongoing.

Authors

Ishmael F. Menkor

Liberia

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