The pains of Energy Minister
In our bid to unearth the truth about the electricity situation in the country, this writer and some other colleagues in the field, embarked on a fact finding mission to various facilities of the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) within the western urban and rural areas, spending virtually the entire day in our investigations. This move was necessary as residents in the city are facing frequent power outage and are complaining against the institution.
What we observed was beyond our comprehension. We observed vandalized electricity installations, indiscriminate cutting of copper cables (transmission lines) by unscrupulous people. We witnessed and discovered the abstraction of electricity by people who do not have meters. Seeing the scale of the above mentioned setbacks, it is now a glaring fact that the EDSA will not be able to supply power to all areas. Whilst trying to mitigate the effect of the damage to their installations, the EDSA will definitely supply electricity to areas where it will not cause damage to lives and property.
Speaking with officials of the institution, it was disclosed that these challenges have been responsible for the frequent power outage, as in the event of problems with their installations, the system trips, and often, residents call to inform them of sparks, as a result of the cut cables lying idly by. According to the engineers, their only alternative is to cut that area off and see how they can address the situation. In some such situations, residents will have to go for days without electricity, because all the materials have been arranged to meet the demands in other areas, and since this situation is as a result of human activity and not a fault of the company, they have to wait whilst the institution and the respective ministries and institutions may work out how to replace them. It should be noted that the city is expanding and more communities are springing up, all of them needing energy. These have made requests to the authority for electricity. Thus whilst plans are on the way to connect them to the grid, other areas in the grid with such problems interfere with the schedule.
It was also disclosed that in some cases since EDSA is not aware of the damage caused by these unscrupulous thieves, they discover that when the area gets electricity, the installations are often burnt by the sparks from the cut cables, often destroying the transmitters. This writer was emotionally disturbed to think that people could be so wicked to go to the level of cutting transmission cables and vandalizing transmitters to get copper to sell and make money, and render a whole community in darkness for days. This beats the imagination.
What we witnessed in the various installations visited confirmed what we have seen on social media and the traditional media. When one looks at the motivating factors behind such activities, one is inclined to conclude that greed, wickedness and sabotage are the reasons for the current malaise in the sector.
According to the engineers whom we engaged on our findings, it was explained that this has always been the case about electricity supply and distribution. In other words, there are people who will go all out to ensure every effort to provide electricity to the people is frustrated just because they want to satisfy their selfish desires or are being sent to sabotage the entire system. The previous APC government suffered from this same problem and the current SLPP Government is going through the same pain. What is painful is the fact that Sierra Leone has been spending huge amount of money on electricity, but the problems continue to happen, thereby giving the false impression that nothing is being done by the government to address the electricity situation in the country.
It could be recalled that President Bio, during the recent State Opening of Parliament, said “Electricity Generation is not a problem, but supply and distribution remains to be a challenge as a result of so many factors”. His Excellency highlighted some of these problems, which include the ones we observed during our visits to the various facilities and communities. Whilst many criticized the President’s assertions, the truth should be told: an on the spot check of such allegations in various communities will confirm his statement. It is like Sierra Leone’s electricity distribution is under attack. This writer decides to call these acts as an attack against the service, as our findings indicate that the government is able to generate enough electricity that can power the homes and businesses of people, but the most frustrating aspect of it is the distribution and supply of electricity to different areas or communities.
After visiting these areas, we share the pain of the current Energy Minister, Kanja Sesay, as the destruction to the service presents a different picture, as if the government is not doing enough to make things happen, though efforts are being made to sanitize the electricity sector. It is our view that if the country is to get out of this situation, Sierra Leoneans should take ownership of the different projects and see them as their own, as when there is constant and effective electricity supply, it will positively impact on the lives of everyone. Families will be able to preserve their food, get cold water, business people will be able to carry on with their businesses and create more employment for locals, as the cost of generating power through the use of generating plants will be reduced and revenue will come to the government to embark on other important projects for its citizens. Even the petty trader selling water, ginger beer and other petty drinks, will be able to survive from their businesses, and this will eventually see the growth in the lives of the people.