A reliable electricity supply from the grid to individuals and households supports schooling, small businesses, and care facilities, creates safer communities, and can reduce local air pollution. Unfortunately, access to grid-fed electricity is very unreliable and limited in the Niger Delta—especially outside urban centres. The reasons for this are multiple and complex, but one factor is the poor relationship and engagement between communities and the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC). With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, SDN is seeking to improve this relationship in several communities within Benin, Edo State, by forming a ‘Community Advocacy Working Groups’ (CAWG) in each. The purpose of these CAWGs is to secure a better electricity supply for their respective communities through advocacy aiming to encourage action from political representatives and BEDC. CAWG members have been trained by SDN in leadership and advocacy, financial management, and using WhatsApp to report failures in electricity supply.
Oghoghobi community was one of a number of communities that SDN worked in to form a CAWG. Oghoghobi community, in the Okha, Edo State, had been struggling with a poor electricity supply since 2020. The lack of reliable electricity had particularly stunted the growth of small to medium-sized businesses in the community. Some shops owners relocated to neighbouring communities due to the impacts of the poor electricity supply. Community frustrations around the electricity provision had led to a deterioration in the relationship between the community and BEDC officials, who seemed unresponsive to the community’s previous efforts to engage them to improve the supply.
The first advocacy visit of the CAWG was to meet the Business Manager and the State Head at BEDC headquarters in Benin. After this meeting, the CAWG knew who to lodge their complaints with, and identified the bad fuses and fallen power-line poles that were the cause of the poor electricity supply experienced by Oghoghobi community.
The complaint was quickly responded to by BEDC, who sent field engineers to replace the fuses and fix the fallen power line poles, restoring the electricity supply to Oghoghobi community. Often communities don’t take this level of action because there is no one designated that responsibility, and they don’t know who to engage. The CAWG that SDN helped the community form was able to take decisive action and get results rapidly because they had that responsibility and SDN advised them on who they needed to meet with at BEDC, and how to report faults to get them fixed. Now the CAWG has a relationship with BEDC through which it can report future instances of electricity supply loss, vandalism, or theft.
“we decided to report the case of the fallen electricity poles to BEDC … Kudos to BEDC for their prompt response to our plight”.CAWG Chair
As part of their next line of action, the Advocacy Working group has decided to move round the community to distribute the whistle blowing and customer care numbers to improve customers’ awareness of how to effectively report concerns or power outages.