The vision of making Lagos State Africa’s modern mega city obviously spurred the government in 2008 to embark in the ambitious project of lightening up the major streets of the metropolis.
The aims of the Babatunde Fashola-led government in embarking on the street lighting projects were clear: The government wanted to boost night economy of the state, allow for safe movement of motorists and pedestrians at night, enhance the aesthetic ambiance of the area, while assisting with property protection, as light act as a deterrent to criminals.
Over time, the teeming residents of the state soon got used to the streetlights at night and were confident to move about freely at night without fear of being molested by marauders.
To ensure that this is sustained, the state government for a very long time had to power its streetlights with generators, pending the implementation of sustainable alternatives. In 2009 the government introduced the solar street light project which provided Lagosians functional street lights that illuminated some selected streets.
Lagosians applauded the installation of the solar panels in some major streets and highways. They were no longer bugged down by poor supply of electricity from the national grid that hampered streets light that depended on electricity supply from public mains, since they found alternative in the solar option.
Given the fact that the people live in the tropics, solar electric power any day is a revolutionary lighting system, which uses photovoltaic equipment that converts sunlight energy during daytime into electric lights in the night-time.
The calculation of the experts that recommended it for the state government was that the sunlight energy would be stored in maintenance-free and sealed lead-acid batteries during the daytime, and made available during night-time to power a sodium-vapour lamp.
Regrettably, when LEADERSHIP took a look at the street light projects in the Lagos metropolis it was discovered that many of the Lagos streets hitherto illuminated with street light of different methods have gone dark again leaving the residents to embrace covenant of darkness. Amid huge sums of money expended on the installation of the solar lights, the whole stretch of solar light fixed on the ever busy Ogunnusi Road in Ojodu Berger axis have not only gone bad, the poles used in erecting the solar panels have been damaged by motorists. The same fate of total darkness had suddenly befallen street lights along Allen Avenue, Some parts of Obafemi Awolowo road, Ogba, Pen Cinema and Oshodi road and environs.
Clearing the fog on the controversial solar street light project that is currently not working effectively in the state, the state’s commissioner for energy and mineral resources, Engineer Taofiq Tijani, said the experiment with solar has not been successful in the state because those that carried out the pilot schemes did it with wrong solar panels.
He however disclosed that the state government was already in talks with some investors who have indicated interest and are willing to ensure that they get it right this time around. Assuring the residents that the government would do its best to ensure that the right solar panels were installed to power a lot places. For the director, Lagos State Energy Board, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi meanwhile said the problem was beyond usage of wrong panel. She explained that about N81 million worth of public power installations, especially those in aid of street lighting have been vandalised in the state in recent times.
She revealed that, this is aside those frequently damaged by accidents and other means, adding that the board is engaging the services of private security personnel as well as soliciting the support of the general public to guard the street light.
According to her, “The board’s target is to have most streets and bridges and public places in Lagos connected to central power sources, so that they are illumined all night. It is, however, uncomfortable with the rate at which installed facilities are stolen or damaged by the same public in whose interest the facilities are installed.”
Ogunbiyi, who said the board, was working in line with the state government’s larger vision of making Lagos an African model mega city, and the federal government’s power sector reform process, pointed to the challenge of having to operate with generators in some areas of the state, and the frequent damage to poles, cables, bulbs, among other gadgets.
She cited Oshodi where the board had to spent over N25 million to replace vandalised components of public power installations between the beginning of the year and now
Ogunbiyi affirmed that, “lighting with generator is not sustainable because we pay a substantial amount of money to keep the lights on. Again, the moment the light goes off, there is a lot of vandalism that go on.
“In Oshodi for example, we have spent over N25 million this year alone. On Eko Bridge, there was a case of about N56 million worth of cable that was stolen. People take advantage of when there is an industrial unrest or civil disturbances, when the lights go off to steal these things.
“Sometimes, we spend huge money replacing stolen items, so we don’t only provide generators for these street lights, but we also provide security men as well as monitoring team to look after them.
“This is probably one of our biggest challenges. It is not sustainable, we have to protect what we are building and this is a very big problem. Luckily, we have started catching some of these criminals. I am really urging the public and the community to start taking responsibility for these facilities.”
The general manager also pointed at the case of people knocking down poles, saying when “one pole is knocked down, the entire street light goes off because they are all connected.”
She explained that a lot was being done to ensure the Lagos metropolis is illuminated at nights to promote night life and enhance security, noting that “you may know about federal roads, we are talking to the federal government to see how they can now put them in their own power strategy.
“However, a lot is being done. For example, if you drive around at night, you will notice that illumination has increased at Oshodi. You will also notice this on Funsho Williams and Eko Bridge. We have about 28 others sites, and when I say site I mean several roads connected to one generator. We have continued monitoring these and they have been doing very well.”
She went further to disclose that for the rehabilitation plans, “we are taking seven major access roads. On the Mainland we have Ilupeju, Town Planning Way and Coker Road, among others. There are other areas like Ahmadu Bello and Bishop Oluwole. For the first time, all these roads would be connected to IPP which is very effective because there is constant power supply.”
The Lagos state Governor Mr. Babatunde Fashola not amused about the retrogressive trend in the street light project recently drew Lagosians attention to the challenges the state government is facing.
He said,” I promised you that we would apprehend those who were sabotaging our efforts to light up Lagos by digging up and stealing street light cables.
“I am happy to report that we have made some progress in this regard. We have arrested one Hafeez Ayoola and he has been tried and sentenced to six months imprisonment. Michael Arinze, Oluwatosin Ojolu, Monday Michael, Opeyemi Dada, Friday Peter and Friday Nwajieke are all facing charges for vandalizing and stealing cables around Eko Bridge and Ijora.
“I must salute our new commissioner of police, Mr. Umar Manko who only assumed duty on the 12th of March this year, for hitting the ground running.
“But there is a lot that you all can do to help arrest this menace. If we all benefit from the street lights and they are, as you know paid for with taxpayers’ hard-earned money, we must pay greater attention to them”.
The governor urged Lagosians to make it a point of duty to be on the look-out for cable vandals, charging them to take pictures on their telephones and forward them to officials of the government.
He noted that street lights are like noses, which the people shouldn’t cut off to spite their faces as it would ultimately harm the person involved.