Frequent power cuts and load-shedding in the Republic of Niger have seriously impacted the quality of life and added pressure on small businesses along the border communities after Nigeria cut off supply to the country in application of economic sanctions.
Days after Abdourahamane Tchiani seized power on July 26 from the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called on the coupists to relinquish power or face sanctions and possible military action. The junta refused to comply and would not even meet mediators.
Findings by BusinessDay showed that the Nigerians living in border communities around Illela, a border between Sokoto State and the Niger Republic, are feeling the effects of ECOWAS sanctions against the country.
Garba Abubakar, a Lagos resident with family in Illela, said his community feared that cutting power and closing the border would reintroduce the economic hardship they had endured during the previous closure, and their worst fears were realised.
He said the sanctions have had a devastating effect on businesses in the town. “The border had been a major source of trade and commerce, and its closure has resulted in a significant drop in economic activity. Many businesses are struggling to survive, and some have been forced to close.”
Illela shares a boundary with Birnin Kouni in the Niger Republic. It is the major route to Niger and the place where Nigeria Customs Service maintains a control post and uses it to monitor the movement of goods and services across the two borders.
Inside Niger, power now comes on for less than 5 hours a day at the capital Naimey as the supply from Nigeria accounts for 70 percent output, according to the country’s state energy company.
The deteriorating electricity supply is a major concern for the people of Niger, as it is a threat to economic development and social stability, and it is also a major obstacle to the country’s efforts to combat poverty.
In the district of Dan Zama, Mohamed tries to reassure children who are tired of waiting for the power to come back to have their hair done. “Sourou, sourou” (patience, patience, in the Djerma language), repeats the hairdresser, wearing a broad smile, says a report by African news.
In normal times, Niamey is already subject to regular power cuts due to outages on the Nigerian grid, where the Nigerian Electricity Company (Nigelec, the country’s sole supplier) buys 70 percent of the electricity it supplies in Niger, according to a 2022 report by the company.
To supply its subscribers, Nigelec now has to rely solely on its meager local production, far from covering the needs of the capital and its nearly 2 million inhabitants.
As soon as the power is interrupted, generators of all sizes take over in several shops, service stations, pharmacies and opulent villas.
In the evening, small vendors set up shop near the streets illuminated by solar streetlights. Others light up using Chinese battery-powered or solar-powered lamps, the prices of which are constantly rising.
“It is no longer a question of ordinary electrical breakdowns, as a precaution we have bought a new generator as reinforcement”, said Moussa Abba, owner of a pharmacy. “To avoid huge losses, I stock up as little as possible,” Halidou Jika, a seller of frozen products, told African news.
Sani Mai Sharon, a driver, told ArewaVoice, that the country’s electricity woes continued as the construction of China Gezhouaba Group’s Kandadji dam in Niger was suspended due to the coup.
ECOWAS, the European Union, and the World Bank have all imposed financial sanctions on the country, making it impossible to settle accounts for the company.
“In the face of force majeure, we find ourselves forced to stop all construction activities for a week and proceed to the phased termination of local workers’ contracts,” the company said. “And it should be emphasised that the termination of the contract due to force majeure would not involve the compensation of fired employees…,” Sharon said.