Social media users were shocked when they woke up to these tweets by Blue Camel Energy, an energy company based in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Although the company eventually deleted their tweets, they first stood their ground, using their official handles to respond to people who found their conduct unprofessional and some who even outrightly attacked their services.
However, beyond the shock of their actions – using their official handle to attack the Oyo State Government because they did not get the Light-Up Oyo contract – is there any truth in the allegations of Blue Camel Energy? For example, is it true that the Oyo State Government opted for diesel-poweredstreet lights? Is it also true that solar-powered energy is cheaper than other forms of electricity in the long run?
Responding to the allegations by Blue Camel Energy, the Oyo State Government Feedback Account on Twitter stated that this is not true. They said, “the [government] did not go for diesel-powered streetlights. The streetlights are designed to run on gas generators with a long-term plan to connect them to the state’s IPP, which has been flagged off.”
So, the powering of street lights is a stop-gap solution. Ultimately, the street lights will be powered by gas generators.
But, part of the criticism of Blue Camel Energy was that the Oyo State Government opted to pay extra operation costs by using diesel to power the street lights. So, even as a stop-gap measure, how much has it cost Oyo State to buy diesel? According to the authorities, the diesel arrangement came at no additional costs. In their words, “Running it on diesel-powered generators in the short term was offered by the contractors at no additional cost to the government.”
What about the claim that solar-powered street lights would have been cheaper for the government in the long run? People in the know have also stepped up to debunk this claim. Contrary to what solar-propagating energy companies claim, there are hidden costs associated with running a project as large as the Light-Up Oyo, which covers 300 kilometres of lighting across the state. Even if Blue Camel would cover this cost for the first 5 years, what about later?
One of the costs is the maintenance of the lights. Nigerian, and indeed Oyo State roads are prone to dust. The lights have to be regularly cleaned to keep them functional. Cleaning these lights requires renting cranes or cherry pickers, which attracts a cost of N100, 000 to N150,000/day. Now multiply how many of these cranes will be needed monthly across the state! There are 33 local government areas in Oyo State. Even if only one crane is hired per local government/quarter, the numbers will quickly pile up.
There are still other consequential hidden costs to solar-powered lights. The panels can be easily stolen. This meansthat the authorities would have to mount security at extra costs to protect the street lights from vandals. Imagine how much resources they would need to commit to this endeavour.
Another disadvantage of solar-powered street lights is that they are usually not that bright compared to DC-powered ones. In fact, under the late Governor Ajimobi, Oyo State hadgone the solar-powered route, and the lights barely lasted a month before they were decommissioned.
Thankfully, according to the Oyo State Government, the technical issues that had led to disruptions in the Light-Up Oyo Project have been resolved. The people can again continue enjoying the benefits of this project until it is completed and handed over to the authorities. As @FeedbackOYSG tweeted, “The ‘Light up Oyo’ project to provide streetlights on 300km of roads across the state is an ONGOING project that has not yet been handed over to the government. Therefore, all technical issues are being addressed by the contractors as the work progresses.”
Interestingly, Blue Camel Energy, who were so quick to criticise the Oyo State Government for not giving them a contract, are not so patient with users in Kaduna who ask questions about their project there. See a sample conversation with their CEO in these screenshots. Why did Blue Camel Energy not extend this same courtesy to the Oyo State Government?
Blue Camel Energy later issued an apology to the Oyo State Government.
As elections approach, the good people of Oyo State have to be on the alert. Not only individuals but corporate organisations will be used to discredit the good work of the people’s governor. A few months ago, a so-called data company was lying about the cost at which notebooks were contracted in Oyo State, claiming N2,100, a leap from the truthful N180. Today it is Blue Camel Energy telling half-truths about the Light-Up Oyo Project. There will be more of these coming up. The people have to be on the alert, ready to debunk these lies, half-truths and fake news.
The administration of Governor Seyi Makinde has always been transparent about what they do. Anyone who approaches the authorities either directly or through the feedback handles always get a response to their queries.