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Niger: power cuts worsen under the effect of sanctions

Niger: power cuts worsen under the effect of sanctions
Jerrycans of diesel are brought to a generator in Niamey on 7 August 2023   -  
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-/AFP or licensors


In the popular district of Lazaret in Niamey, cries of joy welcome the return of electricity cut for nearly five hours: for a week, the Nigerien capital has been suffering from major load shedding, a direct consequence of regional sanctions after the putsch of July 26.

In the neighbouring 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 broad smile.

On Wednesday, Nigeria announced that it would cut the electricity supply to its neighbour, in line with the sanctions decided by Niger's West African neighbours.

A few days earlier, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, had decided on sanctions against the military who overthrew elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

In addition to a one-week ultimatum to restore constitutional order and the suspension of financial transactions with Niger, ECOWAS decreed a freeze on all service transactions, including energy transactions.

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% of the electricity it supplies. in Niger, according to a 2022 report by this 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.

"For the moment the frequency of cuts - from four to five hours - is bearable, but we fear the worst in the event of breakdowns of one of the turbines", worries Mohamed the hairdresser, also a former mechanic.

To continue working, he equipped himself with rechargeable solar mowers. But his turnover has already dropped: while he had "fifteen" customers before, he only has "five a day".

In Issa Adamou's workshop, located opposite Mohamed's living room, the electric sewing machines are at a standstill. “We are impatiently waiting for the electricity,” grumbles Issa, as she strikes the mosquitoes attacking her feet with her fan.

In the dark, a street away, young people are having tea in a "fada" (club), against a background of deafening croaking of frogs in a nearby pond. "Nigeria must find another means of pressure because we are immune to power cuts, we can last a long time," argues one of them, Aziz Hama.

But "these cuts come at the wrong time when the prices of products are soaring because of (jihadist) attacks which are disrupting the country's supply", scolds Kadi Moukaïla, a restaurateur. "Customers are not happy because there are no more cold drinks here," she gets angry.

In Gaweye, on the other bank of the Niger River, Elhadj Tidjani, in his seventies, is not losing his temper: "Because of these cursed cuts, we no longer hear the calls to prayer on the loudspeakers". 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", launches Moussa Abba, owner of a pharmacy. "To avoid huge losses, I stock up as little as possible," says Halidou Jika, seller of frozen products.

Souley Kanta, warehouseman, assures him that "Nigerians are ready to make the supreme sacrifice to put an end to neo-colonialism".

The entry into service on August 25 of a new 30-megawatt photovoltaic power plant built near Niamey with a French loan and a donation from the European Union will strengthen the potential of Nigelec, assures one of its managers.

In a speech to the nation on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the independence of Niger, a former French colony, the head of the military in power, General Abdourahamane Tiani, warned that "the weeks and months to come will be difficult for our country".

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