Light Up Movement is a pressure/advocacy group based in Lokoja the Kogi State Capital with membership cutting across the twenty one Local Government Areas of the state and other parts of the country. The groups existence began on the 3rd of June, 2017 at the height of epileptic power supply and near blackout period being witnessed in the state. It is made up of young men and women who are concerned issues affecting power supply including crazy billing, fixing of damaged electricity equipments installed by the electricity distribution company, issues of extortion of customers by AEDC staff and other matters connected therein. The group has, over the years, gained trust from members of the public as a result of its regular engagement of stakeholders in the sector as well as carrying the burden of customers on many matters. They also intervene on matters that affect timely payment of bills by consumers to enable the AEDC serve them better. Our reporter, MOHAMMED YABAGI had an in-depth interview with the chairman of the movement, COMRADE ZAKARI ILIYASU who explained more about the activities of the movement.
My name is Zakari Iliyasu, I am a citizen of the state from Lokoja Local Government to be precise. I am an educator, a public servant, civil society and good governance advocate, a positive thinker and a supporter of anything that is pro-masses. In short, I am a great promoter of any endeavour that would better the lot of the people.
Hint us about the origin of Light Up Movement
Thank for this question. Light Up Movement is ‘a child of necessity’ as some clichés would say. It was founded on the third day of June in the year 2017 and it came about following a meeting some of us youths of Lokoja origin – held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Square in Lokoja, Kogi State. The meeting was organised by my predecessor, the famous youth advocate and activist, Comrade Suleiman Isiyak who is popularly known as Comrade Fakey. In that meeting which we mobilized young persons through the use of the social media – facebook and twitter to be precise, the name was coined and adopted. Though it was called Light Up Lokoja before we metamorphosed as a result of our outlook and vision. So, the meeting followed flurry of posts in the run up to that period by many residents of Lokoja and the state in general complaining about the power situation in various communities, streets and even orgnisations. We felt that power is very important to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which form the mainstay of the economy of the state. Truth be told, it was also necessitated by some personal experiences and interests in the economic wellbeing of our parents and relatives, especially those of us that originated from the rural traditional communities of Lokoja. From Cantonment to Palace, Karaworo to Kabawa, Anguwan Kura to Maigaris Palace to Yashi, to Old Market, Sarkin Noma to New-lay-out up to Adankolo, Lokongoma to Barracks and other areas that form Lokoja, we have people whose major source of income is either sales of Pure Water, or the sale of snacks, soft drinks, poultry business, salon and barbers shops and others that depend highly on power supply. Even in those traditional areas, some of our mothers engage in other petty businesses that depend on electricity. So, before power situation got to this level of improvement, we had to engage the leadership of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) at the highest level to ensure the right thing was done for our people. Before now, there was this misconception about the availability of electricity but that the AEDC was only deliberately refusing to supply customers in the state. There was also this belief that the countrys power generating company was generating high electricity from the state and selling it off to the distribution companies who are in turn selling to higher bidders because they complain of the inability, and in some cases, outright refusal of some consumers to pay their electricity bills. On the day the body was founded, we had resolved to take to the streets in protest against power supply and the shabby behaviours of AEDC staff and the story went viral on the internet and we called out management of the company on twitter and facebook. That got their attention and they came down to Lokoja as a result. The leadership of the body was summoned by the Maigari of Lokoja, His Royal Highness, Dr Muhammadu Kabiru Maikarfi III who mediated that engagement in his palace. At that meeting, we got a commitment from the AEDC that it would improve power supply from between 11 to 18 hours instead of the near zero hours that we were experiencing. So, after that we continued our engagement, got our group registered as a Non – Governmental Advocacy Association and we have since continued with our acivities.
In specific terms, what can you say the movement has achieved since it was founded?
We have achieved plenty in all modesty. Since our formation, the groups objective has been to engage all stakeholders and we have continued to do that. Beyond that however, we have become the interfacing body between the AEDC and consumers towards ensuring there was a cordial, peaceful working relationship between them. As I said, we have become regular advocacy group that educate our people, knowing that we understand their plight and speak their tongues. We tell them there is need to pay for the power they consume on time because AEDC is not NEPA. Some of the aged did not understand that electricity supply is now the responsibility of private bodies and no longer that of government. We tell them government has hands off issues of electricity and that those with the responsibility now have invested huge sums of money and that they need the resources to pay staff salaries, purchase the power and maintain equipments among other expenses. The Movement has carried out research on some damaged and non functioning equipments belonging to the AEDC in all parts of Lokoja metropolis to give AEDC a solid idea of where to start from when complaints about power tripping off and poor or low energy or current became the hue and cry of customers across the state capital and submitted it to the Regional Office. That helped the company in effecting repairs on the equipments with relative ease. We did that for free without asking for a penny from them. I think our voice also contributed to the recent categorization of various customers according to their ability which is why you now have bands A E categorization. Customers in Band A and B can enjoy electricity supply of up to 20 to 24 hours as a result. The body also went round the entire state in an advocacy campaign for prompt payment of electricity bills which has improve customers response to payment of their bills and also created a conducive working atmosphere for the AEDC. So, we do that and I can say that the confidence reposed in us by the public has continued to improve and we have continued to be the mouth of the people before the AEDC and we will continue as long as we are here. We are also working assiduously with the national leaderships and organizations across the country to ensure improved power supply and other issues that concern electricity consumption and advocacy for improved power supply.
Allegation that your body has been bought over by AEDC
(Laughs)) It is not possible. If you know the caliber of persons that form the leadership of the movement, you will understand why it is not possible to buy us over. We are a group made up of gainfully employed and honest people. We are not buyable. The truth is, you cannot do away with such mundane allegations. But to be frank, if we had been bought over, we would have seized to exist. Our members are upright lot. We have continued to state that the ordinary consumers are our concern and that is our concern, nothing else. Our parents, wives and other relatives are still living, we will not relent having gone this far because of our selfish interests. Members of Light Up Movement do not have personal agenda or interest. We are public servants and we are serving the people of the state.