After a busy Monday workout, the atmosphere was getting still and people were gradually rounding off their activities to close off the day.
It was at this same time that a customer approached Funke Biola’s Point of Sale (POS) stand to make some withdrawals. Having inserted his Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card into the terminal, he entered his pin, but unfortunately for him, the machine went off. The young man looked surprised, asking what could be wrong.
Funke already knew what went wrong, so she quickly brought out a wristband from her purse and walked some shops away from her wooden kiosk, asking her waiting client to be a little bit patient.
A few moments later, she was back, holding a purple device which she plugged the POS terminal with. Before long, a blue light popped up from the machine’s screen with the inscription “Welcome”. It was on and the transaction was soon completed.
Erratic power supply is no longer a new problem in Funke neighborhood. Instead of getting stranded as a result of poor electricity, she has found a way out. “This is how I am now helping my business,” she mentioned.
Despite the sum of the heavy amount of money being pumped into the power sector annually, the World Bank has identified Nigeria as “the country with the largest energy access deficit in the world”. Among other impacts, the lack of dependable power supply continues to result in losses for both large and small businesses in the country.
According to a report, it was revealed that over 40 percent of households in Nigeria own and use generators to meet their electricity requirements. The same study estimated the annual fuel consumption of the said numbers to be worth $14 billion.
Similarly, the Executive Director for Research and Advocacy of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Barrister Sunday Oduntan, in February disclosed that Nigerians spend about N12 trillion on self-power generation annually.
Oye-Ekiti long aged power crisis
Like many places in Nigeria, Oye-Ekiti, the host community of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) in Ekiti state has also experienced shortage of power supply for years. Instead of having an improvement after a 2019 protest that led to the killing of two students of the school, the situation had only become worse daily.
“They don’t even care about us anymore. You will only see them bringing a few hours of light once the month is about to end so that they can collect money,” Babatunde Adebayo, a displeased welder in town bemoaned adding that he now spends a large volume of his profits on diesel fuel just to get his clients’ jobs done.
However, unlike Mr. Adebayo, other small business owners and individuals who need power for charging small devices now rely on renting power banks in Oye-Ekiti.
Before this moment, residents and university students mainly depended on filling stations for charging except for a few who owned generators.
“You cannot pass any filling station and not see plenty of phones, laptops, torch lights and lamps being plugged into many sockets. Sometimes when I don’t have any other option, I also plug my POS terminal there,” said Mrs Biola whose kiosk is opposite ‘Faalex,’ a well-known petroleum station in the community.
Since the presence of Mobile Power in 2022, she has been renting power banks with N250 and it would serve her for twenty-four hours.
Mobile Power (MOPO) and Its Services
Mobile Power (MOPO) is a United Kingdom-based energy distribution platform that offers customers a pay-per-use battery as a service to solve energy distribution challenges.
Established in 2013, the company has its operations running in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Zambia, The Gambia, and lately, Nigeria.
Office of Mobile Power. Photo Credit: Twitter
Recently, Mobile Power signed a £1m investment with All On, a Shell-funded impact investment company to increase the growth of its services in Nigeria. With over 40 rental hubs already serving about 20,000 households in Ekiti and Ondo, South-Western states, Chris Longbottom, Chief Executive Officer of Mobile Power has described Nigeria as the company’s “fastest growing market.”
“The platform offers customers a community-based, agent-led Battery-As-A-Service product that enables them to rent 50 watt-hours (Wh)-1000Wh lithium-ion batteries for 24-hour periods,” he explained in a recent interview.
MOPO charging device and its service in Ekiti state
Ranging in size and capacity, a power bank is usually a portable device that is used for charging electronic devices like telephones. As the name suggests, a MOPO power bank is built with 8000 milliamps per hour. Once activated, a customer only has 24 hours to use it.
One of the four MOPO rental hubs in Oye-Ekiti. Photo Credit: Sunday Awosoro
Currently, MOPO has its service up in places like Oye-Ekiti, Ilupeju-Ekiti, and Odo-Oro Ekiti where there had not been power supply for many years. In Oye-Ekiti, their agents have stands in front of the Civil Defence Corps station, Oye Market, School Junction, and a shop beside Uche Best stores.
Speaking with Nigeria Grassroot News, Ronke Adeoye, a MOPO agent in Oye-Ekiti describes their service as technologically oriented.
“When a new customer comes, we register their information into a wristband which they will pay N100 for. Going forward, they can now come with that wristband whenever they want to rent a power bank. We will scan it with a phone application before it can be activated. The cost of a power bank for 24 hours is N250,” she said.
User holding power banks. PC: MOPO Twitter
“Expensive and Limited,” MOPO Users’ Challenges
Despite showing foresight in bridging energy demands, many low-income earners in these communities cannot afford MOPO’s services.
Ayeni John, a primary school teacher who began to rent the MOPO power bank in March decries the cost he has incurred since. Many times, he has ended up not exhausting the power bank before it is 24 hours. “The time limit is small for me. They should, please, increase it,” he said.
He said: “In fact, MOPO has been very helpful since I started using it. But the problem is the charges. Imagine me spending two hundred and fifty naira almost everyday for thirty days, it’s telling on my little salary. But since we don’t have another alternative yet, we still have to continue using it”.
Similarly, Sarah Badmus, a 200-level part-time student of Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) complained of the high cost saying “it would be extremely cool if they can bring it down”.
An agent attending to a customer. Photo Credit: MOPO Twitter.
Speaking on the cost of renting a power bank, Miss Adeoye claims that the high fee is not the fault of MOPO agents.
“We have four agents in Oye-Ekiti and they can tell you that we only gain N50 on a power bank and the remaining money belongs to the company. If care is not taken, we agents can end up running into losses,” she mentioned.
Once it is 24 hours, the device automatically stops working and a customer’s failure to return it to the agent will lead to an additional N50 late return fee.
“Nigerians can be difficult to deal with. Some of them will hold the device for many days without returning it. We will have to be chasing them with calls before someone will answer you. Meanwhile, the mobile app will continue to deduct lateness charges from our account. You see why we have to collect the lateness charges.” she added.