Energy Access Proves a Daily Struggle for Low-Income Households in Lagos
Mrs. Arowojobe has lived in Pedro, a popular neighborhood in Lagos, for 29 years. Pedro is known for being a densely-populated neighborhood with both formal and informal settlements, where houses are built in a “face-me-face-you” arrangement and share toilets—a typical setup for low-income households in Lagos.
In the Nigerian city, an estimated 70 percent of the population lives in slum settlements like Mrs. Arowojobe’s. Furthermore, 66 percent of residents do not have secure land tenure, which often means that they lack access to the city’s formal services. Indeed, only 15 percent of households are connected to an electrical grid, and 99 percent are not connected to sewerage treatment systems because there is no centralized sewerage or wastewater management system for the city.
Mrs. Arowojobe, 49, and her husband, a pastor, support their two children, ages 17 and 19, with a combined monthly income of approximately US $300. Ten years ago, Mrs. Arowojobe left her job as a nurse in a private school in Lagos to open a small frozen fish and meat stand in a cubicle outside of her house. Although she still works long hours, from 9am to 8pm, her work as a self-employed trader “pays much better” and gives her more time to take care of her family. “I was formerly a nurse with a private school in Lagos. I quit the nursing job because the trading business pays more, and it affords me more time to take care of my family,” she says.
The biggest challenge Mrs. Arowojobe faces is her sporadic access to electricity— “no lait”. “Because there is no lait, we have noise pollution from generators that affect night sleep in the community,” she says. She currently pays the city utility, the National Electric Power Authority, a fixed monthly rate of $25, even though she can only rely on two hours of electricity daily. Blackouts up to three consecutive days are common.
Aside from her business, Mrs. Arowojobe also struggles to obtain enough fuel to cook for her family. She normally travels two kilometers to refill her 12.5kg LPG cylinder with propane every three months, which costs her nearly $18. She can purchase kerosene as a backup from hawkers outside her house, but says, “I like the gas cooker because the kerosene stove darkens my pot, and emits smoke that chokes me and makes my eyes shed tears.” Because light in her house is scarce and she worries about the smoke, Mrs. Arowojobe urges her children to stay in school so they can study— “even during school holiday.”