Nigeria – Aiming for the Bright Lights in Lagos

from The Wall Street Journal..

June 23, 2013


LAGOS, Nigeria—The few street lamps that once illuminated this ranging metropolis burned out over decades of urban decline. But bulb by bulb, a band of electricians is shedding fresh light on some of the world’s darkest city lanes.

The undertaking symbolizes the slow turnaround of Lagos, a megacity crammed with 21 million people enduring rolling blackouts, overflowing sewage and snarling traffic—urban woes that are the legacy of bureaucratic mismanagement.


New street lights in Lagos, Nigeria are part of a modest effort to step up amenities in a city plagued by kidnappings and other troubles. WSJ’s Drew Hinshaw reports.

Lately, though, Lagos has begun to pretty up. The government has hired litter crews to tidy highways. It has contracted engineers to string up traffic signals. And it has paid landscapers to plant playgrounds under highway bridges, formerly no-go zones popular with teenage toughs.

Now, on once shadowy streets, lights come on when evening falls. That is a gift from the Lagos State Electricity Board, a previously near-defunct agency whose own headquarters went without regular electricity until two years ago. Having brought its office generators back to life, the board is attempting to light the entire city—first the thoroughfares, then roads and alleys.

In a country with hollowed-out basic services, working street lamps send a simple message of what government can give. “The first time when we [turn] on the light, the expression of people, you feel their joy,” said Rauph Murtadah, an electrician with the board. “You feel the joy of making an impact on society.”

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Still, this unruly city can sabotage even best-felt gestures. Lights don’t always stay on, for a variety of reasons. Thieves yank out and sell cables for valuable copper inside. Gunmen sometimes slice wires to plunge neighborhoods into darkness before a robbery. And taxis routinely take out lights when they lose their brakes, crashing into poles. “They knock down poles like it’s bowling pins,” said Damilola Ogunbiyi, general manager of the Lagos electricity board….

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