Idris Musa, a 19-year-old Junior Secondary School Certificate holder, lives with his parents in Makurdi, the Benue State capital. Every afternoon, he visited a friend, a tailor whose shop is located few metres away from his house. On each visit, he observed that the friend’s shop was always besieged by friends and neighbours, there to charge their mobile phone batteries using the tailor’s small electric generator, widely known in the local parlance as ‘I pass my neighbour.’ In the area, a sprawling slum in Makurdi called Wadata, as, indeed, in every part of Nigeria presently, power supply from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria virtually does not exist. From his observation of the phone-charging crowd, an idea sprang into Musa’s mind.
The teenager concluded that from the desperation of these subscribers to charge their batteries, he could make hay. Putting thought into action, he began to raise money to buy a generating set, a table, some sockets and some length of cable. He was able to secure N16,000 from his father to buy the items with which he started his new business located at number 53, Niger Crescent, Makurdi.
From take-off, patronage was impressive, what with the phone users’ helplessness in accessing official power and unavoidable resort to alternative means. For N40, anyone would have his phone battery charged fully. Within weeks, huge patronage compelled Musa to add another table to increase his charging point from the initial 20 to 45. This means that 45 batteries can be charged simultaneously at his centre. He told TheNEWS: “I make an average of N900 every day in profit, but generally, I make between N1400 and N1500.” He spends N450 on petrol to power his generator every day his centre opens for business.Musa’s initiative has opened the door for other young people to build on. Along Ikeja Street, few metres away from Musa’s centre, is Tanko Habib’s. Habib, who started the business two months ago, declined comment on his daily earnings but said it is doing well. He set up his phone charging business with N17,000 and currently has 31 charging points. Solomon Aondoyila, a Senior School Certificate graduate from Adikpo Comprehensive College, Adikpo, Benue State has opened his own outlet along David Mark Bye-pass, Makurdi. Aondoyila bills N40 to charge a battery. His outlet has the capacity to charge 20 sets at a time. He invested N25,000 to secure the generating set, the table, the electrical works and the space he is occupying. Aondoyila admitted taking a leaf from Musa’s pace-setting creativity. “I know it will bring me money,” he quipped.
Mr. Sunday Adah, a civil servant, stated that mobile phone users cannot but patronise the phone chargers as long as the power situation remains as it is. “There is nothing I can do because electricity supply in my area is not regular, so I come here on intervals of three days to charge my phone battery,” he lamented.
A businessman, Mohammed Lawal calculated his weekly expenditure on charging the batteries of his two handsets to be N420. In Makurdi, the business thrives in the high density areas where the low income earners live. These include Wadata, High Level Area, Wurukum and North Bank. Most of the residents here cannot afford generators and the cost of maintaining them, especially as virtual permanent power outage requires endless use of the machine. It is in these areas that Musa and his fellow young entrepreuners have set up shop, overcoming the hard times.