Development economics has never been easier to teach or learn than it is today on Bonny Island. A teacher now has a vast array of examples to drive home his points. For instance, he may choose to point at the small and medium-scale businesses that have taken root in the town since 2001 when power availability increased.
He may also decide to praise the ingenuity of small time retailers who have diversified their businesses, taking advantage of constant energy supply. Indeed, electricity supply in the ancient city of Bonny has taken a turn for the better. Gone are the days of epileptic power supply. In those days, village squares, roads and pathways, every evening, stood in darkness or mocking half-light as the day-to-day hubbub of Bonny would stop for a few moments for candles to be lit, while people shifted effortlessly from a modern to a more traditional pattern of life. Economists have long established a strong correlation between poverty and lack of energy. Access to modern energy services is a key to social and economic progress in the developing world, says International Energy Agency (IEA). Recent IEA studies show that living standards rise sharply as per capita energy consumption increases.
This seems to be the case with Bonny where a reliable electricity supply is encouraging industries and home enterprises to grow, generate jobs and increase incomes. Electric lighting in schools and homes has also encouraged teaching, reading (adult classes) and socializing after dark. It has also ensured that the Bonny General Hospital not only doubled the number of surgeries it carries out; it has also caused other public and private hospitals to provide services all through the night.
Yet until recently, Bonny Kingdom never had it so good despite its widely acknowledged role as the Nigeria’s gateway and port of preference. Over 600 years of history and trading relations spanning the slave trade, palm produce and oil export, failed to earn the kingdom a connection to the national power grid, paved roads, or clean water.
It came, therefore, as no surprise to anyone that when the three big oil and gas companies operating on the island — Nigeria LNG Limited, Shell Petroleum Development Company and Exxon-Mobil — came together to dialogue with the kingdom, under the aegis of the Joint Industry Companies (JIC) that they found a willing partner who prized three things above everything else: constant electricity; a clean, regular water supply; and paved roads. And so began a partnership that has won the hearts of many.