Clinic Students to Light-Up Nigeria

06.29.10

Ashley Anderson ('11) & Chidinma Okogbue ('11)
Ashley Anderson ('11) & Chidinma Okogbue ('11)

For citizens of Nigeria, power outages are a way of life.  Outages are frequent, unpredictable, and can last for minutes or days.  Far more than a mere inconvenience, the blackouts are crippling Nigeria's education system and economy.

This semester, two BU Law students will tackle Nigeria's electricity problem.  If they succeed, they will improve the quality of life for millions.  The students - Chidinma Okogbue ('11) and Ashley Anderson ('11) - are members of BU Law's new Africa i-Parliaments Clinic.  Chidinma and Ashley will work on behalf of Nigeria's parliament analyzing Nigeria's electricity system and proposing legislation that will address the current system's problems.

"In 2005, Nigeria's electricity system transitioned from government to private ownership," said Ashley. "The hope was that a private system would make electricity more consistently available to more people.  However, there are still major problems with the infrastructure and there are few incentives for a private company to set up shop in Nigeria.  As a result, currently only 30-50% of the country's residents are 'on the grid.'"

Ashley and Chidinma seek to cure some of the infrastructure's problems and to create incentives for private companies to invest in Nigerian energy.  "Our goal is to make the energy supply constant and sustainable," said Chidinma.  "To accomplish this, we will draft regulations to create an investor friendly environment.  At the same time, we will propose oversight provisions that will ensure that the system remains, at all times, for the benefit of the people and government of Nigeria."

Researching the issue is proving to be a challenge.  To draft effective legislation, the students must obtain accurate information about the actual use and supply of energy.  However, internet access is scarce in Nigeria because of the power shortage, so online resources are limited.  "The same problem we seek to cure affects us in developing a solution, even here in the United States," said Ashley.

The final product will include a draft bill and an extensive written report explaining why the Nigerian parliament should adopt the bill in full.  "To be accepted, the final bill must play to Nigeria's cultural aspects so that it does not sound like we are forcing a 'western' way of doing things," said Chidinma.  "My parents are from Nigeria, so in addition to having a personal stake in this project, I have a cultural understanding of the country that we can incorporate into the project."

Both Chidinma, a Houston native, and Ashley, from Evanston, Illinois, have a strong interest in government and legislation.  For these students, the new Africa i-Parliaments Clinic provides the perfect opportunity to learn about legislative process.   Clinic Professors Robert Seidman, Ann Seidman and Sean Kealy have extensive knowledge of legislative process and the development of African nations.  The Professors are excited to pass this knowledge on to their students.   "Having our students develop their legal skills while helping potentially millions of Africans through more effective law making is very rewarding as a teacher," said Professor Kealy.