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'Lights Out' in Niamey

FILE: An electric light bulb shines 31 May 2007 in Paris. Niger, especially Niamey, its capital, is suffering from power outages.

NIAMEY — Niger's capital, Niamey, is suffering major power cuts linked to disruptions in the supply of electricity from neighboring Nigeria, according to Nigelec, the country's sole supplier.

Since June 10, repeated blackouts lasting several hours have hit Niger's capital and its two million residents - day and night.

On that day, one of the longest "load shedding" outages lasted nearly ten hours, paralyzing health centers and businesses alike, according to officials.

State power utility "Nigelec" Secretary General Arzika Mahamadou explained Wednesday on national television that the cuts were in part caused by supply difficulties from Nigeria, which provides at least a third of the electricity in Niger.

Maintenance work at a power station near Niamey has also contributed to the electricity shortages, he added.

A knock-on effect of the blackouts has been drinking water supply shortages.

Dosso and Tillaberi in western Niger, along with other main towns, have also been hit by electricity cuts, said Mahamadou, offering his "apologies" to all those affected.

The electricity chief assured that the company has requested technicians to help their Nigerian colleagues restore the high voltage line linking the two countries to full capacity.

In order to free itself from its heavy dependence on Nigeria for its energy needs, Niger is working to complete its first hydroelectric dam by 2025, on the Niger River some 180 kilometers upstream from Niamey.