Editor's note: Bola Bolawole (firstname.lastname@example.org), a social analyst, takes a look at the issue of power supply plaguing Nigeria, especially as many still live in darkness in spite of complaints. The federal government has also said it has made many efforts to make power available to the people.
Bola dissects the issues in the power sector in this opinion piece.
For one week plus, the bulb did not blink in my apartment in the Agege area of Lagos. At first, I took it in my strides, believing it to be one of those countless times the national grid is said to suffer total collapse. Power supply does not get better here; rather, it gets worse. The more money they purport to have spent, the worse the situation becomes. The more they tinker with the organization, the less efficient it becomes. When Abram's name was changed to Abraham and Sarai's to Sarah, they got better and fulfilled destiny; same when Saul became Paul. But not so PHCN or NEPA! Name-change seems to take it deeper still into the miry clay.
No one can say for sure how much the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration spent on power supply. As things fell apart between Obasanjo and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the latter threatened a probe of the power sector under the former president. Here, probes are just a threat to silence opponents. Their findings never see the light of day. They are dusted up only when the need arises to whip some irritants into line.
Any committee set up to probe malfeasance in Nigeria itself ends up being entangled in worse corruption. Such was the destiny of the Ndidi Elumelu committee set up to probe the power sector. Nothing bears testimony to the depth that the country has sunk than that the same Elumelu is, today, the Minority Leader of the opposition PDP in the House of Representatives. Birds of a feather; they are all same-same!
Each new government surpasses its predecessor in the quantum of wastage of public funds expended on the power sector; in the idiotic “reforms” enunciated, and in the monstrosity of the catastrophe it therefrom and thereby unleashes on the people. From Obasanjo through Yar'Adua and Jonathan to Buhari, the power sector has become a bottomless pit, like Hell, whose output fittingly resembles Satan's final abode.
One week into the power outage, I was rudely woken up to the realization that there was the usual epileptic power supply around me and that only our Close of about seven properties had been plunged into pitch darkness by the PHCN for reasons that defy reason and understanding by otherwise reasonable and conscionable people. One or two residents out of about 18 reportedly had issues with PHCN. About half of the 18 residents operate pre-paid meter – and the PHCN officials knew this. Notwithstanding, they severed all the lines, punishing the innocent with the supposed guilty!
Even the so-called “guilty” had their own excuses: They had filed written protests against crazy bills that NEPA/PHCN has become notorious for. In respect of crazy bills, PHCN is said to be worse than NEPA. Recently, I read the anguish expressed by a former Communication minister as she lamented the crazy bill sent to her office by PHCN. An office under lockdown, in the warped thinking and unreasonable calculation of PHCN, consumed more power than when it operated on full throttle!
This is the same PHCN that wanted to implement a tariff hike right in the middle of coronavirus pandemic! Whereas other countries reportedly gave their citizens free power supply to lessen the crushing burden imposed by the pandemic, PHCN chose to behave like the pompous but imbecilic biblical Rehoboam, son of Solomon, who boasted he would rather increase than lessen the burden of his people!
But Rehoboam came to grief! As PHCN's services worsen, so its tariff balloons; its audacity skyrockets, hitting the roof! Some logic! PHCN's insensitivity rankles! Its impunity is legendary. Such mentality! We thank God for little mercies, though, that Government called them to order. It must be in that bitterness of heart that PHCN descended on hapless Nigerians, disconnecting, dehumanising and brutalising, biting everyone, like a mad dog, with reckless abandon.
Having got it full and unable to take more, especially when efforts to amicably resolve the issue by members of our Close had been arrogantly rebuffed by the power-drunk PHCN, I wrote and took to them the letter below; titled “Complaint against illegal disconnection of my line by PHCN officials”:
“My name is Mr. Bola Bolawole. I am an Area Pastor with The Redeemed Christian Church of God. By profession, I am a journalist and online publisher. I was editor; chairman, editorial board; and deputy editor-in-c0hief of PUNCH newspapers. I was also managing director/editor-in-chief of The Westerner newsmagazine. Presently I write two weekly columns - in the Sunday Tribune and New Telegraph newspapers - as well as contribute to over 500 publications and platforms online on a daily basis.
“I have gone to great lengths to explain the above for you to know how dependent my work is on regular power supply. As a result, I went to great pains to get pre-paid meter many years back. This is known to your staff who have visited my premises and have seen that I am on pre-paid meter, which is funded year-round by me.
“Unfortunately, the reason why I acquired pre-paid meter has habitually been violated by PHCN and its staff, in that you have disconnected my line with impunity each time you claimed other customers on estimated meter on the Dayo Ajisafe Close, Agege where I live had issues with PHCN.
“Whereas I have no such issues, I have been made to suffer needlessly with the others. This impunity by PHCN has got to stop! Enough is now enough!! More so when all the efforts I have made to make PHCN and their staff see reason have proved abortive.
“While this reckless and irresponsible action of PHCN was tolerable, though not excusable, in the past, the period of Covid-19 lockdown when everyone was compelled to stay at home has brought its destructive viciousness and callousness to the fore.
“The exposure to heat day and night has been intolerable.
“The loss suffered as a result of the perishable items we stocked at home to enable my family comply with the stay-at-home order of the Federal and State Governments has been stupendous.
“My generator overworked itself and packed up.
“My professional work has been seriously impaired and in a sector that operates 24/7, I have suffered and continued to suffer monumental losses financially as well as in professional standing and reputation.
“I have therefore decided to write you this letter because the chairman of the residents' association of the Close where I live reported that you have been punitive, lackadaisical, and audacious in the way you have handled his many frantic efforts to get this issue resolved and for you and your staff to see reason and behave responsibly.
“You and you staff, by being adamant and audacious, whereby you are not willing to retrace your foolhardy steps and rectify your many pitiful wrongs, have narrowed the options available to that of whipping you to your senses.
“In addition, I am writing to you because I have also decided to engage my lawyers. I will, therefore, be sending a copy of this letter to my Comrade-friend, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), for necessary and appropriate action(s).
“Furthermore, I intend to begin a sensitization and aggregation of public opinion against the arbitrariness of your organization, starting this Wednesday, May 27th.
“I will be demanding monetary compensations from the PHCN for losses suffered by me and my family and also demand that exemplary punishment be meted out to PHCN for its gross misconduct, mindless cruelty and unprofessionalism that allows it to break into own rules without batting an eyelid.
“Finally, I demand that PHCN and its wobbling and fumbling staff reconnect my line immediately if they still have any iota of humanity left in them”.
I took this letter to PHCN's Dorcas Morolahan Street, Oko-Oba, Agege office in the afternoon of Monday, 25th day of May, 2020. The security man at the gate refused to let me in, giving one excuse after another. Eventually, he took the letter from me but refused to sign the duplicate copy. He went in with the letter and came back with it saying he was directed to tell me to take it to Ponle.
Immediately, I recognised this as the usual ploy by supposedly public servants to frustrate the same public they were hired to serve. Determined to frustrate PHCN's ingenious but satanic plot to frustrate me, I drove to their Ponle office at Egbeda as directed. There, I was told all the Ogas, without an exception, were on holiday! “Oro yin ye mi”! I understand! I should come back on Wednesday! On Wednesday, of course, they would hear from me!
I got back home to learn that PHCN had “flashed” our light. They brought it again hours later and kept it throughout the night. I thank them! But I will nonetheless proceed apace with my outlined course of action. Nigerians must brace up to overwhelm this inefficient and rapacious organization with positive citizen action first, to bring it on its knees, and, then, to its senses. The battle has just begun!
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Editor's note: In this piece, a Lagos-based media consultant, Jerome-Mario Utomi, writes about education and economy in post-COVID-19 Africa.
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