• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Electricity conundrum: An unusual feedback from President Buhari


As I write this, I am in a celebratory mood! Writers are usually happy to receive feedbacks on their interventions and when such feedback comes from an ordinarily taciturn person like PMB, it is something to really celebrate. My last piece( Electricity paralysis: from whence comet our help, BusinesDay 4/7/19) received a feedback from our president and it was through  a public declaration, not through his customary body language. Before  releasing the feedback, I need to, as in our character, give some ‘background to the study

In its manifesto, which is ‘opendential’( and thus cannot be denied), the APC  rightly noted that ‘The crisis in the power sector is one of the major causes of the present collapse of the industrial sector and the inability of small-scale industries to thrive and pledged to vigorously pursue the expansion of electricity generation and distribution of up to 40,000 megawatts in four to eight years…’ In 2016, the APC-FGN initiated the Power Sector Reform Programme to among other things, ‘enhance service delivery, resolve customer complaints and RESET Nigerian electricity industry for future growth’. In the last four years, PMB and his officials had insisted that we have had a wonderful electricity experience, with BRF, on one occasion claiming that power generation had doubled in the past 3 years, a claim debunked openly by TCN. He then went ahead to make the sacrilegious and escapist statement that the Federal Government is not responsible for your electricity woes’! The last, most notable public intervention on the matter by our president was when he asked his  ‘frenemy’ the Ota farmer, and who allegedly spent $16bn on electricity: ‘where is the power’?  By the way, it was during the same occasion that he reaffirmed Abacha as the first Saint from Nigeria

Then, as led by the spirit, I started my random musings on electricity, and by the influence of the same spirit, PMB read it  ( I am SURE!) and rather than send me private feedback, he decided to give the feedback to the whole world. He might also have been influenced by the royal aura of the Oba of Benin, who had visited him with his council of traditional rulers and chiefs to lament about the pathetic electricity situation in his domain. It is a record-breaking confession because it is not in the character of PMB-APC to admit failure; everything has always been ‘double-double’. You now see why I am ecstatic: That President Buhari responded directly to my interventions on the electricity sector by admitting in the market square that our best is not good enough!

I have been carried away by the response from PMB that I nearly forgot the feedback from other weighty sources. Sir Chudi Illoh, a Lagos based oil and gas expert said that ‘The fundamental problem with our electricity is regulatory.  The Gencos, TCNm DisCos and the Bulk Buying unit are all operating as disparate units. No single articulate objective with milestones that the regulator ERC will channel the different units to key into. No penalty for their collective failures to invest to improve what they met on ground…those that had access to bank facilities drew on same to acquire the assets without any proper feasibility studies. Almost all the banks with these exposures are presently  in serious troubles. All the organizations involved in generating, bulk buying, transmission and distribution are all owing one another and waiting for government bailouts. The solution is not in sight; Pitiable! Another salvo: ‘there was a time when 1990 was the projected year for for stable electricity. Fela even referred to it in one of his songs. Then it turned to the magical year 2000 and almost 20 years later, the situation is worse’. This is from Barrister Osinibi of faculty of Law, OOU, who challenged the various universities of technology and professors of engineering to generate non-DisCo related electricity, ‘even if for the exclusive use of the universities’ Bode, my unusual auto-consultant chipped in that ‘Electricity, after oil, is the tool for syphoning the national treasury and as long as the consumers of electric facilities are not ready to negotiate( I dare say, fight!) for fairness, the taskmasters will continue to modernize their whipping strategies’. The quality of the grammar is not the reason I called him unusual. In the past 37 years I have been owning and driving cars, Bode is the only mechanic I have seen who would give you a detailed written account of how your money was spent and return the balance! Rotimi, one of my former MBA students blamed the government for privatizing such a strategic sector of the economy, arguing  that the situation was better when government was in charge and recommended that the government should take back the sector. Well the government’s hands and legs are still in it electricity-pot. and that may well be part of the problems. Emeka Onwujiobi was pessimistic, arguing that to answer my question will take more than 10 years especially given the blame-trading tendencies of the present government.  For those who think 10 years is an eternity, I will share my views about the grandfather of the DisCos, NEPA, in 2004. That was 15 years ago!( next week)

Other Matters: Certificatemania, economic empowerment and other forms of madness

In the ‘good old days’ education  was the surest rout to economic empowerment, via public service employment. People with First School Leaving Certificate( completed or attempted) were COTMA’s( Court Messengers), primary school teachers, clerks and all that. As the number of that class of graduates got saturated, the  WASC or its equivalent became the surest route to employment in both private and public sectors. Teacher Training Colleges and Colleges of Education also boomed, producing qualified teachers for the bourgeoning educational sector. By the time people of my generation came on board, degrees and their equivalents had taken over. Then, there were jobs to be picked and by the time I finished ‘corpering’ in 1980, our usual comment was ’I don’t have a job; I am teaching’, indicating that teaching was not a job! Then suddenly, just suddenly, everything scattered. The economy started dancing awilo, SAP came calling and the private sector started shrinking while the public sector became the exclusive reserve of the PEPs( politically exposed persons) and their people. Incidentally, people moved from acquiring education, to acquiring certificates, which in some instances do not certify knowledge. Certificates thus lost their values as the surest route to employment but many people did not understand the fundamental shift. They left education, which enables us to appreciate our environmental realities, create our own networks  and make informed decisions, and continued pursuing certificates. Mr Akorede, a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University had the certificate-meal ticket mentality; he sought for job for 5 years, got frustrated and set his certificates ( B.Sc / NYSC)on fire! This is another type a madness, a temporary one though because I know that by now, he would be wandering what happened.

There is also a case of John Onerede, who repeatedly breaks into schools in Delta State to set students’ books on fire and also destroy other items! At his recent attempt at Rhema International School, he was  nabbed by residents of Iweta Lane in Sapele, Delta State.  I know that by now, he will be blaming the devil, who was undertaking siesta at the material time he was committing this strange crime.

And then, like-joke, like-jokeNura Dahiru, an assistant superintendent of customs, on Monday(8/7/19) promoted himself to the rank of Deputy Comptroller-general of Customs (DCG),  dressed himself appropriately, went into the office of the  incumbent CG and asked him to hand over, claiming he was directed by President Muhammadu Buhari to assume the office of comptroller-general (CG). Of course, everything is possible in this body-language, RUGAed environment. As you can see, it is different types of madness for different classes of people!

Ik Muo

Ik Muo, PhD. Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye.                                08033026625, [email protected][email protected]