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NEPA: The revolution has started

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When was the last time you really felt like beating up a NEPA staff? Or when was the last time you swore under your breath for these people in charge of our public power supply?

Now, don’t tell me they’re no longer called NEPA o! We’ll change their name whenever they change their ways.

Yes, for a moment, let us forget that President Muhammadu Buhari left us ‘Speech-less’ on the day of his inauguration. Let us forget that he did not deem it proper to thank those who voted for him (I did not) for their support. I’m sure he will make up for it on June 12. He is still cocking his gun. Moreover, I think the Presidency has since realised the grave error – and that explains why VP Yemi Osinbajo had to make that great speech at the inauguration dinner. But, come to think of it, what were we really expecting PMB to say again? Hasn’t he already told us to expect harder times in his second term? Hasn’t the CBN governor assured us that we’ll slip back into recession? What more do we expect to hear from a president, who is still seething with anger that Saraki and his gang at the National Assembly had the effrontery to tamper with a budget the Presidency had already cast in stone? How can two bloody civilians, who were barely out of high school when PMB was Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, have the audacity to alter a General’s order? Just because they are lawmakers? Who is the law? Who is the state? I perfectly understand the president’s ire. Luckily, the anger would have calmed down by the time he returns from OIC and Ramadan is over. Then, he would give us his second term speech.

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But today’s piece is not about Buhari. Rather it is about us. The rest of us hapless masses, and our lords and masters in the power sector. Yes, those tin gods, who are direct descendants of Sango, the god of thunder and lightning. Yes, those relations of Fashola, who have sworn that until they retire from service, the power cables that traverse our skyline would remain what they have now become: Clothes lines.

For several years now, Nigerians have been complaining about crazy bills from the electricity company – either as NEPA, PHCN or the now rechristened DISCOs, but it would seen both the government and the electricity companies have been waving the complaints away and continuing with their wicked bills. And worse still, they have been getting away with it. But that was until recently.

POWER

 Now, since the authorities don’t seem to want to do anything about the situation, everyday Nigerians are now taking the laws into their hands. Now, the social media and the entire cybersphere is bursting at its seams with videos of residents attacking workers of electricity distribution companies, who go to disconnect their power supply for not paying their electricity bills.

Of course, I’m very reluctant to blame the masses, who are the clear assailants in this show of popular uprising. For one, you have refused to give them pre-paid meters to enable them pay for just what they consume. You are insisting on manually reading their analogue meters monthly. However, month after month, year after year, nobody turns up to read the meters. You just sit in your cosy offices and allocate them outrageous amounts, in a fraudulent estimated-bill regime. This is clearly because you are determined to exploit consumers, knowing that there is no way they could possibly consume what you charge them.  Your profiteering self is too impatient to recoup and investment (which you never really made, to be honest) and, therefore, fail to understand that investment in power has a long term maturity period and cannot be run like your everyday trading/merchandising concern.

So, several consumers, who go for several weeks (sometimes, months) without power supply, are still given the same outrageous bills for the periods they were in total darkness. And then there is the unmatched arrogance that confronts any consumer, who drags himself to the office of any DISCO to lodge a complaint. Such a customer would be left in no doubt that the little electricity that he or she gets from time to time is actually a huge privilege. Meanwhile, whatever bill you slam on him, no matter how unjustifiable, must be paid. No negotiation.

And then, as a carry-over from their NEPA days, your technicians, whenever they are broke (or looking for weekend money) would mount their ladder to begin ‘mass disconnection’. They forget that the people have already been pushed to the wall (pushed to tipping point of anger) by a combination of economic hardship and other frustrations. But the technicians, blinded by greed and desire to extort, forget that the laws of the land actually stipulate the conditions that must be met before a consumer’s power supply can be disconnected. They forget that the frustration and poverty in the land has turned everybody into a militant and pocket lawyer. That we have moved from being the world’s happiest people to 190 million angry people.

The result is what we are seeing in many parts of the country now, especially in the suburbs.

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In one instance, a resident attempts to push the ladder off the feet of a technician high up a NEPA pole, while others mob his colleague. In one instance, an irate resident knocked a DISCO technician’s helmet, picked it up and smashed his head with it. In another video, it was a middle-aged woman getting into fisticuffs with another technician. She even smashed a ceramic tile on his head, and could have slit his throat with the sharp edge. Another resident was locked in a rofo-rofo fight with yet another technician. And, not satisfied with the several blows he had pumped into the hapless technician, the man ran into his house to get a machete, with which he then began to strike the DISCO worker.

Now, I’m not in any way endorsing the actions of these angry residents, but it would seem that every effort by consumers to resolve this matter of crazy bills, power outages and forcing consumers to pay for darkness has been met with inhuman arrogance on the part of the electricity companies, leaving Nigerians with no other alternative than to take the laws into their hands.

First, our national patrimony was handed to them at little or no charges. As if that was not enough, government dipped its hand into our national till to give them taxpayers’ money to fund their operations. In a sane clime, therefore, Nigerians should ordinarily have no reason paying for power supply again. However, we still agreed to pay. Now, they are making us pay exorbitantly for services not rendered. Haba!

Well, if the videos are anything to go by, the revolution may well have started, beginning with NEPA. It might get to the turn of the police, council chairmen, governors and National Assembly members, etc., if we don’t begin to take the interests of the masses more seriously.

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