It gets to the point when issues are discussed in scope and dimension that truly make it public, for the importance and concern attached. Such concerns and importance, at most times, tend to be at the point of certain degree of danger and magnitude where everyone-stakeholder has to have a say (and a showing).
It is such involvement that underlines Community discussion.
Community means all-inclusiveness. Community speaks to commonality of interest, purpose, concern and contribution towards improving on existing situation. When an issue of public interests gets to the point of Community concern, it changes everything about how it is talked about.
It is with that sense of Community we once expressed our concern with the NEXIM Bank (the nature and import of its contribution to national economic growth actualisation, especially through economic diversification, via the route of (non-oil) Export Promotion – as a Development Finance Institution).
We also wrote on this page, questioning the contribution of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (where does the mandatory percentage of total earnings on national lottery dedicated for development go?), for effective and efficient regulation and control of operators’ activities/operations, in line with established industry standards, rules and regulations. When we got to the point of seeking answers to the contribution of the mandatory percentage of total industry earning statutorily marked for Economic Development, we stopped asking.
What about the development institutions such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)? The SON is particularly of interest for its expanse of influence and implications of our living standards and safety, generally. The adulterated and substandard tyres are still everywhere, substandard building/construction rods are in the markets, expired tyres, especially passenger vehicle motor tyres, are still present in such a huge volume, dealers/importers of new and standard quality tyres are reeling in hard-sell and relative financial loses at the market place(s).
The issues demanding of Community concern are legion, and perhaps growing in number, but that of electricity supply and distribution has got to come to the public space for Community Conversation.
The issue of electricity supply in its entirety has gotten to that point where it is Community concern. It’s possible I may have angered a large population of people in Nigeria by this categorisation because, to them this is belated, but please permit me; if nothing else, Nigerians are tired of all the hyperboles and superlatives engaged in the talks about electricity supply (consumption), will like to change the scope and form of the conversation or forget about it as I hear the people of Okitipupa and its immediate Odeirele, Igbobini, Igbotako and environs in Ondo State have decided to do. In a theatrical move, according to my source, residents of Okitipupa collectively, and in unison, invited the DISCO serving them to peacefully come and remove the entire electricity transmission/distribution infrastructure in the community, to avoid trouble. And, as I gather, also, that is after a period of no-payment for the little they consumed before the decision was taken.
Nigerians are tired of plenty talks concerning electricity – they do not want to listen to anything anymore. It does not matter whether it is about privatisation, investment, metering, dilapidated infrastructure, depleted water level, unanticipated system decay by the new investors…Nigerians are tired of listening to any more excuses.
It is time to take the issue of electricity to the Community Centre for Community (involvement) discussion. We are tired.
To start, it is huge wonder how we got this deep in decline from the days of Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN). I grew up in Warri to meet constant supply of electricity, at better quality. It is lost in some of us that apart from the volume of supply, there have also been a huge decline in the quality of electricity we consume these days. Time there was, bulbs were brighter, rays were firmer, fluctuations never happened. When the lights are put on, the ray of brightness come with that level of assurance to strengthen dependence on its source. That does not happen in today’s ‘world’. Far from it that you do not prepare for that surge; we now have to protect appliances/equipment from the ‘dirty’ quality of electricity we have today.
Then it was time for the ‘transmission’ from ECN to National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).
I worked with the NEPA as a Metre Reader many years ago, so I can tell the difference between the pre-1982 years and what happens now. Population has increased astronomically, infrastructure is depleted, zeal is low, apathy has taken over from commitment and, as some would say, the entire system is ‘collapsed’.
I once suggested to the director general, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr Babatunde Irukera (I greatly appreciate this hard-working man for his media engagement policy) the need for a ‘paradigm shift’ in the method of conversation around those issues of direct implication on the population (in this case, Consumers), if we are to achieve Attitutde-Change for compliance with operative standard from among commercial institutions/organisations. Beyond my expectation, the DG has driven the conversation for improvement in relationship between the supply & consumption sides in the electricity market. His introduction of Town Hall Meeting model to the mix did so much to give expression to what I now call Community engagement.
With his THM model of collective engagement, more and more people at the grass-root level have found their voices, and the opportunity to Talk in ways that (a) reveal, to me, some level of inefficiency on the part of industry operators, and the deep-rooted pain consumers suffer in the hands of so-called investors in the privatisation of our collective investment hitherto known as NEPA.
A-many of those who invested in the privatisation of NEPA, leave most Nigerians with no choice but to ask that they return our NEPA to us. I may be wrong, but if you ask me, I prefer NEPA to the uncoordinated DISCOs. Their drive for profit has grossly exposed the ordinary consumers to immeasurable havoc. The display of nonchalance, pseudo-professionalism, lack of commitment to service delivery and irresponsibility to the plight of consumers leaves so much to be desired. I am sure I am speaking for majority consumers; if I say I would rather we reconsider the privatisation of NEPA.
I had the opportunity of a media chat with the then acting director, General Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Dr Vincent Taire (another gentleman), when I asked a question in-passing, concerning the privatisation of NEPA. The major take-away for me, is that those who decided to invest in the exercise, knew very clearly, the state of infrastructure as was operative, before they decided to invest in it. What I see now, is an attitude of I Cannot Come And Kill Myself’ among the investors. They are so much in a hurry to recoup their investment that pricing of electricity and the aggressive zeal with which they execute collection of fund throws them up to the public as Aggressors. They (and their Agents) are not interested in the quality of service and frequency of service; all they need is pay-up at the stipulated time.
National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), needs to be more engaging to compliment the good work of the CPC, to help protect electricity consumers from what I see as abuse of ‘power’ as displayed by the so-called investors. The public cannot keep with the bureaucratic challenges that could complicate matters for the ordinary consumer. The NERC must come up with a more penetrative way of protecting us from the onslaught of those who invested in the privatisation of NEPA. They do not show evidence of improving on the infrastructure they inherited, they continually deplete the efficiency of the same old infrastructure inherited from NEPA, load cost of purchase on the already impoverished Nigerian and yet pride about as private investors.
NERC, please make the DISCOS dance to fairness, commitment to service and responsible corporate behaviour; electricity consumers in Nigeria are tired of suffering the consequences of privatisation of NEPA.