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We are all made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and as such, we all have some God-like elements in us. Thus while God is omnipresent, (present everywhere) I have taken a part of Him by being tri-present (present in three places). Check the National Bureau of Statistics residential database and you will surely see me as resident in Lagos (Okota), Ijebu-Ode (Molipa) and Igboukwu (Ezeamaluchi Avenue). And to prove this my tri-presence beyond all reasonable doubts, I start my intervention today with three stories from these three domains.
1) Ihuowele, Igboukwu bulk-metering and disconnection as an instrument of blackmail.
In January 2019, a meter serving the Ihuowele village in Igboukwu, a rural community in which 90% of the houses are owned by people in the local diaspora (absentee landlords), received a bill of N10m+! Even Dangote cement Company would be shocked by this kind of bill! The people protested and the EEDC officials, specifically the Network Manager (at Ekwulobia) and Feeder Manager for Nneni Axis (named Chukwu-Chukwu) admitted that the meter was faulty and promised to effect the necessary repairs. However, since then, they have been playing Ping-Pong with the matter. It is either the officers were busy or their car spoilt on the road or it was too late to come to the town or it rained or any other reason that suited them. Just before Easter, they presented another humongous bill (based on a faulty meter) together with a demand notice and disconnected the light to the whole community and we had no light throughout the Easter season. At the background to this was the demand for a ‘mobilization fee’ of N20,000, which the committee member could not afford, as he was a mere messenger for the community. It was pure blackmail with disconnection and threat of disconnection as the key instruments. We decided to write a protest letter and as at 10/6/19, more than two months later, we have not had light. And you can be sure that any day they reconnect the light, they will come with bills for the period they were deliberately inactive.
2) Ijebuode: Billing magic and miracle
When I moved into the quiet neighbourhood almost 10 years ago, the whole block of 4-flats received a single bill, given the level of power supply and the domestic nature of the abode, the monthly bill has been around N1500-N2500. About three months ago, the IBEDC decided to issue four bills for the four flats and based on the estimated billing model. That was despite the fact that there was (and is) an operational meter in the building. They just discountenanced the meter because it paid them to do so. The first bill under the new arrangement was 300 per cent higher because each flat received what the whole compound used to receive. The following month, it was 100 per cent higher, with each flat paying almost a double of what the whole building used to receive. The alarmed landlord protested to the IBEDC in person and with a letter. In May (and after the protest), we received a bill of N12,000 for a building that three months ago, received an average of 1500-N2000! What happened? That is magic and miracle combined!
3) Okota – Samuel Ekunola: The more you look…
At Samuel-Ekunola street, Okota, we have been having electricity related challenges (as usual with almost all parts of the country) but in April-May, it got so bad. We collected the telephone numbers of the marketing officials and started bombarding them with calls, messages and even emails. Within a week, we received the following explanations or justifications from the Okota Business office of IKEDC
Act1: ‘Dear customer, the current supply interruption is as a result of a fault on Amuwo industrial 11kv feeder supplying your vicinity. Our technicians are currently working to resolve this. Please be assured that supply will be restored as soon as the maintenance is completed. Thanks for allowing us serve you’. Good
Act 2 (a few days later)
‘Dear customer, the supply interruption in your vicinity is as a result of low power allocation from TCN. The Transmission company of Nigeria (TCN) is currently working to ensure that power supply is restored to your vicinity. Thank you for your patience’ So, what do we believe? In the first one, they accepted responsibility while in the second one they outsourced the responsibility and both statements within a week!
It is only in Nigeria and its reformed power sector that a customer would buy the wire, poles and meter, join others to buy and maintain the transformer and another person just comes to collect the money for power not supplied. And the government which has ‘privatized’ the sector keeps on pampering and making excuses for the operators who went into the business with their eyes wide open. It is only in Nigeria’s reformed power sector that an organization would freely estimate its bills, disconnect customers without the required notice and use the army and police to enforce this roguery! What model of business is this? Well, the people are angry and while people like me just write (and nobody reads) others have decided to ACT! (Next week)
Other matters: Nwagbara, justice and the common man Our people say that it is bad to call somebody a thief at the Nkwo-IgboUkwu market and then go to his house later in the day to admit it was a mistake and apologise. Our people also say that it is better to walk on your legs that have somebody ‘backing’ you while your legs are on the ground. I remembered these two sayings following the recent news report (10/6/19) that a court has freed our ex Senate President, Chief Wabara, of charges of corruption, 14 years after the charge was made. The presiding Judge, S.E Aladetoyinbo, discharged the defendants under section 355 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 because there were no witnesses to prosecute the charge. Wabara, Prof Osuji (then Minister of Education) and others were charged by ICPC over the N55m bribe for budget scandal 14 years ago (2005). The charges were front-page news then but today they have been quietly discharged. And then, what is the value of justice as the hope of the common man and even uncommon ones when it took 14 years to discharge the accused? What kind of compensation can the state pay for the material, social and psychological costs? Should we not tidy up our acts before celebrating anti-corruption cases in the media. Questions, questions and more questions!