Power epilepsy vs com­plete power paral­y­sis

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Sun­day Onye­maechi Eze

Af­ter the razzmatazz that ac­com­pa­nied the pri­vati­sa­tion of the power sec­tor in 2013, we have awaken to the ob­vi­ous fact that the na­tion was ma­nip­u­lated and mis­led by a few to be­lieve that the best that could have hap­pened to the sec­tor was to auc­tion it. The bo­gus claim by these then power bro­kers that pri­vati­sa­tion pro­vides ev­ery an­swer to the abysmal power sup­ply sit­u­a­tion in the na­tion has also aw­fully failed to pro­vide the de­sired re­sults. The wool placed over the eyes of Nige­ri­ans is grad­u­ally fallen off as many prom­i­nent Nige­ri­ans have once again found their lost voices and picked up the guts to con­struc­tively crit­i­cise the pri­vati­sa­tion of the power sec­tor.

A fiery so­cial critic, hu­man right ac­tivist and Chair­man of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on For­eign and Do­mes­tic Debts, Sen­a­tor Shehu Sani has de­spite the seem­ing con­spir­acy of si­lence amongst the elites lent his voice to this hor­ri­ble per­for­mance and fail­ure of the post pri­vati­sa­tion of the power sec­tor. In his words which summed up the gen­eral feelings of Nige­rian he said, Power sup­ply has dropped to an un­prece­dented and em­bar­rass­ing low level. We are in a state of power paral­y­sis. It’s ironic that high elec­tric­ity tar­iff has only led to low elec­tric­ity sup­ply. Our DIS­COs are now distribut­ing dark­ness. Af­ter the pri­vati­sa­tion of PHCN, we thought there will be light at the end of the tun­nel, but we only tran­sited from the dark­ness of the tun­nel to that of a cave. Pri­vate power in­vestors moved Nige­ria from man­age­able power epilepsy to a com­plete power paral­y­sis. We used to be of­ten in the dark, now we per­pet­u­ate in it. Light is now lux­ury and lux­ury is now light. We now live “a gen­er­a­tor life.” No na­tion can de­velop be­ing pow­ered by gen­er­a­tors.”

Also in line with the mood of the na­tion, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has man­dated its Com­mit­tee on Pri­vati­sa­tion and Com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion to in­ves­ti­gate the in­vest­ments and pledges made by power Dis­tri­bu­tion Com­pa­nies (DIS­COs) and Gen­er­a­tion Com­pa­nies (GEN­COs). The House also di­rected the Com­mit­tee to as­cer­tain the rev­enue ac­crued to the com­pa­nies and their level of com­pli­ance with the pri­vati­sa­tion agree­ments. This fol­lowed a mo­tion by Rep. Muk­tar Dan­dutse which was unan­i­mously adopted by mem­bers through a voice vote. Dan­dutse ex­pressed con­cern over the pre­vail­ing sit­u­a­tion af­ter the takeover of pri­va­tised Power Hold­ing Com­pany of Nige­ria (PHCN) by the suc­ces­sor com­pa­nies.

He lamented among oth­ers that DIS­COs “par­tic­u­larly charged ar­bi­trary bills, not mind­ing whether there was out­age or not. The law­maker said there had not been new in­vest­ments by DIS­COs and GEN­COs. He added that “trans­form­ers, fallen elec­tric­ity poles, pre­paid me­tres and other ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture are still be­ing re­placed or pro­vided by states, lo­cal gov­ern­ments, com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als. Cus­tomers are be­ing charged flat rates, which is un­jus­ti­fi­able in this aus­tere pe­riod, a sit­u­a­tion that is caus­ing un­told hard­ships to the peo­ple. He said that the money spent on such in­fra­struc­ture by com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als could have been used to ser­vice other needs.” The House also urged Mr. Ba­batunde Fashola, the Min­is­ter of Power, Works and Hous­ing to col­lab­o­rate with rel­e­vant agen­cies to en­sure im­me­di­ate ame­lio­ra­tion of the hard­ships be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by the peo­ple.

To this end, no mat­ter how long the grains of truth are hid­den from man­i­fes­ta­tion, it must one day ger­mi­nate and pre­vail. And when it does, san­ity and hope are re­stored but the dam­age done by de­ceit takes enor­mous time and re­sources to knock things in good shape. It is ev­i­dent that the sec­tor is worse off now than when it was not pri­va­tised. That the new own­ers have failed to im­prove on the al­ready ex­ist­ing bad sit­u­a­tion which led to tin­ker­ing of pri­vati­sa­tion of the sec­tor in the first place is ab­so­lutely clear. Look around you and point at one value that has been added to the elec­tric­ity sup­ply chain or the land­mark achieve­ment of the new own­ers. The vul­ture is feast­ing on the al­ready de­cayed car­cass. There is lit­tle or no re­mark­able in­vest­ment in terms of en­gage­ment of com­pe­tent man­power, up­grad­ing the di­lap­i­dated in­fra­struc­ture. This has re­sulted to re­peated out­ages, load shed­ding, fre­quent trip­ping and col­lapse of the sys­tem which has be­come the lot of the power sec­tor in re­cent times.

Those who at­tempted to cover the sun with their mere five fin­gers have seen the fu­til­ity in their des­per­ate bids to sat­isfy their masters to the detri­ment of na­tional in­ter­est. The chicken has fi­nally come home to roost and the lies could no longer with­stand the po­tency of truth. From Maiduguri to Port Har­court and Enugu to Sokoto, the con­spic­u­ous ev­i­dences of lack of power sup­ply to our homes, of­fices and com­pa­nies are the same. It has in­deed be­come a hope­less sit­u­a­tion. The seem­ing lack of wis­dom or re­fusal to make hay while the sun shines by the once cel­e­brated-tech­ni­cal­ly­compe­tent new own­ers has left the na­tion in a ter­ri­ble dilemma of all time.

As the rain comes in tor­rents and storms threat­en­ing weak net­works, this same com­pany which failed to stock enough poles has in­stead re­sorted to scav­eng­ing for any non utilised ones either planted or not within its fran­chise area as a pos­si­ble way out of the dire sit­u­a­tion.

The nec­es­sary fund­ing the new own­ers’ claimed will be in­jected into the sec­tor has turned out to be one prom­ise not kept and may not be kept. More­over, the In­dian and Le­banese prox­ies the new own­ers paid to stand as in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed tech­ni­cal part­ners at the in­cep­tion of the bid­ding pro­cesses van­ished im­me­di­ately hav­ing done their beats leav­ing the na­tion to con­tinue to grap­ple with the same prob­lem and some in­flicted upon it by in­sti­tu­tions charged with the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of pri­vati­sa­tion. The new com­pany’s ap­par­ently lack the req­ui­site tech­ni­cal abil­i­ties and it was not a hid­den fact. The reg­u­la­tors were very much aware but de­clined to do the need­ful in the in­ter­est of Nige­ria. It was all a ruse from the be­gin­ning.

Nige­ria is today pop­u­larly known as a na­tion suf­fer­ing from power epilepsy to a com­plete power paral­y­sis. This is a coun­try where elec­tric­ity dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies proudly sell dark­ness in ex­change for pay­ment of bills. In fact, this is not ac­cept­able to Nige­ri­ans who are no longer ready to bear the brunt of in­ef­fi­cient ser­vice de­liv­ery from DISCO’s. The power sec­tor places the na­tion on the pedes­trian of in­dus­trial growth and eco­nomic devel­op­ment thus, should not be a sub­ject of pol­i­tics or treated with lev­ity. The con­sen­sus of ma­jor­ity of Nige­ri­ans tilts towards im­me­di­ate re­view or out­right re­ver­sal of the pri­vati­sa­tion ex­er­cise. That cha­rade has failed the test of time and the best op­tion is to re­turn to sta­tusquo ante. Re­verse the pri­vati­sa­tion now!

Sun­day Onye­maechi Eze, a Me­dia and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Spe­cial­ist wrote via sun­nyeze02@ya­hoo.com 08060901201

To this end, no mat­ter how long the grains of truth are hid­den from man­i­fes­ta­tion, it must one day ger­mi­nate and pre­vail

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