Opinion: PHCN – Witches, demons and crazy bills
From Surulere, Lagos where I live to Amawbia, my home town in Anambra State, the story is the same; power supply has dropped outrageously, while the bills keep rising, and rising, and rising!
Ever since Prof. Barth Nnaji was removed as Minister of Power, I kept delaying the need to write something about the power situation in the country and the scandalous entity called the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. Well, I am furiously writing this now because I just received another crazy bill from the PHCN and my patience suddenly turned into anger, shock, disappointment and anguish.
There is really no point repeating the shame, rot, scandal and gargantuan personification of corruption that is the power sector of our economy; we have been treated to gory tales of maggot-infested faeces-like scam that is replicated in the industry by past governments. Billions of dollars have been sunk into providing reliable power supply to Nigerians but the result is nothing but more darkness and dilapidated transmission and generation equipment while those entrusted with the task or funds suddenly became billionaires and recipients of national honours and chieftaincy titles!
To bring the gist closer home, my monthly PHCN bills have remained on a steady rise since Nnaji bowed out; under his reign as Minister of Power, I enjoyed a substantial amount of power supply sold at N22 per khz. Incidentally, Nnaji’s efforts at sanitising the industry ruffled some feathers, feathers that apparently benefit from the rot in the system, and he was made to resign immediately. Ever since then, power supply has nose-dived and the bills more erratic and shocking-literally and otherwise.
From Surulere, Lagos where I live to Amawbia, my home town in Anambra State, the story is the same; power supply has dropped outrageously, while the bills keep rising, and rising, and rising! Welcome to the era of “estimated billing” — a period of time where PHCN officials sit down in their ramshackle offices and concoct weird bills just to jolt hapless Nigerians to their early graves. Gone are the days when “NEPA” officials went round the entire neighbourhood reading meters and billing accordingly.
As a worried and reluctant electricity consumer that continues to weep anytime I hand over my money to the shambolic PHCN, I made out time to find out what the heck was eating up the utility company. It is shocking, pathetic, and reprehensible the extent the government of President Goodluck Jonathan through the PHCN is going to heap more pains and hardship on Nigerians. If you are still searching for reasons why our President could not look straight into CNN’s camera during his interview with Christiane Amanpour, look no further: The President knew he was being economical with the truth and his conscience couldn’t let him look into the probing cold camera.
The level of evil and wicked customer service orientation at play in the PHCN is daily peaking (especially in Masha Surulere Business Office); marketing officials do not go out to read customers’ meters anymore, why bother when you can sit in bar somewhere in Surulere, and conjure crazy bills?
That is the practice now — I was shocked last month when a Marketing Manager in Masha (Surulere) office insisted my meter was read and my bills correct! This was after I proved to him that there was no power supply to my entire neighbourhood for seven weeks as a result of a faulty transformer. The said transformer was taken away by the same PHCN officials and all the houses in that area were forced to part with N5, 000 for PHCN officials before a replacement was brought.
Have you also wondered why it is now easier to find a saint in the Peoples Democratic Party than to acquire a “pre-paid meter” from the PHCN? Well, in the beginning, it appeared to be easy getting the meter but suddenly, the PHCN officials in their bizarre way found out they were losing money rather too fast and decided to put a stop to the “pre-paid” madness. You now hear all sorts of stories if you dare ask for the meter. As a consumer, you only pay for power supplied, and because most times, the PHCN prefers holding on to power, you will not be required to pay, and there won’t be any case of “estimated-billing”! So, it now makes more business sense making pre-paid meters unavailable and charge customers wickedly, than allow them enjoy “pay-as-you-use” services.
When will Dr. Sam Amadi’s Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission convincingly explain to us the reason why distribution companies charge us for power not supplied, and disconnect us if we dare complain? I was disconnected last month because I challenged a bill during a time there was no power supply for seven weeks! The PHCN’s philosophy remains “pay now and complain later”. From my investigations, I gathered that power supplied to any distribituion companies must be paid for irrespective of the technical losses encountered in the course of transmission. Now, distribution companies charge customers for power not supplied or consumed just to meet up with their share of the already projected revenue. I challenge NERC or any PHCN official to stand up and deny this.
This is the story all over Nigeria and our government is playing the ostrich and yapping about transformation…what transformation are we talking about when the entire nation is in darkness? This is the height of wickedness. When the cost of electricity was hiked by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, he swore that there was a subsidy in place to cushion the shocking effects of the increase. What do we have today in Nigeria? A situation where the government continues to add money for fuel and generators in its budget while blowing hot air about revamping the power sector — well, the only revamping I see in the sector is a pocketful of cronies of the government smiling to the bank while we continue to thank China for the generators in our homes.
I sincerely believe that the PHCN as a company has violated every Nigerian (except those super-rich politicians and oil subsidy thieves) and we really must rise up in protest against the government that has hung this evil entity round our necks. When are we going to get tired of being treated as slaves in our dear country? When are we going to start holding people accountable for their actions in Nigeria? The PHCN as constituted remains an evil force militating against the attainment of a “darkness-free” Nigeria. The employees of the PHCN are over-paid and underutilised; most of them have become outdated — they have nothing to offer. Just like their equipment.
We are really tired of hearing how many billions were spent on one power project or the other; we need to see the results. What rational explanation will the PDP give this country for wasting more than $25bn on so-called power generation with nothing to show for it (well we have a few billionaires, government officials all)? Like Pius Adesanmi rightly said, “my mumu don do”. I will not take this nonsense anymore! Enough of this stealing and insults!
– Okafo, publisher of the blog, www.jonchikadibie.wordpress.com, wrote in via [email protected]
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.