By Vincent Igbinedion
Our fear quotient escalated after President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical trips to London during his first tenure in office. Recall that immediately he jetted back into the country, the Federal Government came up with the twin promulgations on hate speech and fake news. Ever since, it is very difficult to report or complain as reporting may be classified as fake news while complaining may be classified as hate speech that both carry consequential reprisals.
Taking a cue in the slogan of the student union bodies and the radical community in the country that every on-looker is either a traitor or a coward, it has become inevitable to put a neck on the line as talk, you will die, keep silent, you will die, someday, somehow, anyhow, anyway.
It is in the light of this that the Federal Government’s rating of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) as the best should generate some discuss at the least. And this discuss cannot be effectively tackled without a semblance of bias knowing the antecedents and modus operandi of the company.
It is instructive that the Federal Government mouthpiece in this faux pas is none other a personality than the Chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Professor James Momoh who has the privilege of carrying academic and intellectual diadems that are not only weighty, but also intimidating, to say the least.
It is difficult to appreciate the marking scheme the ebullient, robust and erudite professor adopted in coming with his scores, but wittingly or unwittingly, that score cardcan, should and must be contested as it cannot stand a comprehensive stress test.
I might be wrong, but I have the feeling that Professor James Momoh, chairman of National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Mr. Charles Momoh, managing director of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) share the same DNA. If for nothing else, it is may be the same wattage of electric current that runs through their veins. That is being rather comic but the reality is that the services of EKEDC do not in any way qualify it to be the best if morality in business has any space in the hearts of the minders of that company.
I refer Professor James Momoh of NERC to a letter in the Punch Newspaper of Friday, June 14th, 2019 on the op-ed page and discover for himself if Charles Momoh’s EKEDC operates from a better elevated moral pedestal.
The experience of Mr. Pius Osadolor with Ikeja Electric Distribution Company as narrated by Victor Anazonwu is not too different from that of Chuks Nedion (not real name) who on moving into the Badagry axis of Lagos State was told that the “forces of darkness” have been sabotaging the community’s effort at electrifying their homes. Not one to consort with those forces of darkness, Chuks went on a solo drive to electrify his home only to learn that the force was an electricity contractor that actually goes by the sobriquet Tony. When Tony was overcome with the combined effort of three residents, the community was effectively electrified before EKEDC moved in.
When Chuks Nedion wanted to pay for pre-paid meter at the Agbara Undertaking (he thought that undertakers are those who arrange funerals, or could that be a reason for their dismal service? Question for another day). The EKEDC official he met brought out a mutilated bank teller from an abandoned travelling bag that apparently no one has travelled with for a while. This made him to opt for the estimated billing option. The rules of engagement have not changed for the company since 2012 till date.
This is the rule, and try it out, Professor: first week of the month, total black out. Second week, about three ours power supply per day for two days and distribution of bills, third week, four hours power supply per day for three days and disconnection of genuine defaulters (consumers who are registered and pay their bills regularly) and fourth week – total blackout. That is the routine.
If you doubt that, let us take the most recent example: the first time he had power supply to his home in June was on June 12th, some hours after the Democracy Day parade which he watched with his generator. The power supply was cut at about midnight. Bills were distributed on Thursday. He was billed N5,700.00. On Saturday, he sent his son to pay the bill. Since the supply on June 12th, the next time there was power supply was at about 2.00 a.m on Tuesday, June 18th and it lasted for about one hour.
Sometime towards the end on May, some neighbours came to knock on his door and asked for N500.00 to fix a faulty transformer (originally bought by the community). He was blunt in his refusal as according to him, EKEDC came into the business to make money and it promised that it had all it takes to supply electricity to Nigerians. Besides, he did not build masts for Glo Mobile, Airtel or MTN, so why is it that people are cajoled into providing transformers, wires, and other accessories for EKEDC to supply electricity for which they are being undersupplied and over-billed?
Professor James Momoh, EKEDC bills Nigerians exorbitantly for electricity not supplied and the company arm-twists them to pay by restoring electricity supply only on the day the staff are coming for disconnection or a day after the dastardly act has been performed.
Professor Momoh, you spent a lot of your days in the United States of America. You studied in Howard University and acquired academic laurels that are decidedly impeccable. The trite question that must be addressed by you now or anytime in the future is: can a company deliver such abysmal services in America and still remain in business or get the highest accolade by the regulatory authorities? As the chairman of the foremost electricity regulatory agency in Nigeria, is it not yet time they undress, address and redress the question of pre-paid meters or why are the distribution companies thwarting the effort to get all consumers metered?
In their shallow wisdom, the distribution companies think that pre-paid meters will affect revenue in the long run. What a farcical thinking process? Have they learnt anything from the telecommunications companies and how prepaid platform is generating humongous resources for them? Their lazy attitude prevents them from thinking better since there is free money coming in from services not rendered. Don’t present yourself for delusion or deceit, professor. You may want to take out time from your busy schedules to do a field study and discover for yourself how the services of EKEDC is impacting on their consumers in particular and Nigerians at large
The clear summation here is that Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) as it is currently configured is the best at fraud, the best in poor services, the best at billing customers for services not rendered. You cannot sit in the comfort of an elevated office in Abuja to judge as best a company in Lagos which if the residents, nay customers have another option would not hesitate to sweep into the lagoon at the slightest opportunity.
That is the reality, Professor James Momoh, your marking scheme that seems to have been seasoned with nepotism and distorted information notwithstanding.
*Igbinedion, writes from Badagry, Lagos.