Since Wednesday, March 11, when the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria deliberated on a bill to ban the importation, sale, purchase or use of generators in the country, Nigerians have been reacting.
When the news broke on the fateful day that the Senate had begun moves to jail anyone importing, selling or buying generators for a period of 10 years, many dismissed it as a joke and the handiwork of idle minds.
The Generating Set Prohibition/Ban Bill, 2020, sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator representing Niger South and Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammed Enagi Bima, seeks to ban the importation and use of generating sets in the country, as well as curb the menace of environmental pollution.
The bill states that any person who imports generating sets; or knowingly sells generating sets shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a 10-year-jail term.
However, Senator Bima went ahead to suggest that the ban shall not include generating sets used for essential services such as hospitals, airports, railway stations, elevators, research institutions and facilities that require 24 hours of electric power supply.
The Senator, who defined a generator in the bill as a machine used to produce electricity, further stated that approval for such exclusion shall come from the Minister of Power. “Approval for exclusion shall be obtained from the Minister in charge of Power who shall brief the Federal Executive Council quarterly on approvals granted,” he said.
But, many Nigerians are not on the same page with the Senators. While some have described their action as irresponsible, others said it was a joke taken too far. Yet, others are of the opinion that the originator of the bill must have developed the idea from a dreamland, even as others expressed disappointment that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should engage in such frivolities.
A section of Nigerians is of the view that such step could only be taken if the country has stable electricity supply. They argue that since Nigerians still contend with epileptic electricity supply, banning generators would be counter-productive as most small and medium scale companies survive mainly on generators. This group of Nigerians also fear that such a ban would throw more Nigerians into the already saturated unemployment market; a situation that will spell doom for the country.
All in all, many Nigerians do not believe that the lawmakers would allow the bill to pass the second reading, even as some people were beginning to question the integrity of the three senators from Niger State. People raising this integrity question are quick to remind whoever cares to know that in November 2019, Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger East Senatorial District, introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, also known as the Social Media Bill to the Senate. Musa believes the bill will regulate the use of social media in Nigeria and curb fake news. Also, another Niger Senator representing Niger North Senatorial District, Abdullahi Sabi, introduced a bill to prohibit hate speech in the same month of November last year, where he wanted offenders to go in for life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the culprits shall be punished with death by hanging.
Four months down the line, Senator Bima, now representing Niger South in the Senate, has again introduced this controversial bill to ban generator importation into the country, even as he wants offenders to go in for 10 years imprisonment. The development raises questions on the type of lawmakers that Niger State is feeding the National Assembly with.
Reacting to the development, the Spokesman of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Dr. Yinka Odumakin, said it was a big joke, which doesn’t make any sense.
He stated that what Nigeria needs now is how to generate sufficient power in the country. “When generators are banned, what alternative is available? When you say you are banning generators and there is no electricity, does that not amount to a joke?” he wondered.
He argued that even in America where efficient power system exists, there are generators. “They have generators as backup. So, there is no sense in saying you are banning generators when there is no electricity or any alternative. It is just a huge joke,” he submitted.
However, the National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, described as unfair the plan by the Senate to ban generators when government has not put anything on ground as an alternative. “Are we truly getting 100 percent power supply? We are not even getting up to 10 percent. If we are going to go that way, they should also ban anybody from using generators and that includes those in power. Let everybody be on total blackout so that we know they are determined and willing,” he protested.
He condemned a situation where importers are prevented from bringing in generators or manufacturing it, when the lawmakers are the direct beneficiaries of the same generators they are banning. “I am sure by the time they were deliberating on this matter; they were busy running on generator because there was no light. So, they cannot play the ostrich and pretend that all is well. If they want to do it, it must be seen to be holistic. If they want to ban importation of generators, then they should also ban anybody from using generators and that also includes them using it in their homes, so that we will all feel the impact and address the issue of electricity once and for all. But, not to ban the importation when some of them have extra five generators in their houses and at the end of the day, the collective masses will suffer for a policy that is so unpopular. This cannot work,” he stressed.
For the labour activist, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, such a law is irresponsible and inconsistent with the realities on ground. He charged the government to first provide light for Nigerians at the most affordable price. “Everybody wants to use generator because there is no electricity. Such a law is irresponsible and inconsistent with the realities on ground. Have they provided job for all; electricity for all; food or education for all? These are the issues but when you have idle people who are busy and interested in looting the resources of the country and not concerned about the yearning and aspirations of the people, they come up with this kind of thing,” he lashed out.
He advised the Senators to stop wasting their time and concentrate on laws that would better the lots of Nigerians. “Is that the law they should make? They are not making laws to make education accessible and affordable to all. These are laws that cannot stand, so they should just stop wasting people’s time,” he advised.
Former governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa described the plan as very stupid. “It shows how terrible the situation in Nigeria is. It also shows the negative state of the nation because if you can hear such a stupid thing from the lawmakers of a country, then you wonder what is happening to this country. The law they are trying to make is so stupid that it cannot be implemented. It is what lawyers call bad law; a bad law that cannot be implemented,” he stated.
He also described the move as unfortunate, saying, “How can it be possible for Nigeria to exist under a circumstance of no generator without electricity? It is very stupid. It is most unfortunate that this kind of thing is coming from the lawmaking body of the country. It shows the negative state of the nation.”
The former governor said what the Senators are trying to do is akin to what lawmakers in Kano State did when they banned the Almajiri. He said: “People make law stupidly; just like the law banning the Almajiri and so on, forgetting that it is not only the Almajiri that are poor in Nigeria. So, it is very stupid and unexpected from a lawmaking body of a nation. It shows the complete negative state of the nation where everything has been turned upside down.”
Former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori believes that the bill would not go through the second reading as it would be rejected. He also believes the originator of the Bill must have gotten the idea from a dream. “Nigerians can’t survive without generators. I know it has not passed second reading. Which senator will accept that? We all use generators; even the artisans use it 24 hours. How can anybody survive without generators in Nigeria? Nigeria has no light. Assuming there is electricity like what we had in the 1960s and 1970s when we were growing up, then you can begin such discussion. So, until when we have real stable electricity, you cannot talk of banning generators. What will you use to power governors’ lodges, senators’ quarters, ministers’ quarters, hospitals and all that? What about the ordinary Nigerian business persons, artisans, shops, supermarkets and everything? It won’t work.”
The labour leader argued that even if the bill passes the second reading, it can never be implemented. “It can’t pass the second reading and even if it passes through the second reading, they can’t implement it. So, they are just making what we call enacting bills or Acts in vain; what you can’t monitor, because even those who have generators before will continue to use them and more generators will be smuggled into the country,” he said.
He agrees that under normal condition, nobody obviously likes generators, but in the absence of electricity, people are left with no choice but to resort to generator use. “So, it is not possible to ban generators. The senators themselves will kill the bill because they can’t afford to live without electricity. The ordinary people can afford to survive without electricity but not the senators,” he submitted.