The cheering aspect of the matter is that the supply of prepaid meter which was done by private companies has since November, last year been taken over by the Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos). I got to know of this in the first week of last month (December 2020) when the prepaid meter I purchased for eighty – nine thousand, two hundred naira (N89, 200) which was installed on August 27 stopped functioning. In other words, it worked for only three months.
Those who read my column then would remember that I did a six – part series from September 23 through October 28, last year titled: “Prepaid Meter Problems,” in which I appealed to the Minister of Power, Mr. Saleh Mamman and the National Assembly to take steps to stop private companies from selling prepaid meters and give the responsibility to the Discos.
This followed the nasty experience I had with the private company that supplied and installed my 3 – phase prepaid meter. The first problem was that the company’s address and the telephone number of any of its officers were not on the Bank Teller given to me to pay the money for the meter.
I paid the N89, 200 on June 25 and two months later the company had not reached out to me, let alone supply my prepaid meter. As a result, by August 20 I went to the Disco in my area to find out the address of the company and got to know it was located in the same compound.
But I was told the office had not been opened for six months as none of its staff had been showing up. Fortunately for me, in March last year when the three – month – long lock – down caused by coronavirus pandemic (COVID – 19) began the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) published three telephone numbers in some newspapers.
This was to enable anyone with electricity supply problem in his or her area to call for help. I copied the three numbers and used them whenever the need arose. Consequently, when two months after paying N89, 200 my prepaid meter had not been supplied I sent a text message to the three NERC telephone numbers.
The officer using the last telephone number on the list was the only one who reacted to my text message, but he did not send me a reply. Rather, he contacted the Managing Director of the company I paid money to and got him to arrange for the immediate installation of my prepaid meter.
Twenty minutes after I sent my text message to the NERC officer’s number I got a call from a staff of the company asking for my address. I gave it to him and by 9am the following day (Thursday, August 27), two of the company’s staff were in my house to install my prepaid meter. It was from them I got to know that the NERC officer who reacted to my text message was Mr. Dafe Akpeneye, the Commissioner/Legal, Licensing and Compliance.
When the meter became faulty three months later it was Mr. Akpeneye I reached out again and within one hour two men were in my house to find out the problem. I thought they were from the company that installed it. But they told me they were from Ikeja Disco as the government had sacked the private companies in charge of prepaid meters.
When one of them opened the meter he found out that the circuit breaker was the issue because the supply company used inferior circuit breaker with aluminium instead of copper. He and his colleague told me it sold for about five thousand naira and not meant for my type of prepaid meter and could not have lasted for more than three to six months.
They told me the genuine one made with copper costs fifteen thousand naira. I gave them the amount and when they returned I could see the difference in what they brought and the one they changed. As they say, a blind man or woman who is sightless could see the difference.
To be continued next Wednesday
Weekly sales of Sunday Times under Gbolabo Ogunsanwo (4)
Last week’s column ended with information on the highest weekly circulation figure of a Sunday newspaper in Nigeria since the Daily Times on Tuesday, June 1, 1926 blazed the trail as the first journal published in the country. This was that the record figure was the 542,733 copies sold by the Sunday Concord on November 9, 1986, which was nine thousand, eight – hundred – and – seventeen (9,817) copies better than the 532,916 made by the Sunday Times in 1975 when Gbolabo Ogunsanwo was the Editor.
I am today publishing the official chart of the weekly sales figures of the Sunday Concord for July – December 1986 as printed 35 years ago by the Circulation Manager of the defunct Concord Press of Nigeria to authenticate my story. I kept the chart because I knew that a day would come when I would need it to prove or confirm that the Sunday Concord of November 9, 1986 was the best – selling edition of any Nigerian journal ever. Since then, and until today, I doubt if the Sunday Times has sold up to two hundred and fifty thousand copies per edition.
I also doubt if any newspaper in the country can ever sell as many as 542,733 copies of an edition again. The first reason for this has been the difficulty in getting newsprints to buy, a situation which started in the 1980s and has been growing worse year after year up till today.
This is why no newspaper in Nigeria has been able to print up to 200,000 copies per edition since the 1990s. I do not have the facts but I doubt if any newspaper in the country has been printing up to one hundred thousand (100,000) copies per edition in the last 10 – 20 years.
Another factor affecting the sale of newspapers in Nigeria has been the rise in costs. In the 1970s it was N10, it went up to N20 – N50 in the 1980s, N100 in the 1990s and is now N200 for those sold on Monday through Friday and N250 for those circulating on Saturday and Sunday.
Making the situation worse is the fact that in the last 15 years or so, people have had access to read major newspapers online. While the availability of WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has also drastically reduced the number of those who buy and read newspapers.
Continues next week
Hereafter advice to Nigerian leaders – Babangida in focus (4)
As stated three weeks ago in the column of December 23, the Supreme Being gave General Ibrahim Babangida a second chance in 2005 and sent me to him as His candidate for the 2007 presidential election. But unlike in 2001 when he ignored the message I conveyed to him in Minna to contest in 2003, he reacted positively.
Two reasons were responsible for his change of attitude. The first was that I passed the message through a friend of mine, Major – General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd), a former General Officer Commanding (GOC), the 3rd Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army and one – time Minister of Communications.
Continues next week