Quite often, I wonder who the citizens of this contraption offended that brought upon us callous leaders that care not if we perish or live. I am yet to hear about any other country in the entire world whose leaders align with oppressors of the suffering citizens as Nigerian leaders.
This is hardly surprising though because, of a truth, the real oppressors of the people are their purported leaders; ‘purported’ because there is hardly anybody that is occupying political office in this country that could rightly lay claim to be the people’s choice. Rather, they imposed themselves on the people by fiat or devious means. This lamentation does not really matter because they have already usurped power anyway and there is nothing anyone can do about that.
Over the years, Nigerians have been ripped off by buccaneers in the power industry with the full connivance of government officials. The other time, they told us the petroleum sector had been deregulated. By deregulation, the industry was to find its own level and flow with the tide in the international market. In other words, the industry would regulate itself and products sold in line with the international market dictates. Shockingly, we still see the Petroleum Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPRA) fixing prices of petroleum products, especially PMS. This, definitely, is not deregulation.
Usually, they justify their meddling with comparatives of prices in developed climes without considering the benefits of governance enjoyed by citizens of those lands. They allow our refineries to rot and would rather export our crude abroad only to import fuel in a baffling senselessness fuelled by corruption. We have lost count of how many times the refineries had been maintained and sabotaged for the same reasons.
Worst still, these officials remain indifferent to the need to build fresh refineries, if the old ones can no longer be revived. Yet, we hear stories of government agencies burning down illegal refineries in the creeks of the Niger Delta, instead of legalising them. That the vandals could easily refine crude to petrol shows that refining crude is not rocket science after all. We don’t need the grandiose white elephants anymore. We even thought that common sense had prevailed when they started talking about modular refineries and actually issued licences. The whole thing turned out to be modulated abracadabra, as the licensees have refused to use the licences. Nobody would blame them because official policies have been skewed to favour economic vampires to keep importing fuel and whoever goes into local refining would have lost already before switching on his plant.
A twin evil of the petroleum madness is electricity. Scammers in government woke up one day and decided to ‘privatise’ the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). Before then, it had morphed from the never expect power always Nigerians dubbed it to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), which withheld power more than it released it. Even monumental fraud that the House of Representatives unearthed in the sector was swept under the carpet and, many years down the line, Nigerians are yet to hear the end of it.
So, Nigerians welcomed the idea of privatisation hesitantly but hoped that it would solve the power problem in the country. They remained skeptical though because they were convinced that the power sector was a mini Nigeria where nothing works; no need to state that they were proved right. Name change could not lift the curse that the power sector had become.
We continued to pay for darkness. We continued to buy our own cables and poles. We continued to buy and repair our own transformers. Once we are through doing that for a supposed private company, they surface and lay claim; slamming hefty bills on us as a way of appreciating our painful sacrifices. Yet we claim we have a government.
Sometime ago, during the NEPA years, I paid my N3,000 bill through the then Oceanic Bank but the money never reflected. I complained up to the Undertaking in charge of my area but was told it had been split in two and I was in a new Undertaking. Strangely, the officials told me that the money I paid was ‘in the system’ but they could not trace to which of the two Undertakings it was credited. Till today, my money remains in the ‘system’ but was never credited to my account. In other words, NEPA still owes me N3,000.
I was so pissed off I refused paying my bills subsequently. I realised too late that it was suicidal to confront omnipotent NEPA that way because the longer I protested, the more my bills piled up. After many months of my ‘silly protest’, I had to gratefully seize a promo it did and paid off the bill, including the one that is still in their ‘system’.
I came out of that fight worsted and so decided to choose my battles wisely. I decided never to be in arrears of my bills. However, I also soon realised it was a wrong strategy too because the marketers preferred you owed so that you would be bribing them not the disconnect your line. The penalty for not owing is increasing highly estimated bills.
Why are we so helpless in the hands of these people? Many may argue I did not explore avenues for redress. I laugh because such avenues may be there but at what cost and inconvenience? Why must I go through such hassles whereas we have a government that should be protecting my interests? In fact, Nigeria, and Nigerians, has been electrocuted by crass leadership; I don’t know of any electrocution victim that has good tales to tell.
The latest affront is last week’s unacceptable further hike of electricity tariff approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), citing inflation and the current foreign exchange rate. This is coming barely few months after the last increase in September last year. Do they want us all dead?
Before this came, Ikeja Electric dumped approximately N28,000 estimated bill on me in November. Certainly, I’m not alone and I wonder how jobless Nigerians and those whose N30,000 minimum wage is being reversed could pay such provocative bills when they do not run ‘pure water’ factories in their bedrooms; yet our government remains criminally silent. Its noise about prepaid metering is mere propaganda, as getting the meters are near impossible even if you want to pay for them.
It is time Nigerians asked hard questions of their ostensible leaders. On whose side are these leaders, the oppressive power brokers in the power sector or on the side of the prostrate masses? Who are the real owners of the distribution companies? Is it true that government officials bought over national assets using fronts and so remain unconcerned about the pain of the people? How come government cannot enforce its directive on mass metering of electricity consumers and against estimated billing?
Government should probe activities of NERC and PPRA where shifty deals by sleazy cabals are prevalent. Nigerians have been duped over and over but, like a helpless orphan, there is no help from anywhere, at least, not from an unfeeling government that gets titillated emasculating the people it claims elected it to rule over them.