When God commanded in Genesis 1:3 “Let there be light”, I doubt if Nigeria was factored into the equation. While the rest of the continent, which was hitherto tagged Dark Continent, has moved on to lit up their countries, Nigeria is still trapped in its inglorious past and an uncertain future. Small and irrelevant countries within the continent, have long fixed their power wahala. But not so for Nigeria, Africa’s so-called giant.
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The epileptic power situation in Nigeria has defied common sense. It appears as if all the witches and wizards have connived to frustrate any plan to fix our messy power problem. The same witches and wizards have succeeded in frustrating President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to generate 19,000 megawatts before 2019.
After the privatisation of the power sector in 2013 by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, 11 Distribution Companies (DISCOs) emerged. It was a huge sigh of relief when the landmark feat was achieved. Not many had expected the process to succeed.
Like the telecommunications sector, Nigerians had hoped that the investors were going to pump in some money and revive distribution lines. That expectation is becoming a nightmare. Instead, DISCOs are now agents of darkness. They have become so notorious that Nigerians are not sure if they should defer whatever hope that is left.
Amidst the array of complaints from customers across the various states of the Federation, Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), has earned a reputation for itself. The nauseating arrogance of its management, headed by one Funke Osibodu, is suffocating. “I am not sure if there is any iota of humanity flowing through her veins,” an aggrieved customer joked recently.
She treats people with disdain and doesn’t respect any authority, including the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki. Osibodu behaves like the Lord of the Manor. She has defied appeals from senators, members of the House of Representatives, revered traditional rulers and even clergymen. She only listens to herself and calls anybody’s bluff.
There are four states under BEDC. They are Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states. Power consumers in these four states forcefully pay outrageous bills every month, but enjoy darkness in return. Under the dictatorial watch of Osibodu, it is a taboo to complain.
Let me take you through the torture Mrs Osibodu has foisted on customers in Edo and three other states. In early November, I met with the Senate Committee Chairman on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe. With the assistance of his aide, Uche Awom, I explained to the senator how folks in Edo and three other states have been reduced to slaves by the Managing Director of BEDC, Mrs Osibodu.
Senator Abaribe, without delay, arranged for an oversight visit to Benin, Edo State capital. Ten days ago, Senator Abaribe, in company of Senators Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Suleiman Hunkuyi, James Manager and Ahmed Ogembe, touched down in Benin. I was part of the delegation, at least, to witness the hardship foisted on my people by Osibodu-led BEDC.
In her usual sanctimonious posture, she painted a perfect picture of how she has brought succour to the people. Unfortunately for her, the senators were already briefed before the trip. Her sweet tales by moonlight didn’t sway the lawmakers.
The icing on the cake was the town hall meeting the senators held with some aggrieved customers. Like a pack of cards, Mrs Osibodu’s lies crashed in front of her. She was too dazed to speak.
An aggrieved customer who spoke on behalf of others had fired thus: “What we pay for in Benin and in other states is darkness. BEDC has short-changed us. We don’t want them to operate again. Let the Federal Government revoke their licence and give it to a company that has the capacity.
“When the power sector was privatised, all the Distribution Companies boasted that they had the money to run these companies. But I want to tell the senators that BEDC, for instance, has not invested anything. They are not doing enough. They have refused to provide prepaid metres and it’s deliberate.”
A dazed Abaribe said: “We decided to hold a forum here because of the volume of petitions we have received. If we want Nigeria to be better, let us make those who should be held responsible to do that. We can’t blame one side.
“We have generation, transmission and distribution. Transition Company of Nigeria (TCN) said it doesn’t have money to carry repairs of faulty generation lines. TCN is owned by the Federal Government. If the Federal Government doesn’t give them money, who do we blame?
“We are going to a point that anybody who has the money to bring in metres, they should come in and we can do business. What I have seen is the issue of poor services. The Nigerian electricity markets breed difficulty for everybody. What we are looking for is solution.
“Nigeria is made up different cultures and inclinations. We believe that Nigeria should be for everybody. We also believe that we must look at where we are and ensure that we are making progress. We have had many complaints about BEDC. We are here today about one key problem and that is the fact that those who consume electricity find it hard to pay.
“If you buy a transformer or anything, the DISCO is supposed to pay you back in a way. You are not supposed to give anything to DISCO for free. There is a regulation. The regulation is that everybody must be metred. The regulation is that each consumer must be metred.”
Before I conclude, let me make some points. In Edo, where Osibodu-led BEDC holds sway, customers have had enough. In 2017, something happened in Ekpoma, Edo State. Some miscreants reportedly attacked officials of BEDC and destroyed their operational vehicle. The said miscreants were less than 20. The sins of a few led to the disconnection of the entire local government.
Over 150,000 residents wallowed in darkness for almost a year. Traditional rulers stepped in, but were ignored by Osibodu. A serving senator, Clifford Ordia who hails from the area intervened, but Mrs Osibodu called his bluff. The governor of Edo State, Obasaki made frantic efforts to intervene, he was ignored by the same Mrs Osibodu. It took the intervention of the Oba of Benin to restore light in my dear local government.
As I pen this piece, so many communities are currently without power in many parts of Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states. They have been deliberately disconnected by BEDC.
BEDC has deliberately refused to metre its customers. Instead, they rely on their crazy estimated billing to rape and rip off customers. Sadly, they have no plans to provide prepaid metres. Whenever electricity transformers or power lines are faulty, BEDC maintains a loud silence.
Communities contribute money to either repair or replace the fault lines and transformers and BEDC has never reimbursed the customers.
If Osibodu lacks empathy and the requisite knowledge to manage people and cater for their needs, let her take a bow.
I so submit!
All hail Senator Ordia
On Wednesday, the Senate passed for third reading nine different bills sponsored by different senators for the establishment of new Federal universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
The passage of the nine bills one of which approved the establishment of a Federal College of Education, Usugbenu-Irrua in Edo State.
The Senate also gave legal backing to the existence of National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi, Edo State.
Both bills were sponsored by Senator Ordia.
An elated Ordia expressed afterwards: “I am particularly elated that the Bill to establish the Federal College of Education Usugbenu Irrua, Bill 2018 (SB. 536) and also the Bill to establish the National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi (NICTM) Bill 2018 (SB. 630) in Edo State which I personally sponsored as the Senator representing the good people of Edo Central Senatorial District have been passed by the Senate.
“It will be a fulfilment of purpose when it’s approved by Mr President. This monumental achievement will create long-lasting opportunities for Esan people. A promise made and kept.”