When you have to pay for darkness

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By Rose Moses

For about two weeks, as I write, there has not been a blinker of electricity in my neighbourhood.

Typically, no one is telling anyone anything. No one knows why we’ve been in darkness. No form of communication, whatsoever, from any one.

And not many people are complaining, either. We have all taken it as one of those things, suffering and smiling (apologies to Fela), you would say.

File photo: Blackout

But that is not the interesting part of the story. After all, Nigerians are no strangers to darkness. Some neighbourhoods in cities as big as Lagos, actually, go without electricity for upward six months. And here I am talking of just two weeks, a friend would respond to my lamentations.

It would appear we’ve gotten so used to hard times that we easily justify painful and uncalled for situations as normal, even when we have to pay for them with hard earned money.

Nigerians are about the few people on earth that pay for services not rendered. Taxes are deducted at source from most workers. Same as pension schemes, which some die waiting for on retirement.

For some people to be able to move around their neighbourhoods, they have to fix the roads themselves. You have to pump your own water, to the extent that Lagos State, for instance, is very worried about the deep holes Lagosians are living atop in the name of boreholes.

As deadly as they could be, generators are now part and parcel of every home. The noise has actually taught many to scream on top of their voices while talking to anyone. A friend actually told me he now shouts when talking to people in his household, even when the generators are not on.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, wait until you hear some Nigerians talk in public, or even 30, 000ft above sea level across foreign lands. And you don’t want to be around when some of them are making phone calls.

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Coming back to the issue at hand, the people once described as the happiest on earth for their ability to be suffering and smiling at the same time, take all of these unfortunate situations in their strides.

That is why after about two weeks of no-electricity supply and still counting, the bill will surely come. And it will be as crazy as ever, considering the electricity company’s preference for estimated billing system.

Before grooming more high profile looters of our common wealth, however, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may consider beaming its searchlight on Power Holding Company of (PHCN), or whatever name it now goes by.

As a matter of fact, officials of that company, especially the ladder-carrying segment and their immediate supervisors, despite couple of name change by the company, have hardly changed their questionable mode of operation. They encourage corruption by their corrupt practices, which leave some consumers wondering if it really pays to pay bills.

And here is how: Ikeja Electricity Company will drop for you someone else’s bill as yours. You notice the error, either on time or late when you must have paid into the wrong account. You go to their office to complain. And what do you get? They treat your complaint with levity. They act as if they are doing you a favour rather than thank you for helping them do their job.

And that is just the lighter part of it. The most annoying bit is that they will so dribble you with that ‘come today, come tomorrow’ thing, such you need no one to tell you at the end they plan to do nothing about the case.

So, whose account are you paying into; who set up or dropped the wrong bill for you, and for what purpose?

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Another example is seen in the very cordial business relationship that sometimes exists between defaulting consumers and the ladder-carrying boys or men of PHCN. They bring down the wire of such consumers for nonpayment in the daytime; get back to their offices to remove their uniforms, only to return to the same defaulting consumers at night to exchange some banters and some other stuff.

And pronto! By the time they leave the company of the defaulting consumer, his electricity is restored. And the circle goes on. Eventually when he packs out of the house, he leaves bills running into hundreds of thousands of naira for the next tenant, who is likely to also find a way around the system.

The scenario painted above is same, if not worst in virtually all government parastatals, and even in some private organizations and among artisans too.

Any wonder why Nigeria appears to have remained on permanent reverse gear, as they say?

Truth is, most Nigerians do not pay electricity bill because most of the officials of PHCN, especially those that move around climbing poles, and those that supervise them, are soaked deep in corruption. Corruption at the lower cadre of the society also stinks to high heaven.

And you know what? These same corrupt persons in their small spaces will be shouting the loudest about corruption in high places! So, what’s the difference?

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