by Tola Adenle
I’m sure while millions of Nigerians would reply in the affirmative to the title of this essay if polled, there are millions of others that would wonder aloud where I want the Police to be on a Roster of Corruption Infamy in Nigeria as it was the same police that was, perhaps, at the birth of The Corruption Cancer. Okay, Tola/Tola Adenle/Ms. Blogger, where d’you want to place “lawmakers”, a.k.a. LegisLOOTERS; those whose opportunities for corruption have always been limitless no matter what kind of government- military or civilian – rules, i.e. the top civil servants, a.k.a. “evil servants”; the executive arm of government, the judiciary … Okay, I surrender, fellow countrymen! The category of those already in the Hall of Infamy of Corruption are myriad and it may be difficult to anoint an arm of government that is the most corrupt and can run away with The Award of Non-Excellence in seeing a potentially-great country to a beggar client state.
While all the looting touches every aspect of Nigerian life, NEPA, “repositioned” and christened Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria, seems to showcase how the lives of a people can be altered due to corruption that even the lowliest among us feels the daily havoc the corruption cancer wreaks. (Imagine the sheer audacity/impunity of including the word ‘holding’ in the name of a corporation known for “holding” LIGHT as the Yoruba translation of the word implies!) A minimum-wage earner or any of the millions of unemployed youth wants to power his mobile phone? He has to go to a Battery Charging Center where he pays N20.00 or more to get it done. A woman who operates a tiny pepper grinder in any of the open markets is in the midst of grinding for a customer, total amount to be paid to her is N30 but NEPA blacks out in the midst of this daily grind and she does not own a mechanical grinder. She curses above her breath.
Why is electricity so rationed and why, after the tons of money that continues to be thrown at NEPA – or whatever fancy moniker it adopted perhaps to cover its sordid history – while the corporation continues to plunge the country into metaphorical and physical darkness?
How is the utility company, in my opinion, is in a position to single-handedly qualify Nigeria as a “crime syndicate masquerading as a nation” in spite of the cesspool of corruption all around?
Under the civilian government of retired General Obasanjo (rGO), billions were expended on power but it seems the money was spent to purchase darkness; there was an “investigation” that was to shed light – pardon me, if you think ‘light’ is just a pun – on where all the billions went under that administration. Till today, I have not read anything different from the one about the report remaining in THE DARK like the physical darkness under which most of this country permanently remains at night.
Fly into Nigeria from Europe, from the Far East or West at night and the darkness – apart from the non-planning of even our big cities – that envelopes most of the land is heart-rending and sad.
Under Yar Adua and the present government of Dr. Jonathan, it has not been different. Below is link to a recent story from The Guardian .http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=79199:n400-billion-after-power-projects-face-more-hurdles-&catid=1:national&Itemid=559
Now, if money allocated to the power sector is heavily skimmed off at the top, what happens at the middle and bottom? The same, the same as Nigerians would say or more of the same as a teacher of English would teach his/her students.
The ubiquitous “the presidency” does not have a hand in the removal of “armored cable” and parts of huge transformers in communities to throw huge chunks of cities, towns and villages into panic and darkness. Neither does the directors-general, permanent secretaries of divisions of “federal” government ministries. Now, I do not believe – nor would it make sense – to find regular citizens not working for the Power Holders to be able to remove these cables and transformer parts but one of the scams that dominate the power sector AT THE BOTTOM – perhaps following the lead from the top – is the removal of these vital items.
Once these are STOLEN by NEPA staff or their contractors in what must be active collaboration with NEPA staff, communities or neighborhoods are given huge bills to contribute and these are never less than half a million Naira. It’s happened in supposed upper-class neighborhoods that I know and it just happened in several neighborhoods at Akure. In one Akure neighborhood, the people were made to pay for construction of a fence around a transformer, a fence which I, even in the northern part of my 60s, could scale!
A person in one of the Akure neighborhoods saw a NEPA van in the night after electricity outage and was sure the staff was there to effect repairs. That person has now remained silent for apparent fears once the bills were sent out by word of mouth!
A question I once asked when my neighborhood at Ibadan was asked to contribute around half a million Naira was: “will NEPA not pay for these un-receipted consumer payments and when they do, who would get to keep these illegal money? One guy from my neighborhood remarked: that is the take for those at xxx [our neighborhood substation.]