PHCN, crazy billing and tariff increase

Casmir Igbokwe

PRAYERS and jokes are good mediums through which Nigerians try to escape from their existential problems. Almost on a daily basis, I receive them either via my phones or email address.

Last week, for instance, one Balogun from Ibadan informed me of the arrival of new perfumes in the country. In case I‘m interested, he says, the perfumes are: Escape by Ibori, Desperate by IBB, Assault by Deji of Akure, Kaitastrophy by Kaita, Barely 13 by Yerima, Missing Goal by Aiyegbeni, and Kidnapped! by Chris Uba. Others are: Paradise Lost by Turai, Looters by National Assembly, Shameless by OBJ, Headgear by Okonjo-Iweala, Retarded by PDP, Blackout by NEPA, etc.

Of all these perfumes, I‘m more interested in Blackout by NEPA, otherwise called the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. There is a deliberate attempt to perfume the air already polluted by the PHCN. Or how else does one describe the recent call by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido, for a 200 per cent increase in electricity tariff? This, he said, would encourage investment in the sector. Sanusi has an ally in the National Electricity Regulatory Commission.

But the questions remain, what was the result of a similar increase two years ago? How have Nigerians benefited from the billions of naira pumped into the power sector by the Obasanjo administration? And what has come out of the 6000MW the government has been promising to deliver over the years?

More questions but few answers. To worsen matters, the PHCN members of staff have tried to put wedges on the liberalisation of the power sector by the Federal Government. Recently, the workers literally prevented the Presidential Task Force on Power from carrying out its duties in Abuja and Lagos. They also threatened to go on strike, but later called it off.

The point is, who will miss them if they go on strike? In the area I live in Ikeja, having constant electricity has become a mirage. If we have today, we won‘t have tomorrow. Even when the supply comes, it fluctuates such that it damages electrical appliances.

Sometime last week, I was told that some people came to ask for N1,000. Every flat is expected to pay the money to facilitate the installation of a new transformer in the area. And you ask, are customers supposed to pay for transformers?

That is the least of the headaches the power company has subjected Nigerians to. For some of us who use prepaid meter, there is nothing like crazy bills. You pay for what you consume. People were happy that this new system would eventually eliminate the problems associated with estimated billing. But their joy seems to have been suspended as the prepaid meters have become scarce commodities.

And so you find that many Nigerians are paying too much for darkness. In page of THE PUNCH, a reader, Freddie Raymond, from Ijesa in Lagos State, last Tuesday, complained bitterly against PHCN officials. For the past three months, he said these officials had neither come to read any meter, nor had they sent any bill to the residents of Adesina Street.

”But now,” he lamented, ”the officials of the PHCN are inviting us to their office to sight our bills on the computer. We have been paying for electricity without bills. To worsen matters, they have disconnected nearly all the houses in this area. No bill, no receipt of payment. Where is our money going?”

Raymond may never know. Perhaps, the money has gone into the acquisition of more computers for effective bill sighting. More disturbing is a report in THE PUNCH of Aug. 3, 2010, indicating that the accounts of the PHCN have not been audited in the past five years. What this means is that it will not be easy to obtain information about how much the company has generated or spent within the said period.

Is it not laughable that after almost 50 years of nationhood, we still cannot surpass an average of 3000MW of electricity?

This is why Nigeria has become a dumping ground for all manner of substandard generators. Sanusi said that much in Abuja last Tuesday. According to him, generators produce 70 per cent of the nation‘s power needs. And we have the unenviable record of being the largest importers in the world.

These machines come with their own hazards. Some individuals have suffocated in their rooms from fumes. And in the dead of the night when people should have their peaceful sleep, generator noise comes to play the spoiler. This adds to people‘s stress level.

Nigerians are sick and tired of the PHCN. We have written and shouted yet there seems to be no end in sight to its indolence and poor services.

Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. was misbehaving at a time until the communications industry was liberalised. Private mobile telephone companies came in and sounded the death knell of NITEL.

Already, the Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 stipulates the privatisation of 18 successor companies of the PHCN. The act provides for the development of competitive electricity markets, as well as the enforcement of such matters as performance standards, consumer rights and the determination of tariffs.

Efforts should be made to implement this act to the letter. The PHCN workers are not happy about some of its provisions. NITEL workers were also not happy when the private GSM companies came. But what is important is the happiness of the majority of Nigerians.

Part of the problem with us is that we put the cart before the horse. President Goodluck Jonathan has made himself the Minister of Power. But what we have seen so far in terms of solutions is a call for more prayers. Some smart businessmen have keyed into it. On Friday, I got a message on my MTN line from 33022 asking me to join 50 million Nigerians in prayer. All one needs do is to text 010075 to 4100 to download the prayer for Nigeria. Each SMS costs N50.

Does this not amount to spraying perfume inside a septic tank?


1 Comment »

  1. 1

    injustice is simply what phcn is doing..monkey dey work baboon dey chop.when it end ?

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