Saturday May 23th, I was at home, and it was quiet and eerie; there was no electricity. When I opened the main door, a folded sheet of paper fell off from the slit between the door frame and the shutter where it had been stuck. I picked and opened it to realize it was my first electricity bill, the connection being recent.
There were a number of disturbing issues with the bill. First, the name I gave was far from the name on the bill. It took my number to believe the bill was meant for me. The quality of the paper and the print on it lacked any glint of attraction. Everything was just basic. Somewhere in my head, there is the belief that “anyone who doesn’t exude quality in minor issues would not deliver quality in the primary services he provides. The image of any individual, group or organization is always seen in its correspondences. From the bill, I came to the conclusion that what the Federal Government had done on the power sector wasn’t privatization, but legalization of criminality.
There was a fix charge of N775.00 to be paid with or without electricity consumed. The implication is that if one should travel out of town for months and switches off the supply to the house, on return, he would still pay this amount, multiplied by the number of months he has been away. Besides the cheating, the implication is that the power situation would never improve. Since there would be money to be made, with or without the provision of service, and the service provider could go to sleep. And sleeping is what the power authorities had been doing since the privatization.
There was the actual bill which amounted to N1993.25. This, also, is a bill for service not provided. Throughout the month of April, whose bill the figure represented, electricity came once in a while and when it does, it hardly lasts for more than an hour and half. To me, the figure represented the highest level of institutionalized criminality. Since there was no meter on which the reading was based, how did they come about the fraction of a naira (0.25), when they should have given a round figure? It means that somebody sat and wrote the figure, adding that fraction to make it look real. Just imagine the hangdog look on the face of the staffer at the time of writing the figure.
Then there was VAT charges of N94.92 that brought the total to N2, 863.17.
Since the electricity hardly lasted for more than an hour and half, I would try to do many things within the short period I knew it was going to last, like typing my manuscripts, ironing my clothes, charging my phone, etc. In the many days in-between the power supply, I would have to go around, looking for where to type, charge, hot-iron my wears, etc. It is usually my worst moment: going to bear parlors, barbing salons, or houses with NESCO electricity supply to use their sources of power supply.
The result of the electric power situation is the reason why I end up losing browsing data in my modem, TV subs I had paid for, buying fuel for my electric power generator … These are, actually, loses that should be paid for by the power authorities, but we all know the situation.
There are rumors that during the privatization exercise government officials had actually sold out the companies to themselves, friends, and family members. There is every reason to believe this. Nobody protects a client he intends to exploit.
Sixteen years, “reforming” the power sector without any progress, but regression, is very disturbing. The incoming government must look into this issue and ensure there is sanity in the sector.