5 November 2012

Nigeria: Blackout - Electric Power Shocks Political Power in Sokoto

Photo: Vanguard
Governor Wamakko Accused of Flogging Electricity Boss

Sokoto is thrown into darkness following a strike action by electricity workers protesting the alleged flogging of one of their officials by Governor Aliyu Wamakko.

Whatever it is that transpired between Governor Aliyu Wamakko and Moses Osigwe, the Business Manager of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN in the Gwuiwa district was without the knowledge of the majority of the people of Sokoto State.

However, the fallout from that meeting is today the cause of much agony in many parts of the state following the cut off of power by the electricity workers in the state.

Private businesses, government institutions including hospitals were as at yesterday without electric power supply for the third day in the brutal battle of ego between Governor Wamakko and the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE.

The battle arose from what is claimed to be the alleged extortion of the governor's local government area, Wamakko Local Government Area by PHCN officials in the Gwuiwa Business Unit of PHCN.

It is alleged that following pressure on the government by the people of Wamakko local government, that the governor invited the PHCN officials to suggest to government, a permanent solution to the problem of lack of supply of electricity to the area.

After the meeting with the governor, PHCN staff allegedly brought an estimate of N17 million to the state government, for, among others, the provision of a 2.5 MVA transformer.

Though the money was provided, the situation, however, did not change leading to tension in the area.

It was allegedly based on the growing tension that the governor again invited the PHCN officials led by Osigwe to his residence in Wamakko on October 20 for another meeting.

At the meeting, Osigwe was alleged not to have shown proper courtesy and reverence for the person of the governor and he was allegedly personally flogged by the governor before he was handed over to other security aides of the governor for further action.

The Sokoto/Zamfara Council NUEE in a statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Abubakar Sani and Yusuf Abdulkarim respectively, gave their narration of what happened that day.

"The Governor personally assaulted the Business Manager and two other staff who were mercilessly beaten and finally handed to his personal security for further assault/torture."

In the statement the NUEE vowed to "withdraw their staff from all PHCN formations and total blackout across the state till further notice."

Sokoto govt reacts

The Secretary General of NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajero also entered the fray with an ultimatum of 48 hours to the governor to issue a public apology and make reparations to the injured staff. The ultimatum expired last Friday.

Governor Wamakko's response was to describe the ultimatum as "phantom conceived, hatched, tended and executed all in the minds of the union leaders for frivolous gains," saying the union cannot be complainant, judge and executioner in its own case.

In a reaction articulated by his Senior Special Assistant, Media, Sani Umar, the governor also questioned why, "in spite of public money spent on PHCN, nothing has been there to show for it.

"Shouldn't the public find explanation on why power has not been holding, especially where hard-earned money, both private and public, has been going into the PHCN with nothing to show for it?"

Wamakko also questioned why the union has avoided probing the allegation that the affected officials collected money without providing the desired equipment.

"It is important for the union to note that the governor owes nobody an apology. A fraud has been committed for which a management level staff of PHCN is culpable and must be addressed. No amount of blackmail would delete or diminish the magnitude of the fraud and the state has already commenced legal proceedings on the matter," he continued.

Wamakko advised the union "to tow the path of valor and take appropriate steps to restore power to Wamakko town or pay back the N17m received in lieu of the service before the people lose their patience."

Sokoto people to sue PHCN

In yet another press conference on Saturday, Sokoto state chapter of Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria, IPACON threatened that if within 24 hours, electricity supply to Sokoto was not restored, the people of the state would have no option than take PHCN to court.

IPACON Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed observed that if Governor Wamakko, as an individual, did what NUEE claimed he did, the people of Sokoto should not be made to suffer from an alleged action of an individual.

"Statutorily, PHCN has a subsisting contract to supply un-interrupted electricity to the public, it therefore beats our imagination hollow to have observed that PHCN went ahead and cut electricity supply to the state on an unsubstantiated allegation against Governor of Sokoto state," the statement read.

IPACON also observed that with in-patients who are on life support machines in various health facilities in the state, PHCN ought not to have disconnected the Specialist Hospital from power supply.

"We have in-patients who are on life support machines in various health facilities in the state. Water supply is currently being hampered. PHCN should not be un-mindful of the grave consequences of their actions to the essential services," it further read.

"Why should the public suffer from the action of an individual?; does Governor Wamakko pay our electricity bills? Don't the people of Sokoto have a contractual agreement with PHCN? Would PHCN justify its action of denying the people the services they pay for? Isn't this a total breach of contract? IPACON asked.

As a result of the blackout, public establishments as well as private residences are without electricity save for those who have generators. There is also no water supply because there has to be electricity to pump, treat and supply water to the public.

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