9 November 2012

Nigeria: Resolving the Sokoto/PHCN Impasse


For allegedly flogging the Business Manager, Gwiwa Business Unit of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Sokoto State, Engineer Moses Osigwe and two other staff of the company by Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, the seat of the Caliphate is presently groping in total blackout for five days running. This was at the behest of the National Union of Electricity Employees which insisted that the governor must apologise unreservedly for his wrong doing.

The management of the utility distribution company, through the Acting Managing Director, Mohammed Adamu stated the position of the company as it affects their staff in a statement last month. Expectedly, the media aide to the governor Malam Sani Umar, in yesterday's Daily Trust, provided what he called "Sokoto Government's story" his own perspective and position of the state government on the matter.

The flogging has generated cacophonic responses, in form of vituperations, scorn, allegations and counter allegations, commensurate with the nation's huge population, each pitching tent with either PHCN or the government of Sokoto State. Those who are familiar with the scorching atmospheric condition of Sokoto will testify that the people and businesses in the state are the worse hit.

As it were, the truth has already been buried under the ensuing media brickbats while the kernel of the matter has eluded the court of public opinion. However, it is said that when two persons fight in a distant farm land and come home for local arbitration, the person at fault must surely be identified.

The existing cordial relationship between PHCN and Sokoto state government has remained bruised and deeply decimated but it should not be allowed to fester or linger much longer. The bitter truth constantly remains that assaulting public servants in the course of discharging their duties either by individuals, community, or a governor is a bad precedent, uncalled for, denigrating and deserves condemnation.

The governor's conduct if it were true has given unfettered boldness to those with deep rooted disdain for PHCN the effrontery to molest staff at any slightest provocation. Governor Wamakko's media aide described him as calm and peace-loving man. His mien which seems to give credence to this should always reflect restraint in the face of provocation and sense of judgment. As the chief security officer of the State, the governor is expected to ensure that lives and property of individuals in Sokoto including that of PHCN staff are guaranteed. What if the man he allegedly flogged had impulsively retaliated?

There are well established channels of complaint and disciplinary measures of different kinds applicable to staff misdemeanour in the civil service and none encourages physical assault of individuals. Those channels should have been explored.

It is within the ambit of Sokoto state government or any individual to approach the court for redress or interpretation of any matter it felt was incongruous. But to what extent has the road to dialogue been explored? This road to the courts leads to nowhere because the wheel of justice grinds slowly; therefore when will Sokoto people get relief. The matter should be settled out of court for it is more honourable to do so.

Both PHCN and Sokoto state government are partners in progress in the power business, it pains even PHCN more to cut the electricity supply of its esteemed customers because not only that the revenue accruable to it is stalled and the existing relationships severely rupture, no business survives in an atmosphere of bitterness and rancour.

During his first tenure, Wamakko donated three Hilux Vans to PHCN to ensure service delivery and general operational efficiency in Sokoto. This incident no matter how hard hit should provide another great opportunity for fence-mending exercise and a new direction for engagement. The parties involved should endeavour to sustain this relationship and seek an amicable way out.

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