10 November 2012

Nigeria: Still On PHCN Versus Wamakko


There is a disturbing trend about the Kaduna Power Distribution Company DisCo: it is the only Power Holding Company of Nigeria that has not attracted any bidder in the current privatization of the PHCN assets - that is, of all the DisCos across the whole of Nigeria.

As if that alone is not a moral question to worry the management and staff, the week after the various bids were opened that left the Kaduna DisCo in limbo, its management came out to address the press and threatened to plunge the whole of Sokoto state into darkness. The MD sais they were carrying out the treat, because Governor Aliyu Magatakarada Wamakko Sokoto state allegedly assaulted a PHCN staff personally!!!

Apart from this being most unlikely to be true, the fact that the Managing Director of a PHCN distribution company can come out to openly make such an allegation against a sitting Governor publicly raises many serious questions.

As for the MD himself: for how and under what circumstances can a state Governor in Northern Nigeria (of all places) descend so low as to personally assault the staff of the PHCN?

Any one who knows the paraphernalia of a state Governor's office knows that such is an impossible in northern Nigeria, especially in Sokoto, one of the few places in Nigeria, where both the governed and the government respect each other.

The normal distance between a state governor and anybody not working directly with them including PHCN staff, is such that makes personal contact almost impossible, thus making this allegation to be too simplistic to be believed.

But Governor Wammako was said to have protested against the 'economic sabotage' by PHCN staff against his people's businesses

Just because Governor Aliyu Wammako decided to express his displeasure and disagreement with the poor services of the defunct PHCN - which is a public knowledge - just because the governor decided to take note of this, and intervene to protect the helpless citizens of his state, Kaduna DisCo came out making wild allegations against the governor, and threatening to plunge everybody in his state into darkness.

By the way, is Kaduna DisCo a personal estate of anyone to do with he or she likes? If at all anybody has been wrong, are there no institution to seek redress from, such as the court in this particular instance? Is it not a measure of the impunity for the management of Kaduna DisCo to punish millions of citizens for the alleged offence of a single fellow, if at all there was any?

I think it is high time law enforcement agencies took note of the threat publicly made by the management of the Kaduna DisCo to plunge the whole of Sokoto State into darkness just because he has a quarrel to settle with the state Governor.

With this threat, is the management not taking the laws into its own hands? To deliberately plunge the whole of Sokoto State into darkness is an economic crime for which the EFCC is well equipped to handle. How many businesses will this action of the PHCN management cripple before the law catches up with his lawlessness?

And is it not also true that the impunity with which the management is threatening the whole of Sokoto State a direct function of the fact that most appointments in the Kaduna DisCo are done by godfathers and not on merit, a fact which accounts for the corruption which afflicts their daily operations, and which the governor sought to confront?

One fact attested to by some staff of the Kaduna DisCo is that customers in this particular PHCN distribution zone consume the least amount of electricity in Nigeria - lower even than the north-eastern zone, which is acclaimed to be the poorest in the country. This DisCo, according to a former MD of the PHCN, also serves the least number of households compared to other DisCos in the country.

Yet, this is also the DisCo that is afflicted with the largest number of breakdowns of brand new equipment, freshly installed (including transformers), all because of tempering with equipment just to 'artificially' trip supplies to someone or some people from whom raw cash is to be extorted), or simply because of the number of untrained hands appointed to man sensitive equipment, people who cannot even do the simple meter reading.

They are the ones called NEPA 2, NEPA 3, NEPA 4 illegally employed by NEPA or PHCN to help them do 'business as usual'. Consumers know these categories of staff being referred to as not being bonafide staff on the payroll of the power companies.

These kinds of workers who are not trained either on the job or obtained relevant paper qualifications get their pay through a fraudulent means. This too is to the knowledge of consumers who go through them to the real PHCN to get power .

Again, of all the DisCos in Nigeria, it is a well known fact that the Kaduna DisCo has become quite exceptional in the difficulties they always put on the path of any customer who tries to acquire a pre-paid meter. This is because acquiring such a meter is like ending their means of collecting raw cash monthly from customers in the name of 'estimated' bills.

Is it any wonder then that in the current privatization, no one has come forward neither a Nigerian nor a foreigner, to acquire the Kaduna DisCo and invest in it?

There is not a doubt that Governor Aliyu Wammako is not the problem of the Kaduna PHCN DisCo - rather, it is the corruption in there.

Dan Toro writes from 6, Emir Yahya Road, Sokoto

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