By Casmir Igbokwe
Our lawmakers are very funny. Their move to ban the importation and use of generators in Nigeria is even funnier. How on earth will any sane person advocate such an action at a time power generation and distribution in the country have deteriorated?
Mid last year, power generation dropped from 4,000 megawatts to 2,039 MW. On April 25, 2019, there was a total shutdown of Egbin, Omotosho, Olorunsogo and Papalanto Power Stations. Experts estimated that power sector experienced a decline in power supply to Nigerian households to 37 per cent in first quarter of 2019 from 42 per cent obtained in fourth quarter of 2018. It dropped consistently from 46 per cent in January to 35 per cent in February and to 30 per cent in March 2019.
The Senator representing Niger South Senatorial District, Bima Enagi, did not reckon with this when he introduced the “Generating Set Prohibition/Ban Bill 2020” to the Senate last Wednesday. The bill prescribes 10 years imprisonment for offenders. The ban shall not include generator sets used for essential services such as medical purposes, airports, railway stations, elevators, research institutions and facilities that require 24 hours of electric power supply. Approval for such exclusion shall come from the Minister of Power.
Assuming this bill sails through, what will be the fate of the small and medium scale companies that survive mainly on generating sets? Will there be any compensation for multinationals like Coca-Cola and Wempco that spend billions of Naira to generate their own power? How will the Senate even handle the likelihood of job losses, relocation of manufacturing concerns to other countries and outright closure of companies that will trail the ban on generators?
This is a joke taken too far! And this is why the social media is throwing the joke back to senators from Niger State for being architects of controversial bills. Recall that last November, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa representing Niger East Senatorial District introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill also known as the Social Media Bill to the Senate. Musa believes the bill will regulate the use of social media in Nigeria and curb fake news.
Similarly, a Senator representing Niger North Senatorial District, Abdullahi Sabi, introduced a bill to prohibit hate speech last November. Offenders are liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the culprits shall be punished with death by hanging. Many Nigerians now wonder if the psychiatrists in Niger State are on strike!
My consolation is that not all the bills in the Senate are bad. A recent bill, for instance, aims at stripping the president, his deputy, the governors and their deputies of immunity in criminal matters during their stay in office. There is another one stipulating Higher National Diploma (HND) as the minimum qualification to become president or governor in Nigeria. It passed second reading last Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Istifanus Gyang from Plateau, also seeks to make the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) the minimum qualification for contesting for state and federal legislative seats. The existing law which the bill seeks to amend stipulates School Certificate level or its equivalent for the president, his deputy, governors and their deputies and even for federal and state legislators. These two major bills are among the 10 constitutional amendment bills presently before the senate.
While the minimum qualification for president is realisable, the immunity bill is not. Even if the National Assembly succeeds in passing it, the president may not sign it into law. Only a selfless, nationalistic president can sign such a law. Most of our actions as leaders are governed by greed and selfishness. We had hoped that President Muhammadu Buhari would overcome such mundane attitude. But the wind of his over four years in power has blown and exposed the fowl’s rump.
Nevertheless, I believe the generator prohibition bill will not see the light of the day. Who uses expensive generators more than the people in power including the lawmakers? The majority of Nigerians use the one called ‘I pass my neighbour’. Some cannot even afford to buy fuel everyday to power it. In this period of intense heat, you see heat rashes on the skin of many people. It will be rare to see such on the skin of a Nigerian politician. He has enough money to run his gen set that can carry air conditioners throughout the night.
I thought that what our lawmakers should have been debating is how to improve the power situation in the country. Or how to jail all those who have a hand in siphoning the money meant for improving power generation in Nigeria. Succeeding governments had made different efforts to improve power. But they have all come to nought.
Till date, there is no concrete explanation about what happened to the billions of Naira earmarked for power over the years. Many contractors had allegedly collected huge sums of money for electricity projects since 1999 but disappeared without executing anything. Last year, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) got a court injunction ordering this government to name such corrupt power contractors.
Honestly speaking, the entire electricity set up in Nigeria is a scam. If Nigeria is a place where regulation works, many people in the power sector will be in jail by now. In many communities and estates, people contribute money to buy transformers and their accessories including poles, cables and meters. At the end of the day, those items become the property of the power distribution companies. And they begin to bring outrageous bills to you.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) only makes some noise and looks on. Recently, it instructed the DisCos to meter every electricity consumer and stop estimated billing with immediate effect. In the event that a DisCo fails to provide meter to its high end customers before April 30, 2020, NERC says it shall lose its revenue from such customers who would remain connected. Story!
What the regulatory agency should do is to ensure that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the electricity generation companies (GENCOs) and the DisCos attain their capacities. The power distributors in particular need more investments and upgrade of their facilities. They need to be helped to tackle energy theft, meter bypass, illegal connections, billing irregularities and unpaid bills.
Rather than ban generators, our lawmakers should consider passing a bill to compel our power distributors to undertake a study tour of the Republic of Benin, Niger and Chad regularly. These are the countries Nigeria supplies power to. But ironically, electricity supply is more stable in those countries. There must be something they are doing which we need to emulate.
The Senate should also consider a bill to bring down the cost of renewable energy. Aside from being sustainable and reliable, renewable energy does not emit harmful toxins as it is derived from natural elements such as solar, wind and biomass. Nigerians will gladly throw away their generators if this alternative source of energy comes cheap.
For now, the Senate should get busy with something better for Nigerians. They should ignore the Senators from Niger State, or better still, find a good trash can for their ridiculous bills.
Re: Lifting Nigerian youths out of extreme poverty
Well done Casmir. The problem with humans is not poverty but lack of self discovery. I got French A-one in 1987 but was unemployed till 2008 when I was hinted that private schools need French teacher. Mike Tyson was discovered as a street fighter and trained to become a boxing champion. So to convict poverty and sentence it to death, youths should be taught self discovery and valuation.
- Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215
Bro Cas, how do you expect government to help lift our youths out of poverty? Who will they use as thugs during election? As human beings are expandable, they will keep us perpetually poor so that there will be no resistance since one must eat before fighting. But they should trace how Boko Haram, kidnapping, banditry, and herdsmen started! Since the law of diminishing return is real, government should make hey while the sun shines to avoid catastrophic future.
- Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884
It is not a crime for someone to give back to society, if you are blessed by God. Good meaning Nigerians who are blessed should emulate the young man that brought smiles to his village by empowering them with financial and other learning technical skills to kill poverty in our society.
- Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
Dear Casy, Nigerian poverty got worse over twin evil leadership that consumed both north and southern Nigeria. After the Biafran war, the educated and political elites on both sides recolonised the masses. They hijacked the people’s government, the nation’s wealth, and government apparatuses for themselves and their cronies and abandoned the masses. They stashed the people’s commonwealth in foreign lands. They also used their evil and anti people laws to crush the masses. The north has 80 percent population of men and women that didn’t access modern education at primary and the south has 85 percent of educated men and women who have no access to jobs to uplift them. Let the north send those unfortunate ones to schools and stop the present rot while their southern rulers stop stealing of people’s money and create jobs for the youths. Let the government return the people’s wealth and create jobs for the youths.
- Eze Chima C Lagos, +2347036225495
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, March 16, 2020