Government Without Human Face

By Casmir Igbokwe

Former Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose’s brother trended on the social media recently. The outrageous amount of money he pays as electricity tariff every week was the crux of the matter. Some Nigerians apparently thought he was joking in the video where he claimed his weekly electricity bill was N100,000. And this is for three rooms. He said he used to spend this N100,000 in one month.

Fayose is not alone. All electricity consumers on Band A category are feeling the same pinch. Simply put, what they used to spend on electricity in one month is now spent in one week. What happened was that the Federal Government increased electricity tariff for these Band A customers on April 3, 2024. From N68 per kilowatt-hour, the tariff went up to N225 per kWh, an increase of over 200 per cent. These Band A customers reportedly have electricity at least 20 hours in a day. Customers on Band B, C, D and E do not have to worry about the increase in tariff for now as they are not affected in this pilot phase. The plan is to co-opt them into the tariff-hike prison within a period of three years.

The estate where I live in Lagos is on Band A. In all honesty, we have constant electricity now. But at the rate our energy tokens fizzle out, some of us have been wondering whether to thank God for the constant electricity or to ask Ikeja Electric to come and switch off their power. From the experiment I conducted, I discovered that an average family on Band A, using only bulbs and fans, will spend not less than N50,000 a month for electricity. How many people can afford this type of money every month only for electricity? How much is the minimum wage?

What about the cost of fuel and related items? Immediately this present government came to power, it removed fuel subsidy which resulted in the high cost of the commodity. From about N158 a litre, the price jumped to over N600 a litre. Even, to see the commodity to buy in some parts of Nigeria is a Herculean task now. The few filling stations that have fuel in some cities go through hell selling to a usually rowdy crowd of customers who struggle to buy the product in long queues. This has led to high cost of transportation in the affected cities.

The cost of food items is a no-go area. A bag of 50kg rice is about N80,000. This is something that was less than N8,000 as of 2015 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power. Before, garri was seen as a poor man’s food. If you could not afford rice or yam, you were advised to take soaked garri and groundnut. Not anymore. In most parts of Nigeria today, a bottle of groundnut is about N2,000 while a painter of garri is about N3,500. This is not to talk about the price of beans, noodles and many other essential food items. Essentially, current food inflation rate is 40.1 per cent. Headline inflation rate is 33.2 per cent.

Amid this hardship and general downturn in the fortunes of many Nigerians, the government decided to embark on demolition of people’s properties under different guises. Recently in Asokoro district of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nyesom Wike, supervised the demolition of billions of naira worth of property belonging to Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu. Wike was alleged to have wondered aloud why an Igbo man should be given such massive land.

Last Saturday, I watched a trending video of the demolition of a one-storey building in Mende, Maryland area of Lagos. The crying woman who commented on the demolition said the Lagos State Government gave them just two hours to pack out before the bulldozers came. The property of the stranded occupants littered the area. I do not know the reason for the demolition. But throwing families out on the streets in this hard time is devoid of empathy. It is insensitive. Judging from the recent discovery of tenants living under some bridges in Lagos, the Lagos State Government should have known that there is acute shortage of accommodation in the state.   

Well, in the name of building 700 km Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, a part of Landmark Beach on Victoria Island in Lagos, said to be worth about $200 million, was also pulled down recently. Many other properties will follow, including loss of thousands of jobs. Over N15 trillion will be spent on the project, said to have been awarded to Gilbert Chagoury’s Hitech construction company without a competitive bidding.   

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar called it highway to fraud. The presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi, said it was not a priority. He advised the government to rather try and complete some abandoned road projects across the country.

But instead of heeding the advice and reordering its priorities, the government, represented by the Minister of Works, David Umahi, went for Obi’s jugular. Umahi accused him of inciting the Igbo against the Federal Government. I have searched for the ingredients of incitement in Obi’s admonition. I have not seen any.

In any case, this has been the stock-in-trade of some officials of this government. When things get tough, they go ethnic. They did it during the election period, engaged in ethnic profiling of the Igbo and threatened them not to come out and vote or interfere in Lagos politics.

This present government can go to any length to achieve what it wants so long as the selfish interests of some people in the corridors of power are protected. Whatever the poor masses are going through do not bother them. In simple terms, it is a government without human face, without milk of human kindness.

Or, how else do you qualify the justification of the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, for the electricity tariff increase. He said reversing the tariff hike would translate into darkness for the country. Referring to the outstanding debts owed the generating companies (GenCos) and gas companies, he said the Federal Government would require $10 billion annually for the next 10 years to fix the power sector. He ruled out full electricity subsidy, saying the Federal Government only budgeted N450 billion for it this year even when his ministry required over N2 trillion. For the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the interest is more in the profit that will accrue from the tariff hike. By ending subsidy for Band A customers, NERC anticipates to save N1.4 trillion in 2024.  

I don’t blame Adelabu and NERC. Do they realise that many countries still subsidize energy costs to help their citizens? Are they more patriotic than many stakeholders who have called for the reversal of this tariff? Some of them include the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, the Northern Elders Forum, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives.

Do the power brokers in the power sector also know that residents of some communities still tax themselves to provide transformers despite this economic hardship? The estate where I live is a typical example. We provided the two transformers we are currently using and planning to provide a third one. This will cost millions of naira. At the end, the transformers will become the property of Ikeja Electric, our distribution company (DisCo). Customers go as far as buying electric poles and meters which the DisCos appropriate as theirs, with high tariff to boot. Oftentimes, they tell you the national grid has collapsed.  

The principal role of any government is to ensure security and welfare of its citizens. This present government has failed on that score. It keeps impoverishing the poor masses and making rich politicians richer. At most, it throws some crumbs to the people in the name of palliatives or cash transfers to vulnerable people. It keeps borrowing money and mortgaging the future of our children; churning out one bad policy after the other under the guise of taking difficult decisions for the betterment of the country. Many Nigerians have, as a result, become walking corpses. They are disillusioned and they have lost hope. This is wicked, unjust and insensitive.

As the hunter has learnt to shoot without missing, the Eneke bird must learn to fly without perching. My fellow Nigerians, let us learn to switch off our electrical appliances most of the time. Now that we are entering rainy season, we can do without the air conditioner. Once your freezer blocks your food items, put it off. Don’t put on your bulbs in the day time. Only turn it on in the night and switch off immediately you go to bed. If you can afford solar, install it now and let the power from the DisCos be the alternative source of power. We are dealing with a government that has no interest of the masses at heart. The people must, therefore, do everything they can to help themselves.


Re: Corruption, EFCC and validation of NACS

Casmir, no country can eliminate corruption! The best they can do, which we demand, is to significantly reduce it. We have the ‘corruption index performance’ of countries that indicate the ‘degree of corruption’ in countries from the highest (worst) to the least/lowest (best). Corruption is worse in poorer (under-developing and developing) countries than the advanced or rich countries. These countries have a booming or glowing economy and their citizens enjoy social/economic welfare support from their responsible and disciplined governments. Corruption is directly proportional to the level of poverty in the society. Corruption in high places is fuelled by greed, callousness, and the parochial selfish interest of ‘me & my family’ only mentality. Nigerian leaders are the ‘do as I say but not as I do types’. Enough of this hypocrisy! Most individuals with ‘thieftaincy’ titles, sorry chieftaincy titles, don’t deserve them. We must re-evaluate and recalibrate our social value system. How a man/woman attains his or her wealth must matter. It is only proven and accountable wealth that should end insults; for what shall it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul. The love of money is the root of all evils.

-Mike, Mushin, 0816 111 4572

•Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, May 6, 2024

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