Pini Jason

May 29, 2012

Power, generator mafia and political will

Power, generator mafia and political will

President Goodluck Jonathan

By Pini Jason
A WEEK ago, I read a story in a newspaper that I found very interesting. Nigerian traders in Ghana were appealing to the Federal Government to intervene on their behalf over Ghana’s refusal for them to sell generators in Ghana.

If Ghana does not want Nigerians to sell generators in their country it is because every country has the right to make laws, and enforce it, for the good of its people.

If you recall, when Ghana struck oil in commercial quantity, the first statement former President of Ghana, John Kuffour, made was that Ghana will not make the same mistake Nigeria made with her oil wealth. So Ghana has taken steps that will lead it away from our dubious petrol subsidy rot.

Niger Republic has taken similar resolution and even went ahead to build a refinery targeted at Nigeria, instead of importing what it should be exporting!

Nigeria today suffers from the curse of oil. The more money we make, the more Nigerians fall below the poverty line and the more we suffer from infrastructure deficit!

We have fought a civil war, we have suffered Niger Delta militancy and now we are aping Somalia, all because of the curse of oil. So any sensible nation would be right to avoid the perilous and slippery road that our oil has led us.

It seems that our oil mistake is not the only thing Ghana wants to avoid. It appears Ghana does not want to develop a culture of running its economy on generators.

That makes sense. I said it way back in the seventies when the electricity situation was not even as bad as it is today, that to solve our power problem, we should BAN the use of all generators (except for those used in manholes) starting from the State House.

I believed then, and I believe so now, that unless we are all affected equally by the torture of PHCN, there would not be a solution to our power woes.

PHCN’s immoral action

How can any President appreciate how bad the situation is if he does not know when the State House is on public power, generator or inverter source? How can those entrusted to solve our power problem be doing so using two automatic soundproof generators to power their homes or offices?

Is it not immoral to find PHCN offices powered by generators? What of some PHCN offices using candles and lanterns? If all of us, Heads of State, Governors, Ministers, Industrialists and the advocates for the masses had raised our voices against NEPA then, things would not have degenerated to the sorry state we are today!

We would have all known that industries were closing down because of NEPA and jobs were being lost; we would have all known that using generators was adding to our costs; we would have known that our economy was running aground because of NEPA.

It is my firm belief that the introduction of the generator culture as a relief worsened our case. What was supposed to be a temporary relief became a permanent solution. Generators were a mere placebo that gave us phony relief. And because we did not fight the scourge, we created a monster that is preying on the present valiant effort to give Nigeria steady power.

That monster is the generator mafia. Nigerians glibly talk about the billions of dollars poured into the power sector with nothing to show for it. Don’t they know why? Have people who say so forgotten the ignoble role of the workers in the power sector and their incessant strikes? Has anybody tried to find out why a nation with so much gas that we flare it cannot generate power due to lack of gas?

Have we asked why every time there is a glimmer of improvement, the gas pipelines supplying the power stations are vandalised? Have we pondered the possibility of mischief by vested interests that benefit from the present condition? Have we considered the effect of steady power on those who sell generators? Do we have anything in our plans for uninterrupted power to deal with possible sabotage by generator mafia?

Lesson for govt

Why do Nigerian traders in Ghana want a Federal Government crippled by the generator culture to intercede on their behalf? Is it so that they can hook Ghanaians unto the generator culture and divert their focus from proper planning for electricity power? Is it so that Ghanaians can waste their oil wealth on generators? Is it so that a generator mafia can emerge in Ghana and hold the nation to ransom?

One lesson our government must learn is how to nip a deviance in the bud timely and firmly. Our problem today is that we are taking liberty for licence! Nigeria is in a state of near anarchy.

During the two years of Morarji Desai’s Janata Party rule in India (1977-1979), things went so bad that onions were being sold in black market. Onion mafia emerged to prey on the poor masses of Indian. When Indira Gandhi returned to power she dealt with the scourge the very firm way Gen. Buhari dealt with foreign exchange racketeers and drug pushers.

The method was a bit unorthodox, that even lawyers who came to India police stations to bail arrested onion mafia, were asked to go behind the counter! But it worked for India. Here we make so much noise about our problems but lack the will to deal with them because, in the first place, we are very, very ambivalent about dealing with our problems.

Many aspects of our national life are today plagued by criminals. We must step out and deal with them. That is the raison d’eter of a government.

Learning from terrorism

SINCE the 9/11 attack, America has changed the way it lives and the way things are done in America. America has also changed the way we live. For example, travellers are today stripped naked at airports. It is difficult to do business today in America without a credit or debit card that tracks your activity. You cannot pay for a hotel accommodation with cash or check in without presenting a photo identity. You cannot enter any public building without a photo ID, even if you work there, even if the security guy there knows you!

There must be a record that you entered the building at a particular time. In many nations today, they have developed systems that make it possible to zero in on criminals with the aid of finger prints and Close Circuit Television and can identify a criminal in less than 24 hours. And some of these systems require no more than entering the head of the criminal, thinking differently and merely shuffling an existing system around to fit the new criminal trend!

I have been watching our response to terrorism since the last few years. Today one thing the authorities have repeatedly said, without realising how ridiculous, is that the terrorists should identify themselves!

Haba! Such a call points to systemic failure. We are installing CCTVs in Abuja, which we do not know whether they work or, in typical Nigerian way, will ever work.

I take it that once Abuja, where our big men live, is safe the rest of the country does not matter. We have conducted SIM cards registration that is almost ending in the same scandalous way as the national ID card.

The best answer we have today against terrorism is to block off roads and divert traffic away from police stations and sensitive public buildings. Is the current experience not enough to teach us to begin to re-think so many things we are currently doing wrong? Our public buildings today are constructed without adequate car parks away from sensitive buildings. Vehicles litter vicinities of our sensitive public buildings, not only attracting indiscriminate parking but making it possible today for terrorists to head straight at such buildings. We must now rethink our public building plans to minimise terror attacks.

Car parks, like the Marina car park in Lagos, should be located away from public buildings, with a system that can identify those who use them.

For the big men who cannot, like their counterparts elsewhere, walk a few meters to their offices, floors of car parks can be built under their offices and they must be properly identified. Hotels can have a few floors of parks underground for identified customers only.

We must not continue to tolerate habits of deviance such as driving against traffic or using negative gangways.

From now on such must be regarded as a serious security breach no matter how highly placed the offender. Unfortunately our security people and big men are guilty of this serious breach.

The greatest offence you can commit in a US airport since 9/11 is to drive in reverse. If you do, you attract security attention!

If a man is driving against the traffic or is trying to enter a public building through an exit gate, that is odd and should alert us that he is up to no good! If a man insists on driving into a restricted area, that is enough security breach and he must be arrested! And please, people, those policemen guarding their own premises should be more alert.

I see some of them on sentry duty reading newspapers or buying and eating food while on duty. There used to be things you never did while in uniform, let alone while on sentry duty!

 From My Mail Bag


I READ your piece in the Vanguard of today (22nd May) and your points were quite understood. However, my problem with your submissions is that you have not done justice to the General because you did not hear him directly. You solely depended on what non-Hausa reporters wrote about the said statement made by the General.

You would have done yourself and your readers some good if you had  listened to him directly or gone down to Kaduna or Abuja to meet him one-on-one so that your perception of the matter will be first-hand. Relying on others, especially mischievous journalists, to make your assertions is faulty and conclusions drawn there from are wrong.

For the avoidance of doubt, General Muhammadu Buhari did not say there will be bloodshed in 2015 if the election is rigged! What he did say was that THE ELECTION OF 2015 WILL BE FIERCE AND THAT IF THE ELECTION IS RIGGED, THEN PDP WILL NOT HAVE IT EASY AND WILL HAVE A FIERCE BATTLE! Please be just in what you report.

Thank you very much.

Jauro Bose Hammadu.