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Hooligans in government

By Tonnie Iredia

On Tuesday July 17 2012, Governor Fashola of Lagos State publicly scolded, two military officers for driving on the dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane in Marina, Lagos. Many people who commented on the story condemned the conduct of the officers and expressed delight that the Governor did not allow them to get away with the offence. I agree with the sentiments.

However, I am unable to agree with those who saw the episode as a reflection of the conduct of a typical military operative thereby indicting our Armed Forces as a whole.  Such a general condemnation is not only unfair to the large number of decent military personnel in the country but also misses the real issue at stake.

It is simplistic to see what the military officers did as a reflection of the behavior of a typical soldier when in reality it is that of the average member of a society which has a high level of indiscipline.  It is indeed a common feature in the daily lives of Nigerians who are all involuntarily impatient on a permanent basis. This is why each time a hold-up occurs on any Nigerian road which is usually a one-lane road; it would suddenly develop into no less than eight lanes.

If per chance it happens to be one of our handful of four-lane roads commonly called express, about 16 lanes would be formed in the twinkle of an eye making it exceedingly difficult to determine at a traffic hold-up, which vehicles that are facing each other are going to which direction. Thus, what Governor Fashola did on that fateful day, was to stop the military officers from opening up one of the imaginary lanes.

Following the Governor’s pledge that he would ensure a strict compliance with the BRT scheme, many people are probably looking forward to seeing him take time-off occasionally to deal with lawless road users as he did with the officers. If the Governor harkens to their expectation, our fear is that he may eventually discover that he has entered into an endless game.

One thing which is certain is that he would catch many offenders by the day because the indiscipline of the misuse of our roads is at par with that of corruption and both are perhaps two sides of a game that virtually everyone plays well in Nigeria.

CAUGHT IN THE ACT…Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, (right) asking Colonel K. I. Yusuf why he drove on the BRT lane at Outer Marina in Lagos on Tuesday, 17th July

In other words, the more, a culprit is caught, the more are those standing by to try their luck. We just hope that the Governor would not be broken hearted the day he finds the culprit to be the entourage of his deputy. We are however encouraged by his firm stand which suggests that some sanity may come to Lagos roads shortly.

Oh yes, it is likely to happen in Lagos but where else?  Anyone who has Abuja in mind would need to think twice. This is because despite the city’s numerous wide lanes, there are big but lawless men who now and again violently push the rest of us – commoners – off the road, to enable them arrive at their destination in a new Olympic Games record time for car racing.

Sometimes, the environmental noise caused by sirens and the recklessness of official vehicle drivers still occur even when the big men are not in the vehicles. Thus in Abuja as in some other cities, there are many undesirable elements in government who show that they are in power not only on the roads, but through a number of diversified channels. This appears to be the best way to visualize the alleged display of hooliganism in Government House Ado Ekiti about a month ago.

According to uncontroverted media reports, two Managers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Ado-Ekiti were manhandled by one of the aides of the Ekiti State governor and some security men attached to the Government House in Ado Ekiti.

The Managers -Messrs, Julius Ige, in charge of Marketing and Ilori Kayode  Brown, Head of Public Relations – were reportedly abducted in the night of Friday June 29 and ‘brutally’ held till 1.15am of the next day because PHCN disconnected power supply to the Government House over repeatedly demanded but  unpaid electricity bills.

PHCN claimed that before the power supply to government house was disconnected, it wrote to the state Commissioner of Police and the Director of the State Security Service, informing them of the plan to cut electricity supply to the place. The company also claimed that the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) the ruling party in the state was similarly notified. The story was not denied by any of the three sources.

An unnamed official of the state government who reportedly denied the accusation that the PHCN Managers were manhandled, was however silent on their late night forceful arrest by non-law enforcement personnel of the state government.

The explanation by the unnamed spokesman that the state government was not indebted to the PHCN having cleared a lot of debts inherited from its predecessor; did not address the charge of unpaid N15 million debt representing four months of electricity supplied to the state government.

An immediate commentary in this column on the subject was stalled by the reaction of the opposition political party in the state which tended to politicize the subject. We had also hoped that the government would quickly redress its behaviour.

But with silence as the preferred option after one month, it is time to pronounce our concurrence with those who think that the state government officials involved in the fracas are not better than hoodlums and to also become more apprehensive of the call for state police. The supply of electricity to anybody including government involves a contract of service in which one of the contracting parties should not be physically subjugated by the other.

Disputations by the parties can only in a democracy be resolved through the due process of law and not through brigandage. Governor Kayode Fayemi by training and disposition knows these principles better than the rest of us making it regretful that the conflict came out of his Ekiti state. We just hope, Fayemi has quietly resolved it because the episode should not happen even in a state like Bauchi that is overwhelmed by thousands of idle special assistants.

For enlightened Ekiti, it is completely deplorable.  We therefore call on the state government if it has not done so, to pay its debt, apologise to the PHCN for the wrongful imprisonment and manhandling of their two Managers and most importantly discipline its officials who perpetrated the shameful act.

It is however important to also underscore PHCN’s contributory negligence in the matter. This is because, if the company had taken advantage of technology and installed pre-paid metres for all its customers, to owe it would have been virtually impossible since the supply of electricity would have rested on the inanimate option of how much credit is in a metre at any point .  We hope that the new owners of PHCN would move to premise its management on best practices in its industry.


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