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Opinion

Bill Or Power Distribution?

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Over the years, one
pandemic that has consistently tortured the Nigerian environment is the epileptic power supply. Nigerians have desired, dreamed and imagined when the there will be normalcy in its power system. Electricity is one vital social infrastructure that has eluded the society for a very long time.
Different administrations have come up with different unrealistic measures or speeches rather, one how to improve the electric power system in the country.
From information which are verifiable, it is gathered that the privatization of this sector has helped so many countries to stand on their feet. Little wonder then why the Nigerian factor is defeling solution. But one thing worthy of note here is that privatization in other countries has been total and genuine hence the positive results.
The Nigerian Society is always good at copying but the wrong and negative side of the copy. When the Federal government came up with the idea of disbanding the P.H.C.N and handing over the function to different distribution, many thought that the long awaited relief has finally came but unfortunately the evil drugs are yet to be over.
The first pointer to the fact that nothing good may come out of Nazeret is when the handing over of the PHCN duties and functions to these distribution includes the laying off of the workers, thus presenting the government that boasted of creating jobs as a generator of unemployment.
In progressing economies, the presence of multiple operators in a sector naturally triggers competition which will pave way or metamorphous into efficiency for better and enhanced productivity.
The Nigerian situation is a far cry from the above. What we have here is a compendium of operators with just one target; ‘to maximize profit with no service vendered’.
The multiple distribution was created so as to give room for healthy competition, and making allowance for choices among consumers. This was since to be achieved by these companies first working on the renovation and upgrading of facilities in their domain or area of operation so that when this improvement in service delivery gets to the consumers it will be easier and simple convincing them to reciprocate with an increased tariff.
What is obtainable today is a situation where the tariff rises astronomically without any complimenting improvement. The estimated bill system which is a complete fraud now goes for about 10,000 naira. To 30,000 as against 4,000 in the past.
The metering which is the ideal one authentic recording method for electric power consumption has been completely thrown overboard. No power company official visits any house to access the meter any more. Bills are indiscriminately calculated and written at the discretion of whoever heads a station.
The only thing that is done perfectly and with extreme vigour is the distribution of unacceptable and fraudulent Bills to every nooks and crannies of the town including uncompleted and unoccupied  buildings. The question is: Are these companies meant to distribute electricity or just the Bills? Perhaps the answer will help us appreciate them better.
In my own opinion, I would like to suggest that for better service delivery in the area of electricity distribution, these distribution companies must make a radical departure from the dormant old system of the former power providing companies (NEPA & PHCN). This they could do by seeing to the updating and upgrading of electrical facilities like cables (high tension and step down) poles etc on regular periodic basis.
Provision and maintenance of Transformers Compulsory and timely installation of metres to every house as well as regular and consistent reading of the metres so as to check for proper power consumption and also replacement of faulty metres. They should also work out modalities of assisting in the generation of megawatts.
When these and may be others have been put into place and the desired “constant” power achieved, then the increment in tariff can be welcomed by the consumers.

 

Rollingstone Francis

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Opinion

Need To Maintain Our Institutions

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Nigeria is a sovereign nation and all hands must be on deck to maintain its sovereignty. To achieve this, a number of infrastructural developement must be put in place. The ideology of sovereignty of any nation is to make things possible for the citizens. Since Independence till date there has been slow pace of development in the country. This is as a result of nonchalant attitude of the leaders in government and some citizens when projects are awarded for execution. Often times, when it comes to solving problems for the masses what you hear is that there is no political will to enforce the policy. One wonders the kind of political will our leaders need before things are put in place. The deposit of mineral resources in the land of Nigeria is a good omen for national development.
The education sector has been drifting from its original aims and objectives. This is because the system is no longer meeting the expectations of the nation. In any sovereign nation, education is the door way of achieving purposeful development. Through research works in education, other sectors are managed effectively and efficiently. The falling standard of education caused by neglect of the sector has caused emigration of Nigerian students to neighbouring nations, thereby, denying our educational institutions funds to upgrade their facilities. Today, most of the leaders and well-to-do in Nigeria send their children and wards to Ghana, the US and the UK for university education.
It is true that no nation is an island. But that does not mean we should abandon our country for foreign facilities.
Indeed, the power or energy sector is one of the sectors begging for massive improvement and upgrading of facilities. The federal government has said so much about improvement of power in the country. Yet no meaningful achievement has been recorded. And if the government is ready to improve power in Nigeria, there is no need for the federal government to budget for generators for Aso Rock or government buildings. That is suspicious! In Nigeria, generators have taken over the power sector. And so each time generators are mentioned in the budget there is need for doubt. Over the years, Nigerians have been complaining of poor power supply in the country. And to many the cry against epileptic electricity supply is waste of time. All the processing and manufacturing industries use electricity from generators to power their machines. But in some countries of the world there is constant supply for decades. No wonder some companies are relocating to neighboring countries where electricity supply is relatively constant. Recently, there was bidding for electricity facilities in the country. There is no need for further delay in ensuring efficiency in the power sector. Therefore, power should not be toyed with, if Nigeria wants to be one of the biggest economies in the world. Everyone needs electricity in Nigeria.
Nigeria has been known as a developing nation for many years now and has not achieved tangible development, due to some nefarious activities of some persons in government and outside government. Nigeria has a wide road network but yet the roads in the country are in deplorable state, which gives room for questions. Nigerians enjoy pot holes-free roads in UK, the US and other nations of the world. But when road projects are awarded to some of them to construct as it is done in foreign nations, some siphon the funds or use poor quality materials to construct roads in the country. Today our federal roads are begging for reconstruction and rehabilitation, because they are very bad. And those who do the shoddy jobs are applauded and more multimillion projects are awarded to them to continue the bad jobs. Something has to be done to stop the ugly trend of events in the country. Because the roads are bad, motorists take the opportunity to charge commuters heavily. This also has led to high cost of commodities and has weakened the purchasing power of many Nigerians . Indeed, most of the staple foods we eat in the country are imported from foreign nations. For instance, Nigeria depends on imported rice till date when there are arable lands for rice farming in the country. Abakaliki rice is still under peasant farming system till today because government has not taken any proactive measure to improve rice farming in the country. There is need for concerted effort by all to change the state of things in the country.
Health for all has been a long time slogan which no one wants to sing or recite again because of the inability of the government to deliver health services to the people. It is still very sad to hear that Nigerians can only get better medical treatment abroad. Why? Nigeria has the resources that could make her health system the best in the world. Today, cancer screening machine is rare to come by in the country. Few months ago there was outbreak of Lassa fever in some states of the nation. And it was a difficult task to get treatment, because the machine to screen a victim’s blood sample is only in Benin. And it was reported that Lassa fever was first noticed before independence of our dear nation.
Indeed, today we fund foreign health system and they keep on growing faster than ours. Almost every government functionary receives his or her medical check up abroad. That is why our health sector is dying even when we have professionals to make it work. It is high time our leaders pondered anew to change some things. The national and state assemblies should enact laws that should make the government to improve its facilities. Over dependence on foreign institutions when we need to improve and develop the ones we have is a serious threat to democracy. Therefore, there is need for government at all levels to embark on an aggressive campaign on infrastructural development in the nation. Nigerians can enjoy the best if there is honesty and selfless service to humanity.
Ogwuonuonu wrote in from Port Harcourt.

 

By: Frank Ogwuonuonu

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Opinion

EFCC And Abia’s Rot

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Is Abia State on the verge of having two of its former governors cool off in prison? With the ongoing investigation of Senator Theodore Orji, who governed the state from 2007 to 2015 over an allegation that he diverted N521 billion from the state to his personal use by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), it seems that may probably be the case.
According to the anti-graft agency, on March 17, 2017, a group, Fight Corruption: Save Nigeria Group, filed a petition accusing the former governor of withdrawing N500 million monthly as security vote from the state’s treasury during his eight years in office; diverting N383 billion revenue from the Federation Account, N55 billion Excess Crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P revenue, N1.8 billion ecological funds, N10.5 billion loan, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan, and N55 billion ASOPADEC money while in office.
According to the petition, the N500 million the former governor allegedly withdrew monthly was “not part of the security funds expended on the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army, DSS, Navy, anti-kidnapping squad, anti-robbery squad, purchase of security equipment and vehicles for the security agencies.”
Also accused is the son of the former governor and current Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Chinedum Orji, who is said to own about 100 accounts in different banks, accounts that received “so much deposit in cash without evidence of job or services rendered”.
Add this mind-blowing amount of money to the N7.65 billion stolen by his former boss and predecessor, Dr Orji Kalu, which had earned him 12 years imprisonment and you will understand why Abia State is in its present pitiable situation.
Arguably, the most popular city in Abia State is Aba. Residents of the city are renowned for their enterprising spirit and commercial endeavours, making it one of Nigeria’s foremost commercial hubs. Some call it Nigeria’s China. Yet, most of the roads in the city are in deplorable condition. Some of the roads, like Port Harcourt Road, had been abandoned for many years. People living around this area continue to tell pitiable stories of how difficult it is for them to move in and out of their homes for their business and other daily activities, especially during the rainy season. The situation is the same in many other parts of the city. In many areas, the drainage systems are blocked by waste which litters almost all the city.
With the heavy commercial activities going on daily in Aba comes heavy waste. Incidentally, over the years, improper management of these wastes has posed a great challenge for the government. Anybody that goes to Aba or passes through there to other places in the country will agree that waste has become a permanent feature of the city, especially at the various markets. Roads and streets are littered with all manner of waste and the entire environment is polluted with stench from the gutters and the rubbish.  During the administration of the immediate-past governor, Theodore Orji, Aba became the dirtiest city in Nigeria and even found a place among the list of worst places to live in the world.
Yet, billions of Naira meant for development of the state was allegedly pocketed by a few individuals. If a small fraction of the loot was used to provide incinerators in Aba to cater for the huge volume of waste, would the city not have been better than the pigsty it is today? What if a percentage of the money was used to tackle erosion, flooding and other hazards that occur annually in the state which has led to the loss of valuable properties? What if a little sum of the money was channeled to road construction, repair and maintenance of the numerous bad roads across the state? Indeed, there are plenty of things that would have been done with the massive loot which would have impacted so much on the people.
It is, therefore, hoped that the EFCC will expedite action on this particular case and bring father and son to book if found guilty. In addition to serving the constitutional punishment for the offences, they should also be made to return the looted funds which should be used to address the infrastructural deficit in the state.
The anti-graft agency should also beam its searchlight on other states of the country so as to fish out all the “Kalus and Orjis” that may have milked or are still milking their states dry to the detriment of the citizens. The rate of looting and embezzlement, not only among the state chief executives, but at different sectors of our economy, is so scary and disturbing that one wonders what becomes of the future of our states and the country in general if nothing is done to check it now.
Some have said that one big issue we have in the country today is the security votes that are not accounted for. There can be no better truth thant that. Some greedy, selfish governors are using it as an excuse to siphon the treasury and impoverish the people.  It is difficult to understand why you should take tax payers’ money as the person in charge of the state’s affairs and don’t deem it necessary to give account to the people who own the money.
For donkey years we have claimed to be fighting corruption in this country, yet there is nothing to show for it. Rather, the situation seems to be worsening by the day. People no longer see corruption as a wrong doing but as a way of life. That’s why some people are castigating EFCC for investigating Orji and his son, labeling the action as a witch hunt, politically-motivated act and all manner of sentiments.
Corruption is now a systematic issue and the sooner we devised a more effective way of dealing with it systematically, the better for us.  We need to build the integrity of the citizens. Integrity is what will make a governor, lawmaker, president or anybody for that matter, to always ask himself two important questions before taking any action: am l doing the right thing? am l doing it right? Once we can get many Nigerians reason this way, corruption will be stemmed.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Corruption As Police Albatross

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For sometime now, the clamour for the establishment of a state – owned police or community police has continued to ring like a bell. So much debates and arguements about this in the media have attracted reasonable public attention which inversely, necessitated this humble reaction.
We can no longer sit on the fence watching our government or policy makers fabricating policies or legislations that are detrimental to our interest and development.
It is very interesting to note that so much fascinating and constructive arguments have been bandied since the debate about state police came up. Most schools of thought, especially the right-wingers, see it as a welcome development. They see it as a way of increasing the strength of the traditional federal police to stem the menace of social vices and insecurity that is plaguing and holding the nation to ransom in recent time, especially the Boko Haram insurgence.
Even as the creation of state police is being seen as a way of creating job opportunities for our youth, it is also being favoured for its potentials to bring efficiency and service delivery as a result of its closeness and familiarity with the terrain of the state or area of jurisdictions.
Fundamentally, we acknowledge that every criminal comes from a state, local government, community and village and we also believe holistically that only the fellow kinsmen that can do proper identification and make arrest of such persons or group of persons that perpetrate crimes.
However, in the eyes of many other people, especially the left wingers, the idea is viewed with skeptism and stiff criticism. Arguably, the idea, according to this school of thought, is believed to be politically-motivated.
In another development, mostly in the cause of this debate, several resolutions and opinions came up on this all important institution. Due to reasons that bother on incompetence, misbehaviour, recklessness etc, some reasonable per centage voted for a complete or total scraping of the system. Others advocated for a change of name from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to Nigeria Police (NP) with the “Force” completely removed. Meanwhile, an in-depth overhauling of the entire system is also opined by a good number of people.
As far as I am concerned, the antidote to security problems in Nigeria is not about nomenclature or change of police uniform or establishing community or state police as many have argued. The act that brought about the formation of the police force was carefully designed for the purpose of enforcing the law and to prevent crimes in the society.
In view of the prevailing security situation in the country, it is absolutely and necessarily paramount to turn the nation’s satellite on the police institution and other security agencies by way of identifying their challenges and rectifying them through a proactive approach.
The biggest problem of every facet of the Nigerian institution is the big monster called corruption! This is what is responsible for our failing economy, education, judiciary, agriculture, the police, the Army and virtually every area of our life as a nation.
Corruption has now taken the place of our National Anthem that could be sung in every office without shame. Greed breeds corruption and corruption brings about failing economy while failing economy breeds under –development. It is a chain reaction. This is the problem of our police force and not by establishing community or state police.
The trend of corruption in the police force is mostly from the top to the lowest rank. Imagine where it is boldly written at the respective police stations that “bail is free” only to discover that it is absolutely not free in practical term. Who is fooling who? If distress or emergency call to the police could not be responded to promptly, then what are we talking about? Every corrupt practice must always find a way to defend and justify its act. This is what goes on in Nigeria.
In another way, who will control the said state police if established? Is it not the governors or State governments that will cater for their welfare? He who pays the piper dictates the tune. It will be more disastrous than what is happening now, especially in this political era where winning an election is a do-or-die affair.
Before now, the Nigeria Police were reckoned with and rated very high with dignifying honour as a result of their efficiency, hard work and straight-forwardness. This image had earned us global recognition and accolade such that Nigeria Police had played leadership role in international community and organizations. How, and when did things go wrong?
It is a clear fact that we still have gallant policemen in service. They are just unfortunate to be corrupted by the system.
The solution, therefore, is by waging a total war on corruption in all ramifications and not engage in any superfluous transformation of the force. The war should start from the top police hierarchy (Police Service Commission) down to the lowest rank.
Good legislation that can make the police independent and also redefine its operations are required to strengthen and protect it from incessant hijack by the power brokers. In fact, what we need is a complete rebranding with the golden aim of fighting corruption in the police.
Hon. Tordee (JP), a Public Affairs Analyst, lives in Port Harcourt

 

By: Manson Tordee

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