Electricity Distribution Companies Inherit A Legacy Of Impunity From PHCN!
I paid a visit to a relation in Ewupe Comminity near Sango, Ogun State this past weekend only to learn that "mama" had gone the CDA meeting in her area...Main agendum: Mobilisation of personnel and funds to appease the "ogas of NEPA" in their office! And may I ask why?....I quipped.
The reply was no less confounding as it was unbelievable: Field workers of the IBADAN ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY under whose jurisdiction the community fell came for a verification exercise regarding the settling of customer bills. They also distributed more of such inflated bills at the same time based on random estimates and not out of any empirical metering of actual power consumption. Also dubiously factored into such bills were debts allegedly owed by customers to NEPA and PHCN, the progenitors of the new company. Plus another dubious N750 "service charge"!
So, these were not ordinary bills. Naturally, a debate ensued which metamorphosed into an argument, so I learnt... Enraged customers issued threats equally matched by those of the operatives who reported the incident to their "oga" at the office. And what did the oga do? He simply ordered that power supply be cut off "with immediate effect" not just from the house in question....not just from that street....but from the entire community by removing the fuse in the transformer!
Ordinarily, when PHCN was privatized, one would expect that the new owners inherit both assets and liabilities of the enterprise! So, why transfer such debts to hapless customers in a "take it or go to hell" fashion? Why act with such blatant impunity? Because the new companies are monopolies? For it is only in monopolies that sellers can tell buyers...."go away, I am not selling!"
What has happened to decorous treatment of the customer? Or the basic rules of marketing, customer wooing and customer appeasement? Has basic civilzed behaviour gone aslumber? Mark you, Nigerians levy themselves to provide all electricity infrastructure: Communities mobilize members to pool funds to buy poles, cables, transformers, and even have to pay corrupt officials to energize these infrastructure!
The level of impunity demonstrated by these officials is unbelievable.....the extortion unheralded! Now I wonder: Would the manager in question have acted so irresponsibly if the company had been his personally? Would he not have taken steps to pacify the customer and address his grouse?
Would someone remind this irresponsible manager that the company now belongs to private owners and "it cannot be business as usual"? This company provides very abysmal service... Ruining businesses, destroying our electrical and electronic equipment....and perishables in our homes! Is it not high time we started suing these undesirable elements?
Dr Tosin Akindele is a Lagos-based medical practitioner, founder of Analytical Minds, good health advocate and social critic.