Help! I’m Being Robbed


I woke up on a normal day with special thanks to God for making that day. My wife got my daughter Fejiro prepared for me to take, on my way to work, to the Day Care. Then as usual, the reminders began.

“Sweetheart, please remember to take the extra dispenser water bottle for refill. The extra gas bottle is also due for refill”.

“Ok, any other 'refill' tasks for today my dear?”

“I'll also need some money to buy fuel for my car to go to the market and take Serome (our 2-month old son) to see the Paediatrician because I observed a slight increase in his temperature last night. Thereafter I'll go to the market to buy foodstuff and provisions”.

“So like how much are we talking about here?”

“Let's say N25,000. N15,000 for the market, N7,000 for the paediatrician and N3,000 for fuel”.

“Well, your estimate is fair. Here's the ATM card and I hope I'll not be alerted of any withdrawal more than the agreed 25K”. I was relieved that there was no financial demand for a visit to the beauty saloon this time.

“I hope you've put the two jerrycans for the purchase of fuel and diesel in your booth. You know the fuel generator cannot power the washing machine and I've laundry work to do”.

“No problem, I'll buy the fuel and diesel. I'm running late”.

As I was driving to work, I was getting irritated by the constant repetition of some avoidable and senseless costs that one has to contend with all the time. I mean fuelling my car is a normal expense, but carrying two jerrycans to buy fuel and diesel for two different generators in the same house; all due to PHCN's ineptitude is crazy. My phone rang to jolt me from my thoughts and it was my wife.

“You said I should remind you about the DSTV and internet subscriptions”.

“Ok, thanks for the reminder. I'll see what I can do today”.

I had to take a bad shortcut to drop Fejiro off in order to beat traffic on the normal route. I also had to wade through a ditch that put a big hole in my exhaust pipe, which naturally changed the sound of the engine to a deafening noise. So much for shortcuts!

After settling in the office, I called my mechanic Jimoh to come and take the car to the panel-beater to rectify the earlier damage to the exhaust.

“Oga abeg come see something. U see say no be only your exhaust dey blow. See your engine oil dey throway. Your bottom-plate don burst. So you go drop like N5,000 first”.

I exclaimed “for wetin na?”

“Oga e be like say you never understand the work wey dey here. D panel-beater go loose the full exhaust, me self go loose your bottom-plate go give welder. The N5,000 self na advance O! U go still balance me when I don finish work”

Reluctantly and fuming to myself, “all these bad road wahala!”, I parted with the money since I could not abandon my office to go and sit in a mechanic workshop, where I can still be tricked under my very eyes.

“Oya take the N5,000 but I no wan hear tori say dem no do the work well because na you I go hold”.

“Oga you no trust me again? I don dey work for you for 8 years now O”.

After about three hours, the mechanic came back with the car to ask for a balance of N2,500 and in a rage, I sought to know why I should pay any extra money.

“Pay you N2,500 for wetin again? Wetin you do just now wey be N7,500 all together? Abeg I take God beg you, no make me vex”.

“Bros, the matter never reach to vex. I tell you before say panel-beater and welder go work and we must pay them before you go talk of my own. If I wan chop your money, you no go fit do anything sef because you no go fit know. If you wan vex, make you vex for your gofment wey dey increase price everyday. No be my fault, pay me my money o jare”.

“Oya abeg make I give you N1,000 make I fit get money buy fuel”.

“Bros na N1,500 I fit take last”.

“Ok, take but I no wan hear say the thing still wahala me later sha”.

I decided to use my lunchtime to buy fuel and diesel from a nearby filling station. I noticed the meter reading an earlier purchase of N600 with a displayed rate of N65, which I doubted was real because it was an independent marketer filling station.

“O boy try zero your meter first and how much una dey sell?”

“If I no zero am, you no go buy? Our own na N90 per litre”.

“Why you go sell N90? Sebi Refinery don dey produce?”.

“Why you no go the Refinery go buy? Or try go Total Filling Station where dem dey sell N65 per litre”.

When I remembered the long queue I just drove past at the said Total Filling Station, I decided to buy at N90 per liter, so I could have time for other things and be back at the office on time.

“Abeg sell 30 litres inside this jerrycan and put 50 litres inside the car. I go still need 30 litres of diesel”.

“Oga your total money na N10,350, the diesel na N105 per litre”.

“But I buy diesel N95 per litre 2 weeks ago?”

“Oga you dey make me laugh. At times we dey even sell diesel N125 per litre, so you even get luck today”.

“Una get cooking gas and how much?”

“Oga gas na N4,000 now O!”

“Jesus! You can't be serious! I buy gas N3,000 the last time. Wetin happen?”

“Abeg I no know O! Kerosene sef dey scarce. I don send my wife and children go village, make dem go dey use firewood. Dis country? Bros abeg pay make I attend to another customer”.

I still had enough time to go to the DSTV Friendship Centre to pay my N4,500 monthly subscription before going to the office of my internet ISP to pay my subscription that was almost due.

“Sir this is N4,500 and not N6,500. There's no package of N4,500 anymore. We notified you through text message some weeks ago of this increment”. It was the female customers' service officer.

“I did not receive any text message. Please let me see your manager, I can't understand this. You're not the only ISP in Warri, so I may migrate to another network if this increment gist is real”.

I quickly put a call to a friend who told me I'd better stick to my ISP because his own ISP increased his rate by N3,000 against mine of N2,000 and he was even thinking of migrating to my ISP. My ISP manager came forth after I hung up.

“Good sir, how may I help you?” “Yes I've just been informed of your increment. What could be responsible for this increment?”

“Sir, our cost of operations is increasing rapidly due to the worsening electricity situation in the country. I mean it doesn't give us any pleasure to increase the cost of services to our valued customers like you. Please bear with us. A big chunk of our income goes into the purchase of diesel and the servicing of generators”.

“This is really bad! I can't point any area anymore where I can confidently say that I'm positively feeling the impact of government. I mean I pay N1,500 per month for civil defence in my neighbourhood. I buy drinking water. I pay unholy pilgrimages to the mechanics because of bad roads. Jerrycans have become part of my car accessories. The list goes on and on”.

“I''m so sorry sir. It's not our fault you know. We're all affected one way or the other”.

“Yea I know. Ok, I'll pay because I need this service to keep in touch with the world”.

Just after paying, I received a second alert of N10,000 withdrawal, after an earlier of one of the agreed N25,000 via ATM when I know that the card is with my wife. Of course I called her immediately to inquire about the breach of domestic agreement.

“I don't want hear any excuses, we agreed you were not withdrawing more than N25,000. Do you want me to go bankrupt?”.

“Please sweetheart, take it easy. N25,000 was an estimate but I've been meeting with so many unexpected increments today. Let's save the phone credit till we get home when I'll explain better”.

“Ok, till we get home then. See you!”.

“Wait a minute! Please don't forget to buy another rechargeable lamp for the children's room. The one you bought 2 days ago is no longer working. I love you, bye for now”.

I then recollected that I'd bought over a dozen rechargeable lamps of all sorts of shapes, sizes, prices and colours to complement the fuel and diesel generators. I mean I've a small museum of rechargeable lamps in my house, all because PHCN has deliberately refused to live up to expectations of the citizenry. I even had a fatal accident in December 2008 on my way to drop a generator mechanic who died alongside a truck-pusher I ran into. The little money I was saving to acquire an inverter is now being depleted by an unexplainable season of commodity price increments.

Question: Is electricity too much for a freeborn citizen of a nation to expect from his government?

On my way back from work, I met with a black-and-black police checkpoint where one officer flagged me down. I courteously greeted him, hoping he would just tell me to move on.

“Officer well done O! How the work?”

“Park well, come down, open your booth and show me your particulars”.

“Okay sir, you've seen the booth; here are my particulars”.

“Oga wey your proof of ownership, police clearance and certificate of road worthiness?”.

“Officer haba! Shebi una ogas them talk am say make we dey show una only vehicle license, drivers' license and insurance?”.

“Eheen! You wan prove law? You be lawyer? Ok, you go follow us go station to teach us how to do our work. Oya give me yours keys. In fact, I'm suspecting this your vehicle is a stolen car”.

I crossed over to the other side of the road to explain things to an elderly inspector whom I presumed was in charge of the team. Lo and behold, his response had an obvious egunje connotation.

“Just settle with the boys make you fit quick reach house instead make them carry your moto go station”.

“But you neva hear wether I commit any offence or not. All my papers correct, ask your officer”.

“Wey the other papers wey hin ask for?”

“See them for here”.

“Then why you come dey wan quote law? Oya bring N1,000 make we free you, as you don make us waste time on your case, otherwise you go still reach the station for challenging police authority”.

“When my papers correct?”.

“You neva see anything!”.

“Ok, make I call una headquarters quote your name say this na wetin you talk”. I pretended to make a call.

“God punish you! Oya carry your yeye moto and wahala comot from here now-now. Idiot! Officer, give am hin key. This one na bad-luck market”.

It would've been a different ball game if it had been a mobile police checkpoint. I know I would've had a mysterious black-eye, if I had had the nerves to display such effrontery.

Question: Why can't we put paid to the specific papers a driver is supposed to present at a police checkpoint, in order to drive through without parting with something?

Anyway, thanks to God, I got home safely to the warm embrace of my lovely family. I wrestled the remote control from my daughter to watch Channels TV Newstrack after refreshing in the bathroom. The aroma from the kitchen informed me that dinner was ready. It was while I was at the dining table that I realised that the vegetable soup did not contain any cow meat but only chicken.

“Darling what happened? You didn't go to the abattoir to buy cow meat again?”.

“Sweetheart, I was hoping you would finish your meal first before I give a report of how I went today”.

“It'll be hard for me because I was hoping to see some kpomo, shackey, roundabout, abodi and cow tongue. You know my craze with meals cooked with assorted cow parts. Anyway, let me finish the meal, so that you can give me the whole gist”.

After downing what was still a good meal, I was now prepared to receive the financial report of the day as the chairman of the board (breadwinner).

“So what necessitated the unapproved withdrawal of N10,000?”.

“Sweetheart, you always make me laugh. You think you're still at the office or what? Don't you think you're sounding too formal?”.

“Ok, abeg no vex. Wetin happen?”.

“Well, I went to the market only to meet with unbelievable increment in all prices, while there was no meat at all. They said transporters of foodstuff including cows from the North were on strike due to constant extortion and harassment by the authorities. I had to go to a cold room to buy the frozen chicken that you're eating at a higher price”.

“So you mean no more kpomo and shackee for now! What is this country turning into? I mean we've been coping with perennial fuel scarcity, but kpomo scarcity? Gosh!”.

“My husband, please tell me, why do national problems seem to bother you a lot? At least I know I did not marry Nelson Mandela”.

“I thank God we have kids who mean the world to us. If our welfare can be taken for granted by insensitive leaders, what would be the future of our kids, if the status quo is maintained or things degenerate?”.

“But you can only talk and nothing will happen”.

“That's where you're mistaken because many people are beginning to rise up to challenges of today through sensitizations and reorientations. I hope you've heard of the Save Nigeria Group that staged a protest over the invisible presidency in Abuja. I can bet you there'll be more civilised protests soon because of a rapidly growing awareness”.

“Away from never-ending Naija wahala, Fejiro's Day Care wrote a letter notifying us of an immediate increment of N4,000 per month because they practically run on generators throughout the day. I met with the proprietress and she explained everything to me”.

“You see what I mean! The incompetence of PHCN is robbing me of hard-earned income and there's no compensation coming from anywhere”.

“Well, before I forget, here's the PHCN bill of N1,850 for this month. I met it at the door when I got back home. I'm going to bed”.

By Paul Edemu

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