I just received a video on WhatsApp about an incident that I allegedly happened close to my residence. I can confirm that the video was indeed recorded in a street that I pass routinely on my jogs. In the video, a man, alleged to be a retired General of the Nigerian Army is threatening staff of Ikeja Electric with a service pistol and a machete. I’m told that this happened yesterday.
As many would know, Magodo has an agreement with Ikeja Electric for at least 20 hours a day of guaranteed power supply under the Willing Buyer, Willing Seller Scheme. Those who follow me know that I completely support that agreement, and to my mind, if it works, it will be hailed as one of the great successes of the Buhari government.
I’ll quote directly from my organisation’s assessment of WBWS when it came into force in Magodo:
The news about the Magodo/Ikeja Electric deal is in some ways, the best news of the year so far. The power sector reform designed and partially implemented by the Goodluck Jonathan administration led to the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into a series of 18 successor companies — six generation companies, 11 distribution companies and a national power transmission company (retained as a government-owned entity). There was substantial investment in the generation arm which led to an installed generation capacity estimated at over 12,000MW. However, the failure of the government to invest in transmission infrastructure means that today less than 5,000MW can be evacuated. Perhaps a bigger issue is that the insistence of the FG on fixing electricity tariffs has plunged the distribution companies into crippling debts which they are unable to service, hence the demand by theses distribution companies has sunk to below 4,000MW leading to huge wastage across the value chain. This led the former power minister, Babatunde Fashola, to develop the Premium Power Initiative under which the Magodo Residents’ Association and Ikeja Electric have signed on, something that we consider to be a very welcome development. The biggest issue in Nigeria’s power industry today is the fact that the tariff is not cost-reflective, hindering investment in the industry. On the net, this agreement is cheaper for the residents who will spend less on fueling their generators, and more profitable for the Ikeja Distribution Company, a win-win for both parties. It is prudent for Nigerians to view their cost of power as a whole, as opposed to electricity tariffs in a silo, in order to appreciate the gains this will bring. If this succeeds, the likelihood is that more gated communities will sign up to similar schemes, showing a path to profitability in the sector, and eventually attracting more investment.
I can confirm that in the four weeks since the agreement came into force, I have not turned on my generator once. That is not to say that the power has been perfect, but the amount of time there have been blackouts has been small enough for my inverter to cover the slack. The cost savings are incalculable. Hearing all sorts of generating sets used to give me a major headache!
One of the conditions of the agreement, before it came into force, was that all buildings in the estate should have prepaid meters and that Ikeja Electric staff should be able to come regularly to check these meters to avoid energy theft, which is a huge complaint in the system. From what I heard in the video, the Ikeja Electric employees had been to his place to check the meter on 22 August, three weeks ago. Given that my meter has been checked twice since the agreement came into force, I do not find this strange.
Ikeja Electric, as a business, has as a prerogative, to protect its revenue stream, and given that energy theft is a serious problem, it is the responsible thing for them to do. If this WBWS is to work, which we need it to begin looking at solutions to our power problems, then things like energy theft must be curbed.
This brings to one of the problems in our land, the big man. It is clear to me that this chap, simply because he has a gun, believes that what should apply to others should not apply to him. How else can you explain the quickness to draw a firearm?
Our country is choked full of big men who believe that they are above the law. We see them in traffic every day; we see them at the train stations in Idu, Kubwa, Rigasa; we see them even in the supermarkets. People who genuinely believe that they are above everyone else, because of some small advantage that they have been conferred by rank, or by a temporary position, and are, as a result, immature enough to impose on everyone else, of course until they meet someone who just may outrank them, and therein lies the danger.
Go to any of the Western embassies, and you will see these same men (it’s almost always a man), suddenly learn to queue, because they know that any misbehaviour in that place may lead to a visa denial. Boarding a flight back to Nigeria from any other airport and you’ll see these same people behaving themselves, only for the animal to come out as soon as we hit the Lagos air. Then these same people will later turn around and wonder why the country is not working.
For me, I have seen who to blame if the WBWS agreement between Magodo and Ikeja Electric fails. It is the retired disgrace of a general who cannot even be disciplined enough to understand that the little inconvenience of having his power meter routinely checked is for the good of the entire community.