For many Nigerians, the voodoo Multi Year Tariff Order 2 (MYTO II) introduced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) last year, under which electricity tariff will be increased yearly, has become an untold burden. Perhaps, the fraudulent electricity tariff annual increment in a regime of persisting epileptic electricity supply and total power failure sometimes is one of the dividends of democracy Nigerians were promised. Most low income and poverty stricken families are now chastised by ‘estimated’ or ‘coded’ electric bills running into hundreds of thousands of naira for electricity they scarcely consumed. Instead of sincerely addressing the plight of Nigerians who poverty has driven to the precipice (of the country’s over 162 million people, more than half the population, about 61 percent are acclaimed to be wretched and living on less than $1 a day), a grossly insensitive NERC, is beating its war chest with threats of further increases in electricity tariff. Yet governments are saddled with the bounden duties of not just the security of citizens (protection of life and property); but the promotion of the welfare of the governed. Most unfortunate is the recent report credited to the power minister, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, that the extortion is justified. The statement will be revisited later by this writer.
That some civil society groups, ten in all, have dragged the FG to the United Nations in protest against the fraud called MYTO II is, therefore, no surprise.
Reports said the group in a petition to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Carmona lately, demanded a halt to the implementation of the inhuman and immoral electricity tariff rip off. Indeed, the group virtually said it all when it said in the petition: “By introducing a fixed rate electricity tariff, the government is complicit in violating the human rights of people living in poverty and undermining their personal development and prosperity… any increase in electricity tariff, while Nigerians still face an appalling power supply, is a violation of the human rights of Nigerians under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”. The dirty linen the group wants washed before the UN will no doubt enjoy the support of many, considering how insensitive and dishonest electricity tariff in the country has become.
Like the petitioners rightly observed, power is one of Nigeria’s conduit pipes for the waste of public funds. Yet it has defied solution despite the billions of naira and dollars that have gone down the drain. The corruption in the sector is legendary, perhaps worse than the rot in other public domains. For decades, the nation’s electricity generation capacity has not exceeded 4,000 megawatts, for a population of over 162 million people. There are occasions when the wattage slumps to between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts. Most electricity consumers do not have meters. For no fault of theirs, they are forced to pay crazy bills based on the guesswork of inept and pathologically corrupt Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) officials. For decades, corruption made it extremely difficult for the PHCN to provide a comprehensive metering system for electricity consumers. Presently, the pre-paid metering system provisioning being supervised by the NERC has run into a hitch, with majority of electricity consumers yet to have access to pre-paid meters.
Indeed, as you are reading this piece, the FG is yet to conclude the privatization of the power sector which commenced donkey years ago. The Discos and Gencos sold to new private sector investors are yet to be handed over to them to hasten the decentralization of power generation and distribution. Just penultimate Thursday, The Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Benjamin Dikki, reportedly said that PHCN successor companies would be handed over to their new owners as from October 1, 2013. Perhaps more importantly, the BPE boss said the long awaited power sector reform would not bring about immediate changes; and that investments in the sector would take time to achieve results, meaning there’s no end in sight as yet on irregular power supply in the country. Whither then the basis of the MYTO II extortion?
The edifice of fraud called PHCN is yet to be dismantled, pre-paid metering arrangement is still chaotic, but electric bills are soaring out of this world. To crown it all, improvement in power supply remains like spittle. Yet, unconfirmed reports alleged that some crooks in government were ordering 53 pieces of gold-plated ‘iphones’ for the country’s 53rd independence anniversary at the cost of N649 million. Let’s believe the claim is not true as some government officials have said. Perhaps the foreign contractor who leaked the secret was hallucinating. But it is so nauseating that the iphones jamboree can be contemplated at all, while the NERC and its masters can scarcely see through the sufferings of the citizenry. How does the FG feel presiding over the sucking of the blood of the Nigerian poor through dubious electricity tariff under a hopeless power supply situation? This is incredible!