Opinion / Editorial

The Senate And Misplaced Patriotism


I was  shocked  to read in the papers that the Nigerian Senate has intervened and stopped the 15% (effective) increase in electricity tariffs which came on board on February 1  this   year,  as widely  advertised last year.  This  is because  as a budding Nigerian entrepreneur I was looking forward to a successful  take off  of our electricity distribution  companies  widely known as discos,  so that the country  can finally put its power generation anddistribution problems behind it.

This is because without power Nigeria cannot  meaningfully  compete  as a  nation  in the  world market. Right now the nation is generating its lowest output of power in  years  and it is that meager amount  that the discos  are trying to distribute  and now the nation’s  Senate, the most  powerful  law making organ in the land has stopped them  and I find that unbelievable if not outright insensitive and  unthinking .

I  have  also  read that the Senate  in stopping the tariff increase also called  for a   conference of all stakeholders through  its  Committee on Labor  Productivity and Wages which gave the order after it had invited the minister of  Power , Works  and  Housing  Mr  Babatunde  Raji  Fashola  who  appeared before the Senate  to defend  the increased  tariff as a sine  qua non to have  stability  in power supply  and distribution in the nation.

The  Senate was quoted as saying that Nigerian workers  have suffered enough and it thinks that the increase  would worsen their lot. In this case the Senate  assumes that  it is acting patriotically. That  however is a wrong assumption, especially as the electricity tariff  increase is cost  reflective over a  statutory 10 year period as sanctioned by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory  Council -NERC -the lawful electricity institution  in Nigeria .

The  Senate’ intervention is unwarranted as it is arbitrary and government should  do something about the senatorial powers of a Senate  that has developed  a penchant for  bringing back  the hand  of the clock  in  terms of economic  development.

One  only prays  that the House of Representatives does not follow suit blindly in throwing its weight around in the name of patriotism as that would  kill our power industry totally at a time when young businessmen like me are happy  that with the take off  of the discos, Nigeria is carving a discernible  path out of the woods and  doldrums of persistent blackout and finding its way out of the darkness of poor electricity generation and very poor distribution system under NEPA .

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I  really  tremble  at  such  a prospect as I   remember  the action and utterances of a former Speaker  of our revered House of Representatives  who famously  asked publicly what the electricity  generator suppliers would  live on if NEPA, as it was  called  then,   worked  efficiently.

Obviously  that Speaker  was a willing hostage of the generators sellers  lobby  but  Nigerians have never forgotten the Speaker’s  misguided concern  for generator sellers at the expense  of the larger Nigerian society in total darkness until the advent of the discos.

One  is  not saying that the discos  have  brought light pronto but the prospect is there that with the huge  investment they have made and with the control of NERC the economic future of our nation seems  brighter.

I  wonder what  lobby the nation’s  Senate  is pandering to nowadays. It  is too early again to rule  out the generator sellers for they  remain a powerful  lobby always, and   ever  ready   to put spanner in  the works of efficient power generation and distribution by the designated public utilities.

That  is what  the senate should  be  on  the look  out for.  The  Senate  should create an enabling environment  for  increased power  generation and subsequent efficient  distribution so that  Nigerian  industries    can  function optimally to produce   goods and services  and provide employment for our teeming masses of unemployed youths  and graduates.

That  is  what the discos  are for  and that is why  NERC has   been  put  in place as the public watchdog  to monitor, regulate and make discos perform  efficiently and  in the  public interest to  make  Nigerians  see light at the end of the tunnel  no matter  their  calling in life.

That  is real  and  genuine patriotism. Not  the blind intervention of the Senate on tariff increase that is no more than misguided patriotism very  much in the dark on the workings of discos, electricity  generation  and distribution.


Bako, an engineer, sent in this piece from Kaduna

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