Between inept PHCN workers and the hands of the gods, By Nasiru Suwaid

Nasiru Suwaid

No diligent, profit-motivated arrangement could accommodate the type of personnel mindset within the PHCN

As a curious dabbler into the divine world of the Orisha, nothing fascinates me than the sculptured statue of Sango that stares at you whenever you take a journey to the “Power House”, the legendary name of the headquarters of the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). For here is a god which depicts lightening, thunder and fire, obviously the classical natural elements of a destructive weather pattern, becoming a caricature of an electrical voltage, that is usually a strategic tool for generating energy, which aids and enables motoring mechanism for industrial production, brightening the environment for the attainment and sustenance of productive living and ensuring general enlightenment of the human mind, allowing for visionary thoughts of discoveries, inventions and developments.

It is surely an architectural contradiction, especially if the literary comparism of light and fire is discountenanced from the reality of one leading to the other, as in most instances, it is water rather than fire, which generates frictional energy and produces electricity.

Unfortunately, it is a similar type of confusion that is unfolding within the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), as in the past few weeks, the most derided successor to the much ridiculed and inefficient electrical power agency is once again in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons. The headlines being the restructuring and unbundling of the lethargic government company into much smaller manageable companies that efficiently caters for its customers, while providing constant power supply. Of course, as it is with anything that concerns change, those that are most likely to lose out in the arrangement are raising a lot of dust and challenging the whole process. Thus the company’s workers are always on strike, for you hardly find a week when one of news or another is not relaying the threat of a strike or the announcement of its resumption after a short period of suspension of an earlier trade dispute.

However one thing that is even more confounding than the industrial labour confusion, which the current situation in the primary national electricity provider represents, is the current availability of electricity in homes and businesses across the country. If we are to be honest in our appraisal, it would be safe to say that it has never been so good for majority of citizens of this country, who have had to endure years and decades of frustrating darkness and immobility due to the unavailability of electricity to power productive ventures.

Indeed the past few days has been puzzling for me as I wonder whether it is the gods who direct the activities of the power agency, because, while the company has shut most of its operating offices within my locality, there has ironically been a boost in electricity supply in my vicinity. It has been a season of uninterrupted power supply.

In fact for an organization that has a long and established history of disappointing its consumers, a lot of Nigerians find it amusing that employees of such a terribly underperforming company could resist change from the established norm of epileptic power supply, gross incompetence, debilitating corruption and institutionalized worker truancy. In fact, seemingly due to the suspected collusion of unscrupulous businesspersons with officials of the electrical power provider, Nigeria is today the most profitable international destination for generators. Some compromised staff are known to sabotage electricity supply even when there is availability of power within the transmission grid.

Nigerians are so irritated and frustrated by the penchant of the power company to inflict pain on the generality of the citizens that they could not bring themselves to empathize with the workers whose jobs are now on the line as the government tries to make the power sector more efficient and result-oriented. Ours is a national community that frowns at any government policy that deliberatively seeks to deprive an employee of his or her fundamental means of livelihood. But PHCN workers have completely burnt out their goodwill, and most Nigerians appear to side with government in this case.

Certainly if the primary aim and mission of the power sector reform is to rev up electricity production and distribution by reorganizing the capacity, management and operations of the country’s premier power provider, we must all support the administration to shake the company to its core foundation, in order to generate the desired results.

Thus the untruthful claims that the privatization of the power corporation would not necessarily lead to loss of jobs or that the private energy entrepreneur would be prevailed upon to continue with the present staff structure, arrangement and expertise is pure balderdash, an expectation that is incompatible with the principles of running an efficient private enterprise. In fact,  to be honest, no diligent, profit-motivated commercial arrangement could accommodate the type of personnel mindset existing within the national power management company.

However, if the about-to-be-privatized Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), amidst the crises afflicting its management, staff and general organizational infrastructure, could sustain such a high level of stable transmission of electricity,  as my people have seen in the past weeks, then, perhaps it is not merely changing of ownership structure that would revitalize the sector, but also acceding to the spiritual benevolence of the gods, who have been able to bless the Nigerian nation with abundant rainfall that has helped in replenishing our rivers and the hydro-electric dams, which aids in the generation of enough watts of electricity for our country.

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