AEDC and transformer abracadabra

Since the days of the National Electric Power Authority or NEPA, the Nigerian nation has suffered darkness and only the ‘powerful’ conquer it by force of generators and other sources of power supply. 

I, like many other Nigerian electricity consumers, have never had any pleasant experience with the power suppliers even at the time the grandmother of them all, the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), was bestowed on the country by the colonial masters.

I remember my first trip to London in the 70s. Coming from a country where power supply was epileptic, I found myself rushing to iron my clothes for fear that the light would go off any moment until my host assured me time and time again that I was not in Nigeria.

Then came the Shagari era when NEPA, the first daughter of grandmom ECN, came into being. And because of its unreliability, Nigerians redefined it as Never Expect Power Always. One morning, we woke up to discover that electricity workers had disobeyed God by seizing power. In the beginning there was darkness, and God decreed thus: “Let there be light.” And there was light. But on the fateful day, the almighty NEPA folks countered and decreed darkness. And there was darkness for one whole week: seven lightless days and seven dark nights.

Many electricity consumers were compelled to own generating sets. I was one of them, residing in Jos at the time. We had thought it was a joke. How could a bunch of power holders throw the entire nation of close to 160m people into utter darkness as though there was no government in place? And heads did not roll in the end. I rushed to an electrical shop along Ahmadu Bello Way, Jos, and purchased a brand-new 2.0 capacity generating set for N600. Yes, you read me right! N600 only… not N6,000 or N60,000. Today, that generating set, counterfeited from China or Taiwan, is selling for about N200,000 (two hundred thousand naira). The original one will go for close to N300,000 (three hundred thousand naira).

Long after the disobedience, I had a nasty experience in the hands of NEPA. For a very long time, my flat at Alheri, a settlement along Zaria Road, Jos, was singled out for darkness. Imagine the embarrassment of my apartment enveloped by darkness when all surrounding buildings in the neighbourhood are lighted. After lodging complaints with the appropriate quarters to no avail, I decided to go public in my weekly column published in the Sunday Standard known as The Man From PPC. The piece was entitled “NEPA, am I a leper?”

I had wondered what my offence was that NEPA was avoiding my apartment as though I was a leper. The Public Relations Officer of the Jos District of NEPA located along the Ahmadu Bello Way, Jos, raced to my office the next day after the publication. He apologised for the “leprosy” treatment and the faults were promptly rectified.

My isolated problems with NEPA did not end in Jos. After my relocation to Abuja a little over a decade ago and with NEPAtransforming to Power Holding Company of Nigeria, also redefined by Nigerians as Please, Hold Your Candles Now, my problems with electricity suppliers continued.

A few years ago, I had an issue with the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC). My prepaid metre in my flat located at the FCDA Owner Occupiers Housing Estate had some faults. Some staff of the AEDC, Kubwa Area Office, came and removed the metre. And replacing it became a hide-and-seek joke. After suffering another “leprosy” treatment for a couple of days, I decided to go public in this column. Expectedly, the former spokesman of the AEDC headquarters promptly contacted me and the matter was swiftly resolved.

But the worst happened penultimate Sunday in my Kubwa neighbourhood. At about 9 pm, NEPA struck in its usual manner. Note that NEPA has become a euphemism for electricity suppliers among Nigerian masses. Initially, I thought it was the usual power outage. In fact, it is in the habit of NEPA to seize light for hours. At times, they do it for a whole day or two or even three. The light was not restored all through the night.

A day later, the bad news seeped through the neighbourhood that the transformer had finally packed up. We were not surprised. Its performance in recent months was not good enough. The current was usually low. Most of the time, there would be phase losses, making one to migrate from phase to phase ever and anon. Two days after, a worse piece of news came that the transformer had been removed finally. Before the transformer eventually packed up, it was customary to see NEPA technicians coming around, ascending and descending the ladder as well as fiddling with the equipment almost on daily basis. Without a doubt, the transformer had been overburdened. 

This time, I had already exited the FCDA Owner Occupiers Estate but I live within a shouting distance away. When I got to know that the transformer had been removed, I panicked. From what I have heard, transformer removal is like a death sentence or a condemnation to an everlasting darkness. So, I enlisted to take up the matter with the management of the AEDC. I got the contact number of the Managing Director/CEO of AEDC, Mr. Chris Ezeafulukwe, and sent him an SMS ahead of my call, introducing myself… even though the matter was beyond SMS. Call it an SOS or Save Our Souls.

After waiting in vain for a response, I decided to put a call to him. But my call was routed to a voice mail. I ended the call because the matter at hand was not meant for Voice Mail. Three days later, I put another call to the number which again led me to a Voice Mail. I had no choice but to explain why I was calling. This time around, unlike my previous experiences, my complaints were not dignified with a response!

I later heard from the grapevine that the transformer was removed to an unofficial location for repairs and that the households and commercial enterprises affected by the problematic transformer had to raise N.5m to bring it back to life. Many folks fumed over the idea of consumers raising money to fix an equipment that is the property of the AEDC.

For almost two weeks, life was one hell of aplace. A cacophony of all manner of noisesfrom infernal machines called generating sets took over the neighbourhood. It was noise in the mornings, less noise in the afternoons and plenty of noise in the evenings right into the late hours of the night. In fact, quality sleep fled the eyes of residents of the affected area. Everyone was not only guilty of noise pollution but also contributing to environmental degradation from fumes bellowing into the sky especially by the ones referred to as “I pass my neighbour”. There was a time “I pass my neighbour” three times when I was at the FCDA Estate.  

If the bill seeking to ban the use of generating plants in the country sponsored by Sen. Bima Muhammadu Emagi (APC Niger South) had been passed into law a few years ago, I would have been picked, tried, and possibly found guilty. 

But the good news is that on Thursday night, power was restored to my neighbourhood. It was like a miracle or an abracadabra. This was because a few hours before the power restoration, I drove past the transformer location and the spot was empty.

“So, how come?” We all wondered.  

Upon enquiring, we were informed that the AEDC had graciously migrated us to another transformer in the area, probably pending the repair of the faulty one or allocation of another one to replace the problematic one.

The situation is back to normal, hoping that it will remain like this for a long time not punctuated by the usual trafficator momentsthat NEPA is known for.