Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC recently made bold claims in response to accusations of malicious practice among its workers. Abimbola Ogunbiyi, the Director of Corporate Service of AEDC made the assertion that AEDC will sack all of its workers suspected of illegal operations while answering questions from members of the state House of Assembly in Lafia.
Now, we commend such bold assertions and we agree that all corrupt illegal staffs should be reprimanded, however, this is the same thing all other DisCos have repeatedly said yet there is very little decrease in malicious staff practices across the Power Sector. Besides, knowing just how deep the root of corruption runs in these Utility companies, can they genuinely afford to take a complete no-nonsense approach and do they even stand a chance of uprooting this plague of corruption in the power sector? As important as these questions are, perhaps the most important question is does AEDC and all other Nigerian DisCos really want to curb corruption or is it just another convenient propaganda used to regain the confidence of the customers?
For Starters AEDC has done a decent job so far at fighting electricity related crimes, as just about 2 weeks ago police arraigned three men over energy theft of 4,040 kilowatts (kw), valued at N108,952 before an Area Court sitting in Karshi, Abuja Municipal Area Council. While many would tell you that the fight against corruption is a long battle, from our perspective, it is beginning to look like a merry-go- round. A case where you find a corrupt staff, then fire him if he is expendable enough, then employ another staff and then wait for him to be corrupt, then fire him also, thus the circle continues. DisCos in the power sector need to realize that the problem is not the workers, it’s the structure. When you creating a structure with meticulous checks and balance, people tend to act appropriately but if you have a structure with tons of loopholes then people will take advantage of it and invariably people will be corrupt.
As it stands various DisCos are struggling to shake off the bad image of corruption left by NEPA and are appalled when customers refer to them as the defunct NEPA, however, these utility companies need to realize that all the branding and reimagining must work alongside some major system operations restructuring. For example, NERC has stated that once a customer is disconnected he should be issued a disconnection notice and if he is to be connected back after settling his bills he should then be issued a reconnection equivalent. The question here is who checks to verify if these due processes are carried out. Reconnection and disconnection are probably the number one aspect of the DisCos practice that seems to encourage corruption and yet the DisCos choose to still address this issue the same way NEPA did and yet wonder why people still refer to them as NEPA. That is just one of numeruous other systemic flaws presnt in the power sector. It isn’t enough to make decrees and laws, this has to be backed up with an iron-clad structure that makes it inherently difficult to act otherwise.
So AEDC shouldn’t still be making unrealistic assertions such as We would sack all our Corrupt Staff, they should instead be discussing what measures and systems are being put in place to compel or for a lack of a better term– Force staff to act appropriately. Only then would we see concrete and realistic improvements in the power sector. Am i saying corrupt satffs shouldn’t be sacked? of course they should, there is definitely a place for that kind of approach but it must accompained by a systemic restructuring that will have a long time effect in curbing corrupt practises. Otherwise, we would continue going in circles.