A calm Thursday afternoon at the headquarters of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company PHED became my nearest experience to first hand military action in the name of force against unarmed civilians who are operating in the Nigerian service industry, scheduled for a routine interview to discuss progress in the power sector as highlighted by the Honourable Minister of Power, I had gone to the office to honor my appointment.
The first thing that greeted me from the door was the presence of 2 military trucks with high caliber rifles mounted atop the cabins, it seemed like a war situation, I made to mention the infamous crocodile smile but I thought it wiser to hold my peace. I noticed a man asking another civilian what the problem was, the question was directed at the stern looking young soldiers but the speaker was either being self-preservative or was too scared to direct the question at the armed man standing a few feet away. An argument ensued over a phone that had been used for a recording and at that point I had to intervene seeing that these guys had intimidation as their mission, their name tags had all been taken off.
I asked what the problem was and they said they had stopped by for a routine visit, I pushed some more and was asked to find their leader on the top floor. I skipped the four flights of stairs quickly to find another armed young man at the door to the Chief Executive’s office, he made to stop me but I muttered something about being an accountant and he made way to let me through. The shock that greeted my ears was hard to comprehend, I could hear a man barking orders to carry somebody and another forceful voice responding with thus,
‘You owe me over N600 000 000 and you come to my office to intimidate me, that won’t happen’
On getting to the door there were about 6 armed army officers dragging Engr Kingsley Achife (Ag CEO, PHED) out of his chair, a lady among them who was threatening fire and brimstone if the CEO refused to come with them was late to remove her name tag, it read Achumba. The other gentleman who kept shouting ‘carry that man!’ had 3 black stars sewn to his uniform just below the neck.
The Isiokpo feeder which supplies the Army barracks at Elele had been vandalised, a perennial scourge to utility lines on that route which meant that the barracks was out of supply, the DISCO has been working to restore supply but the vandals have returned to the said location to take down more poles and lines thus increasing the cost of the project at each point of repair. The Army barracks in question has outstanding bills of over N600 000 000,(Six hundred million, naira) with no commitment to pay but at gunpoint they insist that service must be restored else a man who has just turned 60 and has served in different capacities in the Nigerian power sector to lead a distribution company was being harassed by young men who he could have funded through school. The loss of respect for citizens because the officer has a gun should be a thing of shame to the Nigerian Army, you would expect that knowing the terrain, its security risks and being mindful of the vandalism in the area the Army would have asked to assist with securing the lines, instead they turn to force to harass hardworking Nigerians.
These officers who attacked an unarmed company executive over an issue that could have been peacefully resolved with a commitment to partnership are not fit to serve this nation, The Nigerian Army should tender an unreserved apology to Engr Kingsley Achife and to the entire men of the Nigerian power sector who toil day and night to improve the lives of every Nigerian. It is a shame that we resort to force as a solution to any issue, even when the people wielding the force admit to knowing other options for resolution.
Captain Achumba kept saying, ‘e go do am by force now’, that woman took an oath to serve and to protect the civilians. Epic shame.