By Sule Ahmed Oyofo
In the last two years’ fewer government agencies have suffered prolonged attacks by social critics than the Transmission Company of Nigeria(TCN)—and always on the same often rehashed subject. In all of these, several attempts have been made to counter the tirades, amongst them conducting on-the-spot media tour of critical areas of the company’s operations for the social critics to see for themselves; to understand the difficulties in providing and ensuring regular electricity supply to Nigerians; these difficulties include the rough terrains, swampy areas, insurgency prone communities, precarious mountains and hills and not least thick forest. They were made to grapple with the menace of vandalisation which sometimes occur in the dead of the night and where accessibility was difficult.
At this point fewer policy makers would want to envy the job of the managing director for the very tasking nature the job demands because he has to be on his toes at all times to keep the nation lighted! Part of the enormous challenges faced is the gigantic stretch of its operations. The company has the enviable task of maintaining and supervising over 18,000km of 330kv and 132kv of high voltage transmission lines traversing the entire nation; some of them run through disaster prone areas which causes rapid erosion of tower bases and natural disasters; yet these lines convey electricity to citizens and must be serviced! To effectively monitor their efficiency, the deployment of non-conventional methods is compulsory; this is where the “special procurement procedure” comes into play.
The management of TCN is not expected to fold its hands and watch the nation plunge into darkness! The job of policy makers is not all about politics; some considerations should be given to the reality they face which now appears to be manipulated by a few critics to portray otherwise responsible officials in bad light. As if being proactive, it may well be that, it was with this in mind, that galvanized the TCN management to sign what is known as “Service Level Agreement” between it and distribution companies (Discos) across the country on zero tolerance for outages amongst other things! The simple explanation here is that in the event of emergency repairs to be undertaken, the TCN management may not need to wait for the laborious and tedious payment procedures notorious for dragging into weeks and months!
No sensible management would allow fold its hands and watch the situation deteriorate. This has been the dilemma of the management which calls for sober reflection on the part of those social critics that it is not so much about the procedure adopted to tackle emergency situations but on the successful outcome. This is all about the security of the environment and the sustainability of the methods required to confront difficult situations. Here, the TCN management have been extremely careful in the discharge of its responsibilities especially when it is known that they transmit power from over 25 Generating Companies located at different parts of the country to eleven (11) Distribution Companies and some international customers. These are some of the sudden decision making process that confront policy makers for which members of the public should understand. It is even one of the clauses of the Procurement Act 2003, section 43 which allows “a procuring entity to carry out emergency procurement where the (a) country is either seriously threatened by, or actually confronted with a disaster, catastrophe, war, insurrection or act of God”.
The clause significantly recognizes that unless necessary steps were taken by the relevant authority to maintain, restore the usefulness of such vital structure, the condition or quality of good may be seriously impaired! Should this be a concern to social critics? It should, because they also use electricity too! While the maintenance of these infrastructures require the highest level of professionalism and competence, the TCN management is not lost on the fact that minimal regulations have to be protected such as those saddled with the task of executing policy decisions; this is why the management has in place all the relevant departments such as Legal, Audit, Procurement and Technical to ensure that ethical standards are not compromised; they ensure that requirements for pre and actual qualifications are in place such as valid Company Profiles, Tax Clearance, and detailed status of qualified contractors to prevent underhand practice. Besides having these things in mind, in the event of emergency procurement situation where accelerated strategy has to be employed, without an existing and trustworthy relationship with those on the ground stakeholders, that in itself would have been a problem.
For example, on the 21st and 28th of December, 2023, two remarkable incidents took place which brought down critical towers of transmission causing power outages in more than one state of the federation involving transmission tower 372 in Katsita Village, Yobe State, which affected a 330kv transmission tower, thus inevitably pulling down tower 373 along the way and another, along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway transmission line brought down by insurgency explosives. The entire Northeast would have been thrown into darkness had drastic measures not been taken which involves mobilization of men and resources to restore power to the affected millions of Nigerians. These are examples of drastic measures sometimes policy makers have to come up with.
This is definitely keeping in line with patriotism and nationalism. You have to be patriotic to serve the nation and evidently qualified. Social critics forget sometimes—maybe deliberately—to acknowledge the efforts put in by policy makers. In their vitriolic attacks the impression is often conveyed that selfish interest comes first before national interest. Despite the fact that the TCN management have in the last two years explained the circumstances behind some of their actions, the insistence by social critics to damage highly precious reputation has remained consistent. Nowhere else was this more apparent than in the response TCN gave to an ubiquitous social media organ which instead choose to profit from it negatively for unknown reasons.
The opportunity was there to use their wide network to educate Nigerians on the efforts by policy makers to ensure regular electricity supply but choose otherwise; the use of subterranean tactics in achieving an end has not helped in the past. Regular interactive approach has always proved successful—reason why scholars believe communication is easier at the top! It is clear TCN has not violated any provision of the law and instructive to note that they have always acted in the best interest of Nigerians! Societal critics with accessibility to various platforms ought to use the opportunity for societal building, economic advancement and exchange of profitable ideas!
Issues of misinformation and badging on the privacy of policy makers shouldn’t be criteria to judge their sincerity. But the more they churn out “objectionable contents” or what is considered as harmful then the question of slander, libel and character assassination become inevitable. While there is no gain, ignoring truth for falsehood, nothing promotes sectionalism more than unrestrained unethical media practice. Only recently, while trying to respond to some allegations of violations by a media organization, they instead resorted to radicalism and sensationalism –just so as to achieve a purpose outside the realm of reasonable understanding! Was the idea to “clash” two government agency? Maybe, even with penalties and sanctions in place this practice would still have thrived—possibly; but that is the reason why the clamor for social media bill has reached a crescendo and the National Broadcasting Commission coming from the same angle. Titled “Anti-social Media Bill” introduced by the senate on 5th November, 2019, the bill aimed to criminalize the use of the platforms to peddle falsehood or spread malicious content.
Similarly, the NBS, through the National Broadcasting Commission(NBS) Act, CAP L I, laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 seek to bring the platforms under supervision or hold them accountable. The Director-General in a recent interview while hosting the Minister of Information described some of these social platforms as “monsters”. This is the deplorable stage the renegade elements have soiled the otherwise excellent reputation of the vehicle! The management of and distribution of electricity nationwide demands some strict sensitivity which is open to professionals in the field. It is, in part for this purpose that to give policy makers some breath of space and support, the way forward is none other than to help them remain focused.
Sule Ahmed Oyofo is a
Media Consultant, He wrote from Abuja