Originally known as the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) assumed its metamorphosis shortly after we gained our independence in 1960. The grandfather of electricity generation in Nigeria (ECN) served a population of a little over 50m to the best of its ability until it gave birth to NEPA in the 70s.
However, its presence was as constant as the proverbial northern star ab initio. When I first went to the United Kingdom in the 70s, I had problem with ironing my clothes until a flat mate reminded me that I was not in Nigeria where power supply was epileptic. He had observed that I usually rushed to iron my clothes to beat power outage. It took me some time to adjust to the reality of uninterrupted power supply in London.
I had another experience with the quality of the detergent available in that country. Omo, the popular detergent in the 70s, was also handy in London. The first time I used the detergent, I soaked a couple of handkerchiefs for about an hour. When I went back to wash them, I gathered all the strength my arms could muster and set down to work. But to my greatest amazement, the moment I lifted the handkerchiefs, they came out sparkling white, leaving the dirt underneath. “Who did this huge favour for me by washing the hankies?” I almost wondered aloud. That was the quality of the detergent. It was unlike the Nigerian version with which you would soak clothes for a whole day and spend hours grinding your teeth while washing them without achieving the maximum result even with the aid of bar soap!
NEPA was to be redefined as Never Expect Power Always in tune with its epileptic services to its consumers. Even when its name was changed to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the Nigerian consumers redefined it as Please Hold your Candles Now. But in my own view, the company succeeded in holding back power from its consumers! Even after the PHCN was unbundled a few years ago, Nigerians still refer to the new setup as NEPA.
NEPA is like a coin with two sides; it is also a double-edged sword. We need its services to run our lives. Electricity is the critical infrastructure that powers the economy. That is one side. The other side has destroyed many economic activities of individuals and organisations through the (genetic) epilepsy that has possessed it in situ. It is a common habit that whenever NEPA recovers from its epileptic attacks, it more often than not comes back with power surge. These recoveries have wreaked disasters in many locations and homes where its services are employed, inevitably.
Pentecostals would be too quick to brand NEPA as an agent of darkness, the son of the devil with a mission to (steal), kill and destroy! NEPA is a destroyer through its power surge. Factories have been razed down by NEPA. Woe betides you if you forget to unplug your electrical appliances such as water heater upon leaving home when there is an outage. A colleague of mine in Jos had a whole house razed down by NEPA. His girlfriend, named Edna, plugged water to bath. Shortly after, NEPA struck. She left the house without switching off the boiler. Then NEPA struck again, restoring light. After the boiler lapped up the water in the bucket without any replacement, it got angry and transmitted its anger into the ceiling. The result was the conflagration. My colleague, named Azuka, nearly went mental. For a very long time, he kept murmuring to himself: “Edna has finished me; Edna has finished me.”
In the early hours of last Wednesday, we had a taste of NEPA’s transfer of aggression in Kubwa, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. It had rained cats and dogs, accompanied by the familiar angry storms. The wind became so violent and it was a miracle that no structures were unroofed in the estate where I reside by the time the storm, lasting about two hours, subsided. But some trees and electric poles were not spared: they were rendered asunder and/or uprooted.
The power outage that followed the storm was expected. Then, later in the evening, power was restored. Everyone thought it was a normal return. But we were wrong. The current that came with the restoration produced sounds akin to the knockouts that kids hurl around during the Yuletide season. There was panic in the estate as electric bulbs exploded freely. Television sets, refrigerators, deep freezers, air-conditioners, ceiling and standing fans were blown up. Phone chargers were not spared as they were fried. A neighbour was fortunate to be at home when NEPA struck. Their fuses blew, spewing fire that located their curtains. All the electrical appliances were vandalised as the flat was engulfed with smoke. In fact, no flat in the estate connected to the affected transformer escaped the wrath. The situation was quickly brought under control before more havoc could be wreaked. By Thursday, everyone was counting their (huge) losses. Notes were compared as a miasma of hopelessness suffused our faces because no one can sue the possessed NEPA for damages. Is anyone in the National Assembly reading me?
The funniest part of the episode was witnessed on Thursday evening. After the NEPA guys had come to rectify the faults emanating from the transformer, normal power supply was restored. However, the question was who would bell the cat? Everyone was scared to the extent that they would rather pump hands with a LEPER (my emphasis) than connect back to NEPA! Many estate occupiers are still playing the waiting game 24 hours after the repairs had been carried out in the event of the devil springing up another nasty surprise. As you are reading this piece, all of us still have our hearts in our mouths and the taste is not pleasant at all!