The 9th Senate of the national assembly is gradually, but relentlessly cutting the image of an unserious upper legislative chamber – a senate where anything goes, or a senate that is ready to sacrifice the citizens they represent on the altar of legislation and politics.
Once in a while, the upper legislative house regales the nation with a bill that is manifestly anti-people, and which inevitably is doomed to end up in the trash can. One can vividly recall the “Hate Speech” or “Social Media” Bill which was an attempt to gag the people, and make them unable to react to bad governance. Whether the bill has been discarded or not is a question only the senators can answer.
The latest bill seeking to ban the importation, sale and use of generators in Nigeria is another of such bills that are doomed to end up in the waste paper basket. Known as “A Bill For An Act to Prohibit/Ban the Importation And Sale of Generating Sets to Curb the Menace of Environmental (Air) Pollution and to Facilitate the Development of the Power Sector”, the Bill provides that anyone who “knowingly” sells generators in Nigeria should be liable to 10 years jail term. It commands “all persons to stop the use of electricity generating sets which run on diesel/petrol/kerosene of all capacities with immediate effect”.
The bill which has passed its first reading on the floor senate is the brainchild of Senator Bima Muhammadu Emagi, representing APC Niger South. According to Senator Emagi, the bill will check the menace of environmental pollution as well as facilitate the development of the power sector.
Vast majority of Nigerians see this bill as both ridiculous and laughable just as it sounds bizarre to the ear. To many, it is a comical effort at law-making. All this is because despite its huge resources, and despite the staggering sums of money said to have been sunk into the electricity sector, all that Nigerians have is darkness and epileptic supply in some lucky areas.
The entire business and commerce in Nigeria run on generators. If the bill succeeds in its mission, the implication will be the death of almost all the industries, factories, information and entertainment industries etc, since they are not part of the exemptions in the bill.
In the maritime sector, for instance, the port industry will grind to a halt. Cargo operation will cease, including customs clearance processes –since all run on generators. The concession agreement signed between the government and terminal operators or concessionaires provides that government will provide the electricity with which port operations will run. But has government done this? The concessionaires have been running the terminals on generators, spending a fortune on diesel.
Yet, a senator, just like the little bird in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” which, after over-feeding and drinking, decided to challenge his “Chi” to a wrestling match, is calling for ten years imprisonment for anyone who imports, sells or uses generator. When one recalls that it is generators that are powering the maritime industry, and to a large extent even the oil sector, the mainstay of the economy, one can now understand why this is a piece of comical legislation.
That the senator in his bill provides exemption for use of generators for medical purposes, airports, railway stations, elevators, research institutions and facilities that require 24-hour power supply shows that generators will still be imported and sold in the market. The law will now be against the usage of generators in which case operating generators in homes becomes the target. This makes the bill another anti-people’s bill. All these expose the flaws and the ridiculous nature of the generator import ban bill.
Moreover, the senator forgot that the bill if passed will mean that governance will periodically grind to a halt. This includes activities in the Presidency, Government Houses, the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs and the various offices as all these run on generators, and vote millions of Naira annually to purchase or maintain their generators. The Senator also may not have known that 3,000 megawatts of power (at peak supply) is what Nigeria provides for her over 200 million citizens.
One wonders why the senate could jump at this bill after rejecting by resolution, in November 2019, a suggestion sponsored by Senator Francis Fadahunsi that a five-year temporary ban should be imposed on the importation of generators as a means of fast-tracking the development of the country’s power sector. Could it be that the senate rejected the suggestion because it did not include the sale and use of generators or long term of imprisonment or even death sentence for the offenders?
Naturally, many Nigerians and groups have voiced their total rejection of this Bill. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in opposing the bill said the nation’s electricity generation was grossly inadequate to run the economy, and called on the senate not to pass the bill.
The President of the association, Mr. Mansur Ahmed, speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt on the position of his association noted, “To ban importation of generators when you cannot produce enough electricity will be to kill the economy.”
He said the association would ordinarily support a ban on the importation of goods that could be produced locally, especially if the ban would be carried out in such a way that it would not ground the economy.
Calling on the senate not to waste legislative time on the bill in the interest of the suffering masses, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Sunny Onuesoke, noted:
“It is a criminal offence to use or import generators in Egypt. This is because there is twenty four hours supply of electricity. Even Ghana our nearest West-Africa neigbour, people do not use generating sets. This is because there is regular power supply. Nigeria should first put their house in order before passing laws that could be described as oppressive to the masses.”
Chief Onuesoke who spoke to a news medium on the bill stressed that it was because of government failure that the citizens resorted to self-help of generating their own electricity. “…God please save us from voting in leaders with no idea of what governance is about,” he prayed.
He advised the Senator to focus on how to fix the power sector by suggesting the free distribution of solar panel and inverters to people, as a way of discouraging the use of generators instead of talking about ban and imprisonment.