My experiences in one week in the outgone month were what I would like to forget quickly. Now, I don’t like making negative assertions about my nation, but I came out of the period stated feeling there was complete breakdown of law and order. This is how it happened. I had made a new subscription for the prepaid meter for electricity weeks before a previous subscription was to run out. The numbers for the latest subscription were put in the meter. Maybe, there was a mistake, but weeks later, electricity wasn’t supplied anymore on the meter.
Observations made showed it was obviously the previous subscription that ran out because the latest units never rolled into one with the previous units. Repeated efforts to put the numbers from the latest subscription in the meter proved abortive. This no-electricity supply situation on the prepaid meter began on a Sunday afternoon. A visit to the office of the Distribution Company the same day showed that, except for the gatekeeper, there wasn’t any DISCO official to ask questions. For a company that provides 24/7 service, that’s remarkable. Operational vehicles were parked on the premises of this DISCO. Two of the DISCO’s phone numbers were on these vehicles.
Neither worked. A poster on the DISCO’s premises asked customers to come for prepaid meters. Neither of the two phone numbers on this poster worked. The only solution was to make another subscription. The new numbers were put in the prepaid meter, but they weren’t accepted.
On Monday, I was hoping to get to a destination at a particular time. Some 20 kilometers to this city, there was a long queue of vehicles, stretching over 20 kilometers on both sides of the expressway. It was said that a community blocked the expressway. Their excuse was that kidnappers took away fellow residents. That time, I had to find other means of getting to my destination with so much inconvenience. Note though that all fellow Nigerians that these people stopped from proceeding to their destinations are also victims of a system that is no longer working for anyone. Victims punish fellow victims. I sympathise with the residents of that community over their
plight. But it keeps ringing in my mind that some unarmed citizens are permitted by the government to hold other road users to ransom, the same way bandits kidnap and ask for ransom and the government can only scratch its head. This is complete breakdown of law and order.
On Tuesday, there were two major issues to resolve. The no-electricity situation on the prepaid meter was one. My Internet modem that hadn’t accessed network for more than four weeks was another. At the DISCO office, the solution proffered by the officer in charge of metering was that another subscription would have to be made. He said it was how he could get the relevant information he needed to decipher the problem with the prepaid meter. So the third subscription was made.
He got the receipt and saw what he was looking for. But it still wasn’t the solution. There were other hurdles. The long and special numbers he gave subsequently were to be put in the prepaid meter. When this was done, he explained, the meter would bring out certain information in a serial order. The last of this series of information was to be written down and communicated to him. He said this needed to be done very early in the morning otherwise the network would be too full of traffic later in the day and the needed response from the prepaid meter might not be got. This instruction was followed. But on getting home, there was no electricity supply in the neighbourhood, and there was none for another three days. That meant every effort to get the prepaid meter working was suspended for the period.
Meanwhile, for more than three weeks, MTN Internet modem that I had been using for years suddenly stopped connecting to the network. My subscription ran out without using the service. I switched to 9mobile
which Internet modem I have also had for years. It was worse. It connected but there was no service. The subscription on it expired days later. Another subscription was made. There was no service. On May 27, when the latest subscription expired, there was still no service, but 9mobile didn’t miss informing me that my subscription had
expired. Yet, there are regulatory agencies in this nation.
There was this Airtel SIM that I’ve always had too. When the government announced that NIN needed to be added to it, I complied back in December. Airtel had informed me at the time that my NIN was successfully added to my SIM. In May, I made subscription in order to use it for my Internet modem. At that point, Airtel informed me that my registration was not complete and that I must visit their service centre. I did. I spoke to an official who said they were only attending to people who wanted to register new SIMs. Any issue regarding old SIMs wasn’t on their menu. When will old SIMs make it onto the menu? Maybe, next month, he said.
It was obvious that this official knew that after old SIMs were successfully connected to NIN, they still had problems. How did he know? I was explaining to him that I had supplied my NIN to Airtel back in December, but he didn’t let me land when he finished it for me, meaning this was happening to many customers as well. So, how come government announced a process of supplying NIN, codes to get it done were issued, Nigerians complied, and in the end, we were told that a registration that was pronounced valid initially was now said not to be valid anymore? Needless to say that at the Airtel service centre, the crowd that should be busy doing something to improve its economic well-being was made to gather for hours. Since it was the only option, I bought a new SIM, got it registered, yet it wouldn’t connect to the Airtel network on my Internet modem.
The next bus top was MTN service centre. I explained the situation to the manager. He advised that I should buy a new SIM. I did, got it properly registered, yet it wouldn’t connect to the Airtel network on my Internet modem. I visited the centre for three consecutive days over the same issue. Nothing changed. In the end, I had to pick a wi-fi which I didn’t prefer for the simple reason that one would have to charge the battery. I don’t always remember such details, so the reader can be sure that there have been days when the wi-fi has its battery flat. At the time I was at the MTN service centre, I saw 9mobile office a few yards away. I walked in. An official said, “You are welcome”. I told him that I didn’t feel welcome.
Where I stood, I told him that I was upset with 9mobile because I had been making subscriptions but there was no service. I said I was so angry that I didn’t have any intention of coming forward to complain.
But because where I was at MTN, I saw 9mobile centre close by, it was the reason I came. I asked why they were collecting money, making Nigerians in that area subscribe when they provided no service for data. I said the fact that they didn’t have any crowd as it was the case at MTN and Airtel was enough indication that people were fed up with them in that area. I said I was so upset that my plan was to throw away the 9mobile SIM that I used for Internet modem rather than come to them to complain at all. The official said, “Sorry about that.”
I didn’t acknowledge his sorry but walked away, grumbling about a set up that was collecting people’s money without providing service. Are these service providers the only ones to blame? The government has questions to answer too. It’s scratching its head, unsure about how to curtail lawless elements who kidnap for ransom. Government regulatory agencies also pretend they don’t notice when service providers scam law-abiding citizens. To whom shall we now turn?
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]