By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Folks, when I read a news report yesterday that angry residents of Abeka Lapaz-Tabora (a suburb of Accra) on Sunday afternoon blocked roads and destroyed property at the Kwashieman power station over persistent power cuts in the area, I cringed, clearly because I knew that it was an action that would have a rippling effect. True to my apprehensions, something has happened elsewhere to tie in with it.
Angry residents of Odorkor (another suburb of Accra) replicated the actions by consumers in Abeka Lapaz-Tabora. The general complaint is that “the frequent power outages have destroyed their home appliances and made it impossible for them to plan their lives. (See more at: http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2014/November-16th/angry-abeka-residents-destroy-ecg-properties-over-power-cuts.php#sthash.nOTMgRMj.dpuf).
The stage is set, and no one needs to go too far for what will follow or how those seeking to sneak through with their petty political agenda will cash in. No one needs to blame the angry consumers. The blame lies squarely at the foot of the power providers!! So is it with those providing other utility services who are quick at implementing draconian measures to exact their “pound of flesh” but very slow at serving the needs of consumers.
The impunity with which utility service providers have acted or failed to act is disturbing. Over the years, they have taken matters into their own hands and acted with such an annoying impudence as to put the consumers on edge.
The Electricity Company of Ghana and the Ghana Water Company are HATED by consumers because of how they disregard the interests of their clientele to do things on their own. Unfortunately for them, it seems the consumers have now woken up to take the fight to them.
The conduct of the ECG is particularly obnoxious, given the prevailing circumstances. The introduction of pre-paid meters created the impression that the interests of consumers would account for how electricity would be supplied and regulated. Unfortunately, the overpowering phenomenon of “Dumsor… Dumsor…” has reduced everything to absurdity, giving the ECG an undeserved authority to do things at it wishes to the disadvantage of consumers.
The institutionalization of pre-paid meters suggests that power would be regularly supplied and the consumers charged accordingly. Unfortunately, the line has been distorted to the advantage of the ECG. And the ECG hasn’t even factored into its modus operandi any need to apologize to consumers for any disruption in the power supply regime nor is there any consideration for compensation. As usual, the poor consumers have been constructed as dummies to be exploited.
The lack of avenues for legal redress seems to be emboldening the ECG and the other utility service providers to harm the interests of consumers. Unfortunately for them, the consumers can resort to crude methods to register their protest. Thus, what we see unfolding is a microcosm of what the consumers have up their sleeves. Although I don’t condone the recklessness motivating the action against the ECG, I think that the consumers have been pushed too far to the wall and should be sympathized with.
The spate has been set, and I expect more communities to follow suit. The destruction of physical assets of the ECG is bad, but what else can the disgruntled consumers do to register their concerns? Where next will they go? Who is monitoring the situation to curtail selective sabotage? Certainly, any concerted effort to selectively destroy important installations under the guise of such protests could have a devastating impact that will harm our national interests. Are the authorities really open-eyed as some of us are?
From a wider angle, I can foresee the danger ahead. No matter how “hardy” the citizens may be, if they can no more contain the hardships facing them (or being imposed on them by institutions that know nothing better than squeezing the people to sustain themselves), they will do anything at all they can to seek vengeance. And that vengeance won’t help our national cause. Is that what we want?
I hope that no partisan political interest will take over the agitations. Otherwise, woebetide the system!!
I shall return…
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