Friday 23rd June, 2017
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Disquiet in Kubwa Navy Barracks over 'selective' introduction of prepaid electricity meters by Naval authorities

Disquiet in Kubwa Navy Barracks over 'selective' introduction of prepaid electricity meters by Naval authorities

The introduction of prepaid electricity meters in the Junior rates wing of Navy Barracks Kubwa has sparked off outrage as Junior ratings say they bear cost of monthly recharges while the navy pays for other categories of staff in the same barracks. Defence Correspondent, ABDUL LAUYA, went to town to find out how many military barracks in the country have prepaid meters, and who bears the cost of recharge.
Kubwa Navy Barracks in Bwari Local Gov­ernment Area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is putatively the old­est purely naval accommo­dation acquired when the Naval Headquarters (NHQ) officially relocated to Abuja in 2001. The expansion in infrsructural facility in­cluding Navy Holdings Ltd and Navy Post Housing Ltd necessitated more bar­racks to accommodate the corresponding manpower needed to man these of­fices. Hence, more barracks accommodation sprang up in Kuje, Karshi and now Asokoro, near Mogadishu Cantonment.
As is the case with all Military Barracks in the FCT, the Nigerian Navy administers its barracks in Abuja area through the Na­val Unit (NUA), the equiva­lent of Army Headquar­ters Garrison (AHQ). The NUA apply to NHQ, gets funds and settles PHCN bills in respect of all Navy Barracks, accommodation, Guest Houses, office com­plexes and other buildings belonging to the Nigerian Navy. It also administers all personnel posted to the FCT including welfare, Sentry duties/ Internal Se­curity deployment and dis­cipline general.
In Nigeria, occupants of Military barracks do not pay electricity bills as Government bear the costs through the services Headquarters. But this ap­pears not to be the case in the popular Navy Barracks Kubwa as some Junior per­sonnel complained that they are made to pay elec­tricity bills through their nose while senior officers who are economically bet­ter off are left out. Accord­ing to their narratives, Navy through the NUA intro­duced prepaid meters only at the Junior rates Quarters. The implication being that they have to recharge their meters before they enjoy electricity, while the Navy pays for the other category of officers.
The representative of the Junior staff who pleaded anonymity for fear of vic­timization, told The AU­THORITY that when they complained to NUA, they were asked to submit evidence of payment (re­charge) for reimbursement which they did since Janu­ary. When The AUTHOR­ITY contacted the Base Information Officer, NUA, Lt Cdr Hauwa Mohammed on the matter, she denied knowledge of details of the prepaid meters as accord­ing to her, she was just re­turning from a course, but said she was aware that meters were some time in­stalled in the said barracks but were tampered with by some faceless personnel.
On further investigation, the Commander NUA, Navy Commodore Gbassa, redirected The AUTHOR­ITY to Navy spokesman, as according to him, he is not authorized to speak to the press. He, however did not deny the allegation as he showed this reporter pho­tocopy of the memo he sent to NHQ on the matter.
When contacted, Navy spokesman, Captain Sulei­man Dahun, insisted that the Navy does not settle service matters with its per­sonnel on pages of news­papers, as according to him, “the service has laid down procedures for set­tling grievances”. He said: “it is gross indiscipline for service personnel to run to the press on a matter that is already receiving attention without exhausting internal channels of communica­tion”. On why the prepaid metres were not installed at the officers’ Quarters and other naval barracks in Abuja, Dahun said that it is a project that is being car­ried out in phases. He was however, silent on why the Navy has not reimbursed the affected personnel up till now.
To ascertain whether the policy on payment of elec­tricity bills in the Armed Forces has changed, this re­porter painstakingly visited almost all the military Bar­racks in Abuja including the Niger Barracks which houses the Service Chiefs and other senior Officers. The checks show that the military still bear the cost of electricity consumption in all its Barracks and other public buildings.
In other barracks visited within the FCT, no prepaid meters were observed in­cluding the popular Moga­dishu Cantonment (a tri-service accommodation), the Mambila Barracks, the Lungi Barracks, Camp WU Bassey, Air Force Bar­racks along Airport Road and Navy Barracks Kuje. The only Place where pre­paid metres was observed again was Military Pensions Board rented accommoda­tion in Kubwa, where the authorities provide money for central recharge of the meters monthly.
Outside Abuja, Further investigation into tri-ser­vice and navy barracks revealed that no prepaid meters in Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Osho­di, Navy Town Ojo, Armed Force Command and Staff College, Jaji, NDA Kaduna, as well as naval Baracks in Portharcourt, Calabar, Lo­koja, Abeokuta, Onitsha, Makurdi, Ibaka etc.
In an interview with cross section of some personnel on the matter, most of them alleged that the introduc­tion of prepaid meters in the Junior rates quarters was a ploy by naval authorities to check what they termed ‘reckless’ use of electricity by the Junior ones, who are often seen as indisciplined and irresponsible.
While prepaid electricity meters help to check arbi­trary charges (estimated billing) by PHCN and ir­responsible use of electric­ity generally, the peculiarity of military barracks call for a well-thought out central policy on how to adminis­ter prepaid meters in mili­tary barracks before it is implemented.

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