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Anecdote: Deregulation Therapy.

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“Oga wefutara ayi 3 taazan ka ayi welu computer ghazielu gh motor”
(Oga pay 3 thousand naira let’s fix your car with a computer)

Example 1.

Back in the late 90s Abacha granted mobile network license only to his cronies who ripped off a few privileged Nigerians that could afford hundreds of thousands to own a mobile phone. I remember walking into a NITEL office in Enugu to buy a 090 mobile line in 1999 and was mortified when I learnt that it was already oversubscribed as only 100,000 lines were approved. I was advised to look for owners willing to sell theirs.

I eventually had to travel to Lagos where I bought one from a friend in Lagos for N90,000. But still had to pay off his outstanding bill of N80,000 for the line to be reconnected. That’s a total of N170,000 to own an analogue Motorola MicroTAC mobile phone.

Outrageous innit? It didn’t take more than 3 years for that to change.

By 2002, Obasanjo had completed the deregulation of the telecoms sector and even though GSM lines initially cost between N20,000 to N30,000 depending on the package, prices continually dropped over the years until sim cards became freebies. Whatsmore the quality of service from the networks keeps improving.

Example 2.

In 2011, Sunny, my mechanic in Asaba told me that to inflate the balloon of my jeep would require hiring a ‘computer’ to identify, analyse and diagnose the problem. Even though I could drive for some days with the balloon deflated, I would be risking greater damage, moreover, feeling the thuds and bumps while driving on our roads is not exactly my idea of fun, so I was faced with little option really.

Back then only a few elite auto workshops could boast of owning an automobile diagnostic scanning tool A.K.A ‘computer’. So when I was informed that I will have to cough out between N10,000–N15,000 to hire one I didn’t find it funny at all but I still paid and the problem was solved thereafter.

Subsequently, whenever I had the balloon problem Sunny will claim that he hired a ‘computer’ to fix it. I wondered why he needed a ‘computer’ to solve the same problem over and over again. Well, your guess is as good as mine.

In any case, I didn’t fall for that line for long as a simple Google search revealed that you only need to disconnect the battery whenever work is to be done on the vehicle’s suspension to prevent the balloon from going down.

Sunny did not see or hear from me for over a year because I did exactly what I learnt from Google each time I changed my brake pads or worked on my vehicle’s suspension. The regular oil change and servicing were done in Enugu by my boy. So one day I pulled into Sunny’s workshop to inquire how he was faring and after the usual banter, he asked if I had moved to which I said no that he hadn’t seen me because the car has not given any problem since. He told me that he had bought his own ‘computer’ and will charge me only 8k if it happens again.

To cut the long story short I relocated and sold the big man jeep. I‘ve been using smaller cars each time I am in Nigeria so whenever there is an issue my boy takes care of it. On one visit, however, I was using my brother’s car when it developed a fault. I had a gut feeling that I could end up needing a ‘computer’ hiring mechanic. I called one nearby and after about 30 minutes of trial and error, he confirmed my worst fears.

“Oga we have to meet my boss to fix this car with his computer”, he finally said.

We got to the workshop and his very busy boss was surrounded by 3 clients while he dished out instructions to his boys. After he was briefed on my case he turned and calmly assessed me before blurting out.

“Oga wefutara ayi 3 taazan ka ayi welu computer ghazielu gh motor”. (Oga pay 3 thousand naira let’s fix your car with a computer)

Sweet Jeez! Just three thousand naira to hire a ‘computer’?? I almost found myself asking him “only three thousand?”, but remembered it was my wedding anniversary and some luck often come on such special days. So I quickly paid and within a blink of an eye, the almighty ‘computer’ appeared from an unseen office and we walked back to where my car was parked. The problem was identified, analysed and diagnosed as ‘camshaft actuator bla bla’. It was fixed in minutes and I paid a token workmanship charge and drove away.

In a few years, the once scarce elitist commodity known as ‘computer’ had become available even to roadside mechanics and the price crashed from 15k to 3k. I’m certain that I could have paid 2k if I had haggled.

These are simple examples of how prices attain equilibrium by the forces of demand and supply in a free market economy. I believe the time is ripe for Nigeria to toe the same line in the energy sector. Even our forex market should be driven by the same factors.

It’s really a shame that an oil-producing nation like ours is still stuck with regular blackouts and occasional long fuel queues. No nation will make meaningful progress in development without an efficient energy sector. We need to deregulate and fully embrace a free market economy with limited government intervention. We are losing a lot in terms of productivity to the inefficiency in our energy sector. Deregulation is the answer. Whether it will be gradual or abrupt should be the only debate now

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