Generator Industry Fraud: The A to Z

A conversation with a technician who has worked with four generator companies in Lagos and Abuja over two decades.

A is for Algebra

There is something we call Algebra. This is fraudulently exaggerating the capacity of a generator. Many Nigerians have been sold 30KVA generators. But there is no such thing as a 30 KVA generator. The closest thing is 27.5 KVA. You don’t identify generator capacity through a sticker that any local distributor can print and stick on the generator. The capacity is stamped on the engine by the manufacturer. People buy generators with algebra capacity stamped on a sticker and go on to put too much load on them because they believe the exaggerated capacity on the sticker. They end up damaging the engine.

Soundproof or quarter-soundproof?

Generator companies in Nigeria do not manufacture; they only couple parts. But the integrity of the companies and the quality of the generators they sell are very different. Take for instance, soundproof generators. The thickness of the cabin determines the level of noise the generator makes. Nigerians should demand more from these companies and verify things. You don’t need to be an expert to know that some of the so-called soundproof generators are of very bad quality. The cabins are very thin, and they make too much noise for something called soundproof. If you buy a Cummins or CAT generator, you don’t need to be convinced that you have purchased a genuine soundproof generator. You can hold a meeting right beside it.

Buy cheap, pay much more later

Quality generator brands like Cummins, CAT and John Holt brands are more expensive but they are cheaper in the long run because you will spend far less on repairs. If you use them reasonably and service very well, you will hardly need to change any parts. You get exactly what you have been promised and what you have paid for. The distributors whose products are not very good and who use all sorts of tricks to increase their profits are very aggressive at marketing.  They offer attractive discounts and are very flexible when dealing with procurement people in companies and the government. They make more noise even than their so-called soundproof generators. Many people don’t know that their products should be avoided.

It can be Perkins, yet not behave like Perkins

Cummins engine is always 100% Cummins. Many other distributors assemble generators using different engines – many use Perkins, which is a good quality manufacturer. But the problem is that Perkins engines are made in many countries including America, England, India, China and Korea. So, the quality is different. The ones from Korea are the worst. The high-quality engines and components are always way heavier. Once, we were assembling Korean-made components and one of the components dropped. It shattered, covered in big cracks. I have dropped American-made Perkins parts several times. You just pick it up and continue your work. I have a feeling that the low-quality parts are specifically made for Nigerian distributors. The rings especially wear out very quickly and the generators start smoking, sometimes after just three months of use. The AVR (automatic voltage regulator) and alternator coil also develop problems quickly. Customers have to spend money to replace these parts. Sometimes, the spare parts are no better than the original.

Nigerians should question the terms of warranties

Nigerians should become far more assertive. When you buy a generator and it starts to malfunction in two or three months, you should not ask the company to fix it. Tell them they sold a fake or bad product and ask them to replace it for you. An original or good quality product should not have major issues so quickly. Poor quality has become the standard in Nigeria’s generator market. So, the things that should occur only very rarely have become routine.

Regulatory shakeup

The industry is ripe for a regulatory shakeup. There are so many sharp practices.  Nigerians are losing money, spending so much repairing generators and ultimately, on replacing them prematurely. There is a great loss of productivity for companies and offices. People spend so much time on fixing issues with these poor-quality generators that they could have spent working. The good thing is the malpractices are very easy to discover. The perpetrators could also as easily be made to play by the rule book and stop fooling customers. The government should act.

Oluwatomi Otuyemi

Oluwatomi Otuyemi, a Geology graduate from Crawford University, has 5 years experience in corporate corporate communications. He has a passion for storytelling, and investigative reporting.

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