By Godwin Utuedoye

 

 

 

Rev Fr Christopher Ekabo leading the protest in Sapele

Rev Fr Christopher Ekabo leading the protest in Sapele

RESIDENTS of Ughelli town and environs during the week, decried the outrageous bill charged by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, (BEDC) in the midst of poor power supply especially during the yuletide season.

Our correspondent who went into town gathered that residents of Upper Agbarho Street and Omoyibo Street decried electricity bill allegedly put at N12, 500 to N17, 000 per month per compound.

Mr. Peter Okoh, who resides in Omoyibo Street, said his electricity bill was constantly high without regular electricity supply. He questioned where the bills were coming from when there was relatively no consumption, noting that despite the huge charges, power supply is still appalling; a situation he described as worst than when the federal government was handling it.

Other residents who spoke to our correspondent said the monthly increase on bill is criminal and exploitation.

They called on the federal government to withdraw the power sector from the private company especially the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC, which they alleged is exploiting the masses as they now pay for life in darkness.

They said it is disheartening for BEDC to be demanding exorbitant charges when they cannot supply light for months.

On the part of the workers, residents also accused them of allocating bills by guesswork as what they claim from consumers was not the commensurate to consumption rate.

Our correspondent who visited BEDC office along Ughelli Patani Road could not speak to the manager as he was not on sit.

In a related report, residents of Sapele, in Delta state, Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the office of Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC, in Sapele warning that power outage and outrageous billing will no longer be tolerated.

The protesters numbering over 5,000 carrying placards with inscriptions such as ‘BEDC must go’ ‘Sapele need 33kv line too’, ‘No light, no payment of Bills’, ‘Disconnect all the political leaders from 33kv line’, and so on vowed that if in a week time the complains were not attended to, they will be forced to return.

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, at the gate of the electricity distribution company, the Priest of St Patrick Catholic Church, Sapele, Rev. Fr Christopher Ekabo who led the protesters through major streets in the town before convening at BEDC office, ATP, said Sapele indigenes were tired of living in darkness.

The Priest who brought along his light bills told BEDC officials that for a long time, Sapele residents have lived with the reality of 3 hours electricity supply in a day and sometimes no power supply at all.

He attributed the closure of companies in the town, especially Eternit Nigeria Limited that has moved to Enugu to the poor power supply to Sapele adding that artisans and SME’s are going through pains to sustain their business and demanded for improvement in power supply.

Others who spoke on behalf of the protesters were Comrade Cyprian Anyanwu who demanded for the immediate supply of prepaid metres and Barr. Mike Egbune who said they will continue to advocate and fight for the people’s right.

Addressing journalists, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Felix Anirah said, Sapele residents were tired of incessant power failure.

He called on the management of BEDC to listen to the people’s plight, saying that; “You can see they are angry, only God knows what will happen, if they return again.”

One of the protesters, who gave his name as Mr. Ufuoma Emuobosa, frowned at a situation where the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Monday Igbuya, DESOPADEC Board Chairman, Mr Godwin Ebosa, DESOPADEC Commissioners, House of Assembly members, and other government appointees in Sapele are connected to 33kv lines.

He urged the management of BEDC to disconnect politicians using 33kv lines for their personal use, stressing that if they are treated like other residents in Sapele, they would find solution to the blackout currently being faced in Sapele.

Responding, Mr Adekunle Tayo Head, Corporate Affairs, Benin Electricity Distribution Plc said that the low supply was due to low generation of power to the national grid, adding that BEDC’s allocation has been 9 per cent of whatever is generated nationally from which they now share amongst the 4 coverage states of Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states.

He added that they had overdrawn their allocation for Delta state from 31 to 41percent yet it was not enough to meet the required needs of customers.

He however, assured that supply to Sapele residents will improve as soon as there was increase in allocation to BEDC from the national grid and pleaded with the protesters to bear with them.

According to an official of BEDC in Sapele business unit who pleaded anonymity, “the allocation to Sapele is low, but for us to meet our target because of non-payment of bill and power theft, we have to consider those in 33kv line first.”

“As you know we are in business to make profit and since Sapele residents are not willing to pay for the power consumed, we have no other option to give it to those that can pay for it.”

Other notable leaders who also took part in the peaceful protest were Hon. Goodluck Arimitan, Mr. Solomon Abeke, representative of the Sapele Local government chairman, Mr Perkins Umukoro and members of the Youths Council of Nigeria