Visibly angry Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) customers of Core Area GRA phase II, Oshimili South local government area of Delta State barricaded the office of BEDC over epileptic power supply to the area since November 2017.
The energy consumers stormed the office as early as 7:00am Monday chanting songs of war against the company whom they said allegedly demanded close to N1 million to reenergize the area back to the national grid after procuring a new 300KV transformer and donating same to the company but the company has refused to reconnect them.
According to them, several efforts the residents of the area have put in to resolve the lingering blackout the area has been plugged into has fallen into deaf ears even as they displayed placards with various inscriptions calling on BEDC to reconnect the area to power supply.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards reads: BEDC, give us light”, “We no get light since October 2017”, “BEDC refused to power our transformer” and “impunity go kill BEDC”, just as the protesters also deprived staff of the company from gaining access into the company even as they refused those inside from coming out.
They also sang songs like “BEDC oyonchi”, “BEDC 419”, “we no go agree”, BEDC corruption” among others.
Speaking on behalf of the irate protesters, chairman, energizing committee, Victor Amuwah, said since November 2017 the transformer that is servicing the area got bad, “We have tried on our own to see how we can remedy the situation. It is the responsibility of BEDC to provide transformers to customers but we went on our own to purchase a transformer. Now we ask that they should come to energize our transformer, getting to over one year when we consulted and met with the management of BEDC authority, they demanded that we should as a matter of officer note, submit the transformer that we have purchased to them’ that we should donate it to them, that we did and we also placed it on records”.
According to him, after releasing the transformer to BEDC, the company promised to enumerate the area to be able to restore power to the area, “we were patient enough to organize our people and the officials of BEDC went through the streets that were affected and enumerated the area, they gave us the promise that they are going to energize the transformer. That has been on for over six months”.
He noted that BEDC has refused to come to their plights on account of those the company claimed are still owing them on estimated bill, alleging that from November 2017 till date, BEDC still send them estimated billing, saying that it is unacceptable to them, “we gathered that most of the people refused to pay because BEDC gave them bloated and overestimated bills”.
He accused BEDC of suffering the entire area because of about 14 persons that are still indebted to the company, “we have been on this for a very long time to the level that we even went to consult the MD, she was not coming forth. The worst of it all, as I speak with you today, these people are still bringing estimated bills to us up till July”, describing the company as an unorganized uncoordinated.
He called on BEDC to do the needful, “and again, they have a system to check those who are not paying. Why not you provide prepaid meters, I am aware of some of the discos that are providing prepaid meters to customers for free. Why should that of BEDC be different”, he queried.
Also speaking Mr Henry Emelife, said it has been hell and very disappointing, “knowing that BEDC is supposed to supply us power but for close to one year now, we have not have power supply and it is very disheartening”.
He said “as a community, we have been able to put our heads together and we have been able to procure the transformer which we have also donated to the BEDC but it disappointing to not that a private entity such as them can afford to say that because of just a mere 14 persons who are indebted to them, they refused to give us power supply for close to one year”.
He revealed that the company up to the Chief Executive have been consulted, “their response is that there must be full payment for the 14 persons that are owing and these 14 persons cannot be ascertained because this is purely estimated billing which is still coming up even within the period that we haven’t had power supply. So, it is very disappointing, we have a few persons who get close to about N90, 000 in some months even within the period that we haven’t had power and you cannot hold a whole community to ransom all because of 14 persons that owe you”.
He called on BEDC to show some responsibility as a private organization and restore power to the blackout infested area, “we they are supposed to do, we have done it for them be giving them the transformer. They should take up that responsibility and restore power and identify those who are indebted to them and collect their funds from them”, he insisted.
The councilor representing ward 09/11 in Oshimili South, Mr Obrota Chiedu, who claimed he was passing bye said he stopped when he saw his people protesting the blackout they have been plugged into by BEDC.
He said they have sent people to Benin City to meet with the authority and nothing has been done, “so seeing these people, I felt that they are feeling the pains to know what we can do and how we can bring it to an end. It has come to the climax, both the state government have to be involved now that is why I have demanded for the pictures of what is happening so that I can push it to them to see what the people are about doing. We don’t know what will happen next, they may shutdown BEDC from giving services so it is better we stop it now before it escalates beyond here”.
But in her response, the Corporate Affairs Officer of the company, Esther Okolie, revealed that the transformer supplying power to the area is a failed transformer.
She hinted that “most of the customers in those areas owe a lot of debts and you know that now that the substation is out, we are making efforts to restore supply to them but we want to ensure that the huge indebtedness in these areas is reduced to at least 70 per cent and this is what the customers are complaining about.
“They want us to restore immediately and we are working towards that but you know we are also in business because we pay for the energy allocated to us. We are in a process like I told them and we are almost at the end of the process and we are about energizing them but it is just that they are a beat impatient and we are telling them that we will restore supply to them but they have to key into the process by ensuring that they settle part of the indebtedness on their previous bills”.
She denied that the customers did not inform the company of purchasing a new transformer “that they were able to get help from the state government. The Commissioner for Power and Energy assisted them. We are not talking about the infrastructure; we are talking about the energy. It is the energy we pay for as a disco and we expect that when people use this energy, they should also account for it because at the end of the month, we are also expected to account for the energy. It is about the transformer issue, we are talking about the previous energy that is already consumed by these our customers”.
She said the company was not happy over the situation but “the way they are not cooperating with us to ensure that the process is faster. That is why we insist that they should pay part of this indebtedness so that we won’t have this kind of problem again. As they now consume they should cultivate the habit of settling their bills promptly”.
Responding to the allegation of her sabotage of their efforts, she said “I am a resident in that area, that shows you that there is no sacred cow”, noting that even when she is involved, the processes are to be followed. I am also buying fuel like they are buying”, she hinted.
Meanwhile, police officers from GRA Division stormed BEDC premises armed to the teeth to curtail any crisis even as Mr. Okolie took cover under the police from been lynched.