Vehicular movement within Benin City, the Edo State capital, was hellish yesterday as over 1,000 electricity consumers stormed the headquarters of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) at Akpakpava in protest against poor service delivery and financial extortion by the management.
Marching through such major roads as Ugbowo, Ekosodin, Uselu, Aerodrome Close and Akpakpava, the protesters brought all major roads to a halt as the spiral effect of the demonstration extended to all adjoining streets in the affected areas.
Of great concern to the protesters was the continued payment of N750 as fixed charge when power supply is nowhere near regular, so they vowed to permanently shut traffic until the BEDC management provides answers to the posers.
It took the intervention of the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Foluso Adebanjo, to calm the angry youths and remove the barricade on the Akpakpava Road. There was also heavy presence of soldiers, policemen and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps at the scene of the protest.
Speaking for the protesters, the Chairman, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Friday Obawonyi, said the situation was no longer acceptable, as many of the residents suffer the worsening epilepsy in power supply in spite of their regular payment of electricity bills.
“There is no way we will accommodate that. The fixed charge is N750 for every individual that has a meter. If you calculate the money they collect in Benin City alone, it is enough to generate electricity for Edo people,” he said.
A consumer, simply identified as Timothy, said: “They used to give us two hours of light. But for over three months now, often there will be complete blackout. In August, we were here and they told us that they would to it.
“The problems cannot continue to mount even when we pay bills. The most painful is the fixed charge of N750 but whenever there is a problem, we still need to fix it ourselves. Of what use is the charge? The fixed charge can stay if the electricity supply is regular.”
Another consumer, Col. Clement Okotie (rtd), said the situation was worse in Ugbowo, as there had not been a functional transformer in the area for two months in spite of the financial contributions made by members of the community.
“In my area, they took the transformer away for over three months. They said we had some things to pay for, which we knew we never owed,” he explained. “At the end of the day, they brought back the transformer and claimed the next day that it was vandalised.
“When the transformer was fixed with community efforts, they gave us power for three hours per day for 10 days. Now, they brought a bill of N21,000 to my house. I am not a second-class citizen, so I don’t see any reason anyone should make any Nigerian a slave in his own country.”
When contacted, the BEDC Head of Corporate Communications, Steve Omanufeme, attributed the consumers’ challenges to faulty transformers, which he said the company was making efforts to fix in collaboration with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) located on Sapele Road in Benin.
He expressed shock at the protest, stating that the BEDC had updated consumers on the state of the transformers through public announcements last week. Also, the Assistant Manager, Public Affairs, Rufus Imafidon, said that tests were already being conducted on the faulty T21 transformer towards fixing it. The Guardian