By Olisemeka Obeche, Francis Ekpone & Okechukwu Onuegbu
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) has come under attack from a section of its consumers and rights crusaders in Anambra state over its continued issuance of estimated bills and irregular power supply.
Although a protest march organised by some of the aggrieved customers and right groups at the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, Anambra state capital on May 10 over the issues was foiled by security officials, the organisers insist they would not back down until EEDC improves power supply and provides prepaid meters to all customers in parts of the state.
Orient Weekend gathered that a mild drama played out at the venue of the proposed protest when police officers barricaded the arena, citing ‘orders from above.’ to seal the venue in accord with a court order prohibiting the protest. The protest, backed by a coalition of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU) chapter, the OurMumuDonDo, Anambra State chapter and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS Zone B), was planned as a march from the venue (Alex Ekwueme Square) through Arroma junction to the EEDC office, in Awka.
However, the convener of the protest and national coordinator of the Recover Nigeria Project (RNP), Comrade Osita Obi told newsmen during the failed protest, that the group made its grievances known to the EEDC on March 20, 2019 through a formal letter, duly acknowledged by the EEDC, Awka office with a copy to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC.
According to him, the coalition of protesters also issued a one-month ultimatum to the distribution company to meet its demands but that the letter was ignored and the ultimatum lapsed on April 20, 2019, hence their protest.
“We are demanding for greater electricity supply, installation of prepaid meters, stoppage of exploitation and stoppage of estimated billings by EEDC. The citizens will no longer continue to go this way. It is either EEDC performs and supplies us electricity or the consumers will ask for revocation of their license. After today, the struggle will go viral. EEDC must give us prepaid meters and improvement in the power supply,” he declared.
This is not the first time the firm was coming under attack from its customers over its alleged breaches in service delivery. Last month, residents of Nkata Ibeku in Umuahia North local government area of Abia state accused the EEDC of failing to supply them regular electricity for over eight months despite their regular payment of bills.
Emeka Orji, a resident of the community claimed that since September 2018, the EEDC, through their office on Finbarrs Road, Umuahia, had deliberately ignored the appeal from residents to look into their power supply issue and find a solution to the problem. “We have resorted to generating our own power since September last year. The cost of fuel is known to everybody. You cook but you cannot use your refrigerator at home. They are making life miserable for those living around that area,” he lamented.
In March 2018, the firm and its customers traded blames over poor electricity supply in parts of Enugu state at a Customer Forum organised by a non-governmental organization (NGO), Advocacy Partnership for Good Governance, at the Radio Nigeria Enugu Pavilion.
Ojielo Chukwudi, a retired civil servant, accused the firm of always coming up with excuses to defend its poor performance. “They have always given this excuse that they are just a power distribution company that it is only what they get that they distribute. If they don’t have money to buy enough to distribute, why don’t they say so and get us some competent people to manage it?”
Obadiah Chibuzor, a data management consultant, also accused EEDC of ‘crazy’ bills, exorbitant charges, continuous billing of disconnected customers and general poor services. Some of the customers also alleged vandalism of transformers by EEDC workers themselves, deliberate denial of pre-paid meters to customers, weak and poor power infrastructure, indiscriminate disconnection of costumers for up to three years and high handedness by officials of the company.
However, in his reaction to the latest customer backlash in Awka, the head of corporate communications of the Enugu Electric Distributions Company (EEDC), Mr. Emeka Ezeh, expressed shock that some customers in Awka can embark on such action against the company at a time it had made appreciable strides towards improving its service delivery in the area.
Ezeh told Orient Weekend that the firm had invested billions of naira towards improving its infrastructures and ensuring that customers across its network were issued prepaid meters. Hear him: “We have invested in metering and have been metering our customers, but because of the wide metering gap inherited by EEDC, there is no way all the un-metered customers can be metered all at the same time. We have, so far, brought over 250,000 customers on to our prepaid meter platform. Metering is a process which requires time and resources.
“In addition, we have commenced our Distribution Transformer Metering (DTM) program, where all our public transformers are metered so that customers on a particular transformer will be billed according to the energy consumed by the transformer. We believe that this will go a long way in addressing the issues of billing.
According to him, the firm had executed two major projects in Awka as part of its bid to improve power supply. “We have undertaken construction of 7.5MVA Injection Substation at ABS, Awka, and upgrading of two 7.5MVA Injection Substation at Agu Awka to a 15MVA and 7.5MVA Injection Substations. These projects have already improved supply to our customers in the areas affected.” He said.
Orient Weekend recalls that the firm, in January, identified nine major challenges militating against stable power supply in the South-East. These included power installations vandalism, energy theft, accidental destruction of power facilities, meter bypass, illegal connection/reconnection, non-payment of electricity bills, attack on EEDC field officers and tampering with electrical installations.
Ezeh further disclosed that the EEDC asset registration and customer enumeration exercise was still ongoing and appealed to electricity consumers to give maximum cooperation to the enumerators, saying that the exercise was designed to make EEDC more efficient in service delivery.
“All these efforts to attain greater efficiency cannot be effectively actualised without the support and cooperation of our esteemed customers,” he added.
Ezeh noted that improved electricity supply in the South-East would boost business and socio-economic activities. “EEDC is soliciting the continued support of its stakeholders and customers to achieve its target,” he said.