By Olisemeka Obeche
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) has denied allegations of extorting huge sums of money in excess of two million naira from residents of Federal Housing Estate, Ogbor Hill, Aba in Abia State to address over 10 months of power outage in the area.
The denial came days after some customers in the commercial city of Aba accused the Enugu based power distribution firm of failing to replace its damaged transformers despite collecting over N2 million.
A spokesman of the residents, Navy Lt. Faraday Richardson (rtd) lamented that since September 2018, residents of the area have been under power blackout despite repeated assurances given to them by the EEDC management.
According to him, after waiting for the power firm to replace their damaged transformer to no avail, they decided to contribute money to purchase another transformer to restore power in the area.
He alleged that they had already contributed over N2m when officials of EEDC in Aba told them to hand over the money to them to enable the company mount another transformer in the area. But two months after the receipt of the money; EEDC mounted a moribund electric transformer in the area, which blew up in less than 48 hours after installation.
Hear him: “We have been the ones buying electric transformers in the area each time the one we are using gets bad; even the one that packed up last year, we bought it and we had not complained. Why we are pained this time around is that we had already contributed over N2m and made arrangement to purchase a new transformer before the EEDC people told us to give them the money, assuring they would mount another transformer for us.
“But to our greatest surprise, after collecting the money, they brought us a moribund electric transformer which packed up only after about 36 hours and all efforts made to get EEDC replace the said transformer have not yielded any result.”
According to Mr. Richardson, the incident which put back the area into total darkness was promptly reported to EEDC officials and their complaints had not been attended to.
Another resident of the area simply identified as Chief Eketo, further disclosed that residents of the affected area may be forced to carry out protest if EEDC fail to address their power supply crisis before August.
Reacting to the claims, EEDC’s Head of Corporate Communications, Emeka Ezeh told Orient Daily that the allegations by customers at Federal Housing Estate, Ogbor Hill, Aba, that they were duped by the company was untrue.
“May I reiterate that customers of the Federal Housing Estate, Ogbor Hill, Aba, never paid any money to our office nor handed such over to any of our official; and that the money they paid was made into bank account to service their indebtedness, and not for the purchase of a new transformer, as alleged.
Ezeh challenged the affected customers to provide them with details of the staff who allegedly received N2m from them and when the deal took place.
On the 10-month old blackout in the area, the EEDC spokesman clarified: “The transformer serving the customers developed fault, and while effort was being made to repair the transformer, the customers were mobilising, contributing money to buy a new transformer; but we do not encourage such, as it is our responsibility to replace transformer.
“Considering a huge outstanding debt of N43 million owed by customers served by the said transformer, the Network Manager in charge of our Aba District, met with the representatives of the customers and advised them on the need to pay part of their arrears to enable EEDC replace their transformer.
“At the end of the meeting, they agreed to pay the sum of N3 million as part payment for debt owed by the Estate, and they equally agreed to subsequently service this debt with a view to clearing the outstanding bill.
“At the end, they eventually paid a total sum of N2 Million into their individual accounts. This money was paid at the bank and not to any EEDC staff, and I understand that the receipts of the payments is with them, and the payment was made in N1.5 million and N500,000 installments respectively.
According to Ezeh, after the payment of N2 Million, the affected transformer was replaced, but developed fault after few days. He stressed that effort was being made to replace the transformer and restore the customers.
“We are however concerned about the hostilities on our field staff by residents of the estate who are in the habit of not paying their electricity bills, and not allowing our staff carry out disconnection of indebted customers. There is no doubt that this attitude obviously informed the huge outstanding bill incurred by the customers,” he stressed.
“The need for customers to pay their electricity bill cannot be over emphasised. There is no way EEDC can be efficient if customers owe it so much. Replacement of transformers, as well as its repairs cost money, and situation where some customers resort to emotional blackmail of EEDC and taking advantage of some of their media friends/associates to disseminate unverified information and make unfounded allegations is disheartening.