The 11 electricity distribution companies in the country under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) have cried out to President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the brutality against the electricity workers by officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces, saying the assault on the workers is the height of impunity by soldiers.
Executive Director of ANED, Mr. Sunday Oduntan told journalists in Lagos that soldiers had been beating up electricity workers carrying out their legitimate duties for a number of years, without any action against such erring soldiers by the military authorities.
Oduntan called on Buhari to call soldiers to order, insisting that “you can’t continue to run a country, where soldiers will be beating our staff when we are only asking them to pay their bills.”
Oduntan argued that the distribution companies have continued to receive insults and beating while they are not responsible for the poor power supply in the country.
“We are the one that give you bill. We are the one that collect money from you. We are the one you will insult; we are the one you will beat. This morning, one of our staff, Mr. Abdulahi Mohammed in Zamfara State, around 10.0am this morning, was beaten up by soldiers. As usual with their impunity, soldiers from 1 Base Ammunition Depot in Gusau, Zamfara State, beat up the guy this morning because the guy went to disconnect them for not paying their electricity bill for over two years. That is the kind of problem we are facing in the sector. You cannot continue to beat our staff and say that you can get away with anything,” Oduntan explained.
Oduntan also alleged that a serving army major had led a groupd of soldiers from Alamala Barracks under 35 Artillery Brigade Headquarters in Abeokuta to attack the workers under Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company.
“Under Ibadan Disco, there is a place in Abeokuta called Alamala Barracks. Some soldiers led by a major from Alamala Barracks went to a place called Rounda and beat up one of our distribution staff. I have the picture of the man with serious injuries. Up till today, nothing has been done by the military. We call on the Federal Government,
particularly, the President, who is a retired general himself, to call his boys to order,” Oduntan added.
The Discos recently commenced a mass disconnection of legacy debtors to protest the huge unpaid electricity bills by this class of consumers.
The body had revealed that government establishments, including the military and security agencies alone, owed the Discos some N93 billion.
The figure, it said, comprised N39.1 billion pre-privatisation of electricity assets and N39.5 post-privatisation.s
Also thrown into the debt calculation is the outstanding interest of N15 billion, which the Bulk Trader charges Discos for late payment of their electricity bills, which was worsened by the non-settlement of electricity bills by consumers as and when due.
Oduntan had argued that his member-companies had to carry out its threat when it became “obvious that there was nothing on the table”.
He said: “Although we appreciate the efforts of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, but the stark reality is that there is nothing concrete to hold on to.
“There is no provision for MDAs’ debts to Discos in the budget, even though we started discussions before the budget was passed. The indebtedness has become so huge that we are truly troubled about how the government would resolve this without a budgetary allocation.”
Oduntan, however, made it clear that the current mass disconnection protest embarked upon by Discos was not an exercise targeted at MDAs, “but all legacy debtors”.