By Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state has given the management of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) 48 hours ultimatum to restore power to disconnected communities in the state or he would revoke their Certificate of Occupancy
Oshiomhole who handed the ultimatum when management of Benin Disco, led by its Managing Director, Mrs. Funke Osibodu paid him a courtesy call at government House, Benin City, described the action of the company as not only criminal, but economic sabotage because of the numerous persons and businesses the disconnection had impacted negatively.
Explaining the rationale behind the disconnection, the Benin Disco boss said its actions became necessary because of the refusal of the affected areas to pay their electricity bill, coupled with the incessant harassment, intimidation and beating of the company staffers as well as destruction of its electricity installations and vehicles belonging to the firm.
Besides, Osibodu who was represented by Mr. Richard Obishai, said the current load shedding embarked upon by the company was as a result of the allotted megawatts to the company for distribution from the national grid that had gone down by 40 per cent due to vandalism of gas pipelines which had affected generation.
According to the Disco, although the company had the installed capacity to provide electricity for at least 12 hours per day, but got an average of 320mwt which was distributed to customers in the four states of Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo, its area of jurisdiction.
Even at that, Osibodu noted that Edo got 53 per cent of the total power given, adding that the exorbitant bills customers frowned at was as a result of the new tariff which was not peculiar here but all other Discos.
The BEDC MD who acknowledged the absence of meters for appropriate billing system said of the 70000 customers of the company, just about 40 per cent did not have meters and that was why it relied on the estimated billing methodology to bridge the gap.
According to her, “the disconnection of those communities was as a result of treat to lives and property of the firm damaged”, pointing out that even the protests by Civil Society Groups (CSOs) had been about implementation of the new tariffs.
But Oshiomhole in his argument, maintained that it had always been the basic rights of customers to contest price increase especially when what they were asked to pay did not in any way corresponds with services rendered.
He said: “I do not need to argue anymore from your narrative because whether we like it or not, the regulator must regulate what exists, not what does not exist. The issue of private business, how often you get your power is not the headache of customers but yours. It is the headache of customers to find a way to pay.
“Nobody forced you into this business. If you know you don’t have the technical know-how, why bidding for the job. If other parts of the country accept the hike and arbitrary tariff which I consider criminal and sabotage, we will not accept that.
“You cannot embark on the motive of anybody who argues with you, you disconnect. That is worst side of private monopoly. Therefore, I order you discontinue with that attitude.
“You cannot be giving minimum input and be expecting maximum revenue. If power supply drops, revenue should correspondingly decline because you cannot be giving minimum input and expect maximum revenue. You are careful to protect your profit margin irrespective of whether you supply power or not using a crude estimate to collect revenue as if power has not dropped”.
The Governor who decried vandalism or threat to live of any sort, however added, “if you have people who you suspect have done a criminal act on your property, do the needful by using a lawful means of ensuring they are brought to book. Do not embark on criminal act of sabotaging the economy of the state.
“The tariff in Nigeria is higher than that of India. So what model are you applying? Life is tough for the average person. Do not add to it because if you provoke the people to the point they cannot take, there may be total breakdown of law and order.
“When that happens, you may not be able to do your business effectively which we do not pray. Therefore, review your books and stop setting targets by slapping customers with tariff that is not commensurate with supply.
“Discontinue with criminal estimate and do not expect maximum profit in the face of decline. If you cannot do the business say so and the federal government will revoke the privatisation”, Oshiomhole advised.