The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) has raised the alarm that its staff and their security personnel on a disconnection exercise were attacked by some residents of Epie Community in Bayelsa State.
According to a statement by the company, the Business Service Manager, Pere Alazigha, a linesman, Christian Umegbewe, three policemen and other staff involved in the disconnection exercise were injured in the attack, which was spearheaded by the youth of the area.
The statement added that while Alazigha was left with a machete cut on his body, Umegbewe was pushed down from the ladder by the youths during the disconnection process.
Both of them were immediately hospitalized, according to the statement.
The Head of Glory City Main Integrated Business Centre, Yenagoa, Mrs. Ngozi Manafa, said the Ford Hilux conveying staff to the venue was also damaged and its windscreen shattered.
She confirmed that the Epie Community had an outstanding debt record of N60,484,304.56 and a current bill of N2,321,327.78, to which they paid 70,000 and 50,000, respectively.
According to the statement, the incident was the second to take place within the week as a disconnection team of PHED was also beaten up at Airtel Road, two days before the Epie incident.
Only last month, some residents of Akemfa community attacked PHED staff on collection drive with the Business Service Manager, Mr. Festus Owi taken to the bush by some angry residents, while other PHED staff ran for cover.
The community owes the company over N47,130,2.26.
Several other attacks have also been witnessed in Koroma in Gbarain clan of Bayelsa state, where one PHED staff was held hostage and of the hillux pick up was also damaged.
Reacting to the development, the Chief Operating Officer, PHED, Mr. Kingsley Achife, condemned the act, adding that “PHED will not relent in their commitment towards serving their paying customers and this we hope to achieve by ensuring that customers pay for energy consumed.”
Achife appealed to the public to desist from attacking staff who are willing to render quality service to them
The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Jay McCoskey had said that the country’s electricity industry was in dire straits due to huge unpaid debt.
McCoskey added that given the huge revenue shortfall that PHED like other distribution companies were experiencing, mass disconnection would have to be done to force a change in the payment habits of consumers.
According to him, the refusal of MDAs to pay their long-standing debts represented the biggest worry of the distribution companies in the country.
“As a distribution company, PHED inherited a weak network, a relatively small customer base compared to the population, massive electricity theft and several other social ills related to electricity supply. For MDAs therefore to join the barrage of problems by continuously refusing bills payment is like a death sentence to the industry,” he explained.
“We have issued disconnection notices to all MDAs while at the same time engaging all other indebted customers to ensure that they paid their bills. The industry no longer runs on government subvention,” he said.
McCoskey said further that there would be marked improvement in service delivery once there were better collections from customers, especially MDAs, adding that PHED had already demonstrated this by recent initiatives that it had embarked upon.