Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
It was a tensed atmosphere filled with heated arguments on Tuesday, in Benin City, capital of Edo state between electricity consumers and the service provider, Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) following complaints by consumers over what they described as shoddy treatment by the power company.
Most of the complaints bordered on estimated billings, collection of fund for meters not yet supplied and epileptic power supply. They lamented that despite the fact that they do not get light for several months, BEDC staff still bill them and extort money from them for replacement of faulty electricity components such as transformers and cables.
The aggrieved electricity consumers made the assertion at a town hall meeting organised by the Consumers Protection Council (CPC) to have an interface between electricity consumers and electricity providers.
Expressing their displeasure on how they have been maltreated by BEDC officials, a customer Monday Edo, from Utesi community, lkpoba-0kha, local government Area of the state, complained that since four years, the community has no light even when meters were given to them after they paid #36,000 to BEDC staff.
For Gaberial 0mokaro, he claimed that he paid #27,000 but could not have access to a meter, while Marcellinus Ekinwnide said he still receives bills despite that he has no light for the past seven months.
Delivering his opening remarks earlier, the Director General, Consumer Protection Council, Babatunde lrukere, said electricity is an essential public utility that is meant to affect the lives of the people.
He posited that “there is no excuse from electricity providers not to give light to the consumers because of the usefulness of electricity in our everyday living”.
Irukere asserted that the electricity providers should recognise the plight of consumers and fashion out ways to ensure steady supply.
He said the inability of government at all levels to provide electricity to the public prompted the shift to private sector to do so.
The CPC boss noted that available facts at his disposal showed that a lot of communities not just in Edo State have been in total darkness for almost three years because of lack of transformers.
He said: “It is the consumers’ right to complain. And the obligation is for the service provider to go home and digest the complaints for better efficiency.
“However, the customer should also understand that the entire power value chain of generation, transmission and distribution. The people (consumers) must understand all these. That the discos are not the ones who generate or transmit. They are merely the ones who deal directly with the consumers/customers.
“When you deal directly with people, the job is quite difficult that dealing with other things not human. But there is no excuse for the customer to be treated poorly. Even at that, it does not matter how many sub-stations and transformers you have, if people are not served, it is useless “.
Responding to the complaints made by the consumers, BEDC Executive Director, Commercial, Mr. Abu Ejoor, said the essence of the town hall meeting was to see how to provide solutions to the complaints raised by the electricity consumers.
While assuring that all their complaints would be channelled to the appropriate authority, Ejoor’s said very soon there will be a massive house to house of installation of meters after the firm must have carried out a pilot survey to ascertain the location they will start from.
He advised the consumers not to allow non BEDC staff to tamper with their meters, saying “if their meters have fault, they should bring it to their office for replacement.