Ekiti Landlords Drag Benin Disco to Court over Alleged Arbitrary Billing

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Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

The Ekiti State landlords’ association has sued the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) for alleged overbilling and illegal disconnection of electricity in the state.

In an originating summon filed at the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, the landlords, under the auspices of Ado Ekiti Electricity Consumers’ Association, said the BEDC contravened the Electricity Reform Act of 2005, which recommended that all electricity consumers must be metered before two years of connection.

The suit was filed by the Chairman of the body, Dr. Ibukun Ogundipe and four others.

Joined in the suit are the BEDC as a 1st defendant and National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as the 2nd defendant.

The plaintiffs through their lawyer, Isaac Omolade, prayed the court for an order of mandamus compelling the NERC to revoke BEDC operational licence for flouting the regulations.

They prayed the court to determine among other things, whether the BEDC going by the provision of sections 32, 80, 81,82 and 96, were empowered to impose arbitrary charge without deferring to NERC.

The plaintiffs sought a perpetual injunction restraining the BEDC from disconnecting or imposing monthly payment more than N3,100 as contained in their prayers and deposition.

They sought an order compelling the BEDC to pay the association a sum of N1million as general damages and another order compelling the distribution company to give prepaid meters to consumers.

They contended that having regards to sections 63 and 76 that NERC was empowered by the electricity Act to determine the amount to pay on electricity and that the BEDC must comply with the law.

They also said the court should nullify the arrears of electricity owed by landlords in Ekiti as soon as they are metered, saying the charges were arbitrary and not done in tandem with the law.

When the matter came up for mentioning yesterday, the plaintiff’s lawyer, stated that the defendants have been served with all papers and that he expected them to appear in court.

“My Lord, upon filing our suit in court on March 28, we served the defendants all relevant papers. We even filed counter affidavits to their replies on May 3.

“The constraint we have now is that their own country affidavits are hanging and they have not filed memoranda of appearance and all these will have effects on the proceeding.

“We plead your lordship to give us a date that will be communicated to them for definite hearing of this suit”, he said.

In his short ruling, Justice Babs Olaniyi Kuewumi, said: “Going by the court’s records, what you have filed and served on the defendants are the originating summon and they must have right of reply.

“This case is adjourned to June 26, 2019, for definite hearing and the defendants must be put on notice”, he said.

The landlords had held a series of protests in 2017 and 2018 respectively, to protest against illegal and arbitrary billing and failure to meter all households in the state.