Blackout Persists in Bayelsa as Ijaw Youths Continue Siege on PHEDC

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Hope of an early resolution of the disagreement between Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has continued to dim, with both parties appearing to grandstand on the matter.

The youths led by Kennedy Olorogun, Chairman, Central Zone, had laid siege to the facilities of PHEDC after several talks meant to resolve the issue broke down in December.

The severely erratic power supply to Bayelsa and environs finally collapsed since December 2019 as residents spent the entire festive period in darkness.

However, PHEDC management has said a debt of N16 billion was being allegedly owed by private customers, federal and state governments yesterday, adding that it regretted the negative impact of the total outage on business activities in Bayelsa and parts of Rivers.

PHEDC spokesman, Mr. John Onyi, in a statement yesterday, said the debt was hampering its operational capacity to render services on a commercial basis.

“An updated record as at December 2019 now stands at N16,620,458,203.12.

“A breakdown of the figure showed that PHEDC inherited N5,982,746,640.74 from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) on 31st October, 2013, while the balance of N10,637,711,562.38 was from November 1, 2013 till December 2019.

“Residential customers had N13,478,505,726.34, while state Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) in Yenagoa had N2,558,660,414.34 and the federal MDAs owe an outstanding of N91,558,680.76.

“Private Maximum Demand and Commercial Maximum Demand customers owe the PHEDC N388,779,285.35 and N102,954,096.33 respectively.” Onyi said.

He explained that the average electricity monthly billing in Yenagoa based on the allocation from the national grid is about N159,253,559.42 out of which PHEDC receives an average payment of N27,523,737.25.

He said with a customer base of 21,453 only 3,555 customers representing 17per cent are the ones paying their electricity bill on monthly basis, a development that is adversely affecting the viability of the firm.

Onyi called on all relevant stakeholders including security agencies, government to prevail on the IYC to vacate PHEDC offices to enable the firm serve its customers satisfactorily.

But, TCN has sanctioned PHEDC for declining to take up available power from TCN’s Yenagoa substation to end users leaving power “stranded.”

On August 20, 2019, TCN announced the lifting of a suspension order from the electricity market it placed on the PHEDC on July 27 for breach of ‘Market Conditions/Participation Agreement.

The transmission company said the lifting of the sanction was a regulatory measure to ensure that distribution companies evacuate available power.

Both PHEDC and TCN had been trading blames on the poor power supply in Bayelsa, with TCN saying PHEDC was unable to take up available power at its substation, while PHEDC alleged that it was not getting enough supply from the transmission company.

The Ijaw youths has, however, challenged PHEDC to substantiate its claim that customers in Bayelsa owed it N16.6 billion.

Olorogun alleged that the debt claim was a “a blackmail” to cover up incompetence by the firm despite verifiable evidence that there’s excess power stranded at Yenagoa transmission substation.

He dismissed the claim by PHEDC that residents were not meeting their obligations for energy use, adding that the people were being coerced to pay for “darkness” based on estimates.

According to him, information from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) showed that there was sufficient power at the substation at Gbarain, Yenagoa, but PHEDC was not distributing the electricity accordingly.