Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Government yesterday finally waded into the three-week siege on the facilities of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) by Ijaw youths, resulting in their eventual vacation of the business premises of the company.
The resolution came after a meeting between Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and government representatives.
IYC Chairman, Central Zone, Kennedy Olorogun, who had earlier promised to take the agenda of the meeting to the entire group for discussion, however, confirmed that the youths had agreed to vacate PHEDC facilities.
He said the peace talks brokered by the Secretary to Bayelsa State Government, Mr. Kemela Okara, led to the decision of the youths to vacate the facilities. The youths had forcefully shut down the operations of the distribution company in protest against the severely erratic power supply in the state.
Okara said: “We have suspended our protest at the instance of Bayelsa State Government. There is a commitment from the government to prevail on PHEDC to restore normalcy within 48 hours.
“We have shifted grounds and the onus is on the government to ensure that the distribution company lives up to expectation. We took this approach to make it clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
“If PHEDC fails our people, then we shall be left with no option than to advocate the revocation of its operating licence to create an opportunity for a competent operator to take over.
“Our demand is simple: give us electricity and we pay for it. We cannot continue to pay when there is no light. Since the government said it would compel the PHEDC to supply adequate electricity to Bayelsa State within 48 hours, we hold the government by that promise.”
Confirming the latest development, PHEDC Corporate Communications Manager, Mr. John Onyi, assured that power supply would be restored immediately it’s safe to do so.
“The IYC has vacated our premises and as we speak, we are working to restore supply immediately. Our engineers are doing the necessary checks to ensure that the feeders are in order and the network stable to deliver power.
“The intervention of the Secretary to State Government was very instrumental to resolving the conflict and we held very frank discussions and we are committed to resuming services to our teeming customers in Bayelsa,” he said.
The company had claimed that its consumers owed over N16.5 billion debt, which it said was threatening its operations in the state, leaving residents to spend the Christmas and New Year festivities in darkness.