Okon Bassey in Uyo
Ibom Power Company that generates about 191 megawatt has been shut down by the host community, Ikpa Ibekwe in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The community shut down the power plant for denying the area electricity since the company started producing power in 2010.
The protesters in their thousands, comprising youths, market women, artisans, fishermen, barricaded the main gate and other entrances to the power plant.
They also placed a “traditional injunction” with eight human caskets at the entrance of the company, vowing not to vacate the premises of the company until the electricity is connected to the community.
Our correspondent, who visited the community, observed that banks, markets, fishing ports, shops and all other business premises hurriedly shut down to avoid vandalisation.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions including: “No light, no work’, ‘Ikpa Ibekwe says No to Darkness,’ That’s All’s, ‘No Negotiation, No Meeting, Only Light,’ ‘We are your landlord, IPC,’ among others.
Ikpa Ibekwe is the host community of Ibom Power Company as well as the moribund Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON).
Economic activities have been crippled in the area due to lack of electricity even as it has been disconnected from the national grid by Port Harcourt Electricity Holding Company of Nigeria.
Youth President of Ikpa Ibekwe, Friday Benjamin, told our correspondent that it was a huge embarrassment that the community which host the power company has not benefited from the electricity supply.
Benjamin said in the last 10 years that IPC has been producing power and contributing enormously to the national grid, the company has not deemed it necessary to connect the community with electricity.
“The Ibom Power Company started generating electricity in 2010 and since then it has not met its corporate social responsibility to this community. The company has not given us electricity.
“We didn’t bother so much then because ALSCON used to give us, but that was no longer happening. We are now in perpetual darkness. We can’t have this giant facility and continue to live in darkness.
“We have been facing so many hazards as a result of the operations of the company here. Many of our people have died from strange diseases caused by toxic fumes. We are not ready to suffer the hazards alone. We also want to enjoy the benefits of the plant,” he said.
Also speaking, another youth leader from Ikot Abasi village and Chairman, Youth Presidents’ Forum, Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, Mr. Archibong Williams, said the people have been suffering for more than 15 years without light despite being host to Ibom Power Plant.
He said their appeal to the management fell on deaf ears; hence the decision of the youths including market women and students to shut down the operation of the company until it gives positive responses to their plights
“We have a power plant that is called Ibom Power Plant and for years it has been generating electricity but we don’t see this electricity. The host communities have nothing to show for it. We have been in darkness for 15 years.
“So the aggressive youths, women and students are here. Some time, last year, we gave a 21-day ultimatum which was extended to one year and some days but our grievances were not met.
“The youths yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) decided that the company is not going to operate again. So, we have shut down the company and put eight ‘corpse’ as traditional injunction to stop movement in and out of the company.
“As we speak there is no market in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area; no shop is operating and no one is going to school,” he said.
In his remarks, the President of Mboho Mkparawa, Ikot Abasi, Frank Enoidem, described their condition as pathetic, adding that the management of the company has been making things difficult as it has not come out with positive response since the agitation began.
“What we have done is a peaceful protest against poor electricity supply to our communities. This agitation has been there for long time, but nothing positive has been done.
“Last year, Governor Emmanuel Udom was here and after that we see some transformers but no light. So, we are beginning to suspect that those transformers were for political reasons.
“The Ibom Power Plant management has been making things difficult for us, because they have not come up with a positive response to show that something is being done,” he said.
Reacting to the development, the Managing Director of the plant, Meyen Etukudo, said the management and representatives of the host communities have been meeting and something was being done about the situation.
He said: “The overall youth president was in my office on Friday, 10 January, 2020. He saw me here as I was going to see the governor for the approval of the sub-station for Ikot Abasi.
“The governor said I should present the memo at the Finance and General Purpose Committee meeting headed by him and that was my first time to present a memo there, all because of the power issue at Ikot Abasi. The people should have exercised some patience.
“But the next thing they could do was to shut down the place. The paramount ruler called me and I was there about 3pm yesterday to explain the true position of things.”
He explained that when Ibom Power Plant was constructed the station service transformers to bring down the light to the host communities were not put in place.
“The people think it is just as easy as bringing down the light from the turbines. This needs a separate substation which the governor has already approved. We are talking about engineering and conception here. It costs money of course,” Etukudo said.