Edo consumers protest high electricity bills

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Alexander Okere, Benin

IRATE youths have shut down the Ikpema unit office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State.

Youths stormed the BEDC office on Monday morning to protest against huge estimated electricity bills and alleged intimidation of BEDC customers by security operatives attached to the company.

It was also learnt that the protesters, who also grounded operations at the Sakponba office of the distribution company, were later joined by some civil society activists.

The company’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr Tayo Adekunle, who confirmed the protest to our correspondent on the telephone, stated that the matter had been reported to the state police command.

But the spokesman for the Edo Civil Society Organisations, Mr Osazee Edigin, stated that more BEDC offices in other communities would be shut down if the company failed to address the issues raised by the consumers.

Osazee said, “Their (protesters’) agitation was borne out of outrageous estimated bills, poor customer service, intimidation by military personnel, non-supply of prepaid meters and high-handedness of the management.

“You will recall that one Innocent Okpara was also disconnected and beaten by military personnel attached to their white expatriates over a month ago in their Ekae district and have made a condition to him to withdraw his petitions against them before reconnection.

“More communities are preparing to shut down their offices across the state owing to the company’s gross incompetence.”

 Adekunle blamed the decrease in power supply experienced in Ugbor, Oko Central, Ekae and Sokponba in Oredo Local Government Area of the state on civil society groups, which he claimed prevented the technical team from attending to technical faults in the affected areas.

The company had, in a statement on Sunday, accused the civil society groups of shutting down its offices to the detriment of its customers.

The statement read in part, “Our offices are being closed down, staff molested and their working tools seized over frivolous excuse that their disconnected member, Okpara, be reconnected, even when he is still indebted to the company.

“It is pertinent to note that their other grouse against BEDC is over our resolve to stop them from bypassing the meters and stealing of energy.

“The authorities of the Edo State Police Command has stepped into the matter after they were informed and currently engaging members of the society.”

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