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From Okey Sampson, Aba
Industrialists in the commercial city of Aba in Abia State under the aegis of Association of Aba Industrialists (AAI), recently, matched through major streets to protest high tariff and alleged callous disconnection of power supply to their industries by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC).
The protesting industrialists marched through the major street to the Ariaria District office of EEDC on Calabar Street, Aba, displaying placards some of which read: “EEDC anti-business, EEDC cheats Aba industrialists, EEDC major cause of unemployment, EEDC tariff is unbearable and EEDC, enough is enough.”
Narrating their plight, one of the leaders of AAI, Cletus Ikpo said: ìIn other countries of the world, when it comes to power supply and other incentives, their governments give industrialists every support they need, but it is unfortunate that the government of Nigeria has not given us this support. When we had NEPA, it was better than PHCN; from PHCN to EEDC and since EEDC came to Aba, we have not been finding things easy.
“We have met with EEDC severally, we’ve made requests and asked them to give us regular power supply. They promised they will give, but they never did. We also requested that EEDC put themselves in our shoes and see if they employ people and unable to pay them at the end of the month whether the people will be happy. If because of the activities of EEDC officials we throw our workers numbering over 500,000 into the labour market, I think the country will be in problem, Aba will be in problem and kidnapping and other violent crimes will start again. It is because we don’t want to do that that we are making request to EEDC to come and review their tariff the way it will be suitable so that they can be in business and we can be in business as well’s
Ikpo painted a pathetic picture of what his members had suffered in the hands of EEDC. He said hitherto, they were paying N23.66 as tariff for industries based on initial agreement with the power company.
But he pointed out that in January 2015, the EEDC unilaterally increased tariff by 100 per cent, asking their members to pay N43.99.
He opined that as responsible citizens, the association sent some of their leaders to the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) at Owerri, Imo State which covers Abia to inquire if they mandated EEDC to increase tariff by 100 per cent.
He said as the response was in the negative, they came back and told officials of EEDC the feedback they got from NERC, saying that based on that an understanding was reached between EEDC and AAI that they should pay 25 per cent extra from what AAI members were paying.
“We agreed and started paying. But as we were paying, EEDC started disconnecting most of the factories. We were not happy about it and we decided to go to court to challenge the 100 per cent. We went to court in 2015 and that matter is still in court. During that period, we wrote to the then president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who gave an order that we should be paying N30.45 as tariff. We continued paying that till date.
“We equally had a gentleman’s agreement with EEDC that we should continue paying that N30.45 until the matter in court was resolved, that if it ends in our favour, there will be no problem, that they will accept the verdict and if it ends in our favour, that we will all sit down in a roundtable and think the way forward. The matter is still pending at the Federal High Court, Umuahia. EEDC did not vacate the court injunction given to us that we should continue paying N30.45 as tariff until the matter is disposed of, but went ahead to disconnect all factories in the city, in total disobedience to court order,” he said.
Ikpo said they were not protesting to join issues with EEDC, but to appeal to them to obey the order of the court and reconnect their factories in the interest of the economy of the state and the country at large.
Other leaders who spoke included the Chairman of AAI, Chiefs Emma Obi, and Alex Maduako.
They decried the treatment meted out to industrialists in Aba by EEDC staff, stating that an average industry in the city gets bill of between N5 million to N7 million monthly, yet there was no adequate power supply.
“Some industries in Aba are in most cases given estimated bills of between N5 million to N7million monthly by EEDC and at the end of every month they make overall collection of between N200 million to N300 million, yet they don’t give us constant power.”
Efforts to reach any official of the EEDC could not yield fruit, as none of them was willing to talk to the press on the issue.