Mosafejo, a community in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State, is currently at loggerheads with the Eko Electricity Distribution Plc (EKEDC) over the firm’s billing system.
The residents are unhappy over the company’s inability to give its consumers prepaid meters as directed by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola.
To drive their point home, the residents recently carried out a peaceful protest to show their disaffection with their predicament. Some of the placards they displayed carried inscriptions like: “Give us prepaid meter;” “We are tired of crazy bills,” and so on.
Chairman of the community, Elder Clifford Nwadigwe, who spoke to Daily Sun during the protest, said that the people of the area had suffered much hardship at the hands of officials of the electricity company for too long. He lamented that all the five transformers in the community, electric poles and cables were procured by the community through self efforts, adding that, despite the robust assistance to EKEDC, what the people got in return was maltreatment. He said the entire community had been in darkness for two months.
Nwadigwe explained that, at some point, the residents got tired of exorbitant and estimated monthly bills being brought to them by EKEDC officials, ranging from N19,000 to N50,000. He regretted that the electricity bills being paid by residents in the area were by far higher than house rent.
Nwigwe further explained that, when the residents got fed up with the exorbitant bills, they mandated the community development association (CDA) executives to write the firm, requesting for installed prepaid meters.
When the letters got to the electricity company, instead of meeting the community’s needs, the firm took offence and embarked on a vengeance mission. He said that on a day when most of the residents had gone to work, men from the company stormed the community and commenced mass disconnections. When he got wind of the development, Nwigwe appealed to them to stop immediately but his appeals fell on deaf ears.
Nwigwe said the action of the power firm had angered some youths in the area, noting that he prevailed on them not to take the law into their hands. He claimed that the EKEDC men, who were led by a white consultant, then demobilised the fuse serving Mosafejo community, thus plunging the area into darkness.
“The white consultant said: ‘I’m here to collect money and not to give you poles, cables or transformers. If you have any complaint, go to your government. They are the ones responsible for your suffering.’
“The most insulting aspect of it all was that the white consultant recorded us with his cell phone, deriding us that he would transmit his recordings to his home country,” Nwigwe alleged.
Nwigwe said the community council of elders later went to the EKEDC office at Iba to tender its complaints. There, the manager who received the group assured them that a solution to the issue of over-billing was underway. He said when the community did not see any changes, it once again wrote letters through its lawyers to PHCN office on Marina and EKEDC, Ojo. It also wrote to the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, and also its representatives in the National Assembly.
He explained that the community also gave the power firm 90 days to either give the residents prepaid meters or stop bringing estimated bills. However, despite the appeal, the electricity company not only brought ‘crazy’ bills but also disconnected the residents from the national grid.
“They also went to Ojo Police Station and complained that cultist attacked them while they were distributing bills in our communities. I’m using this opportunity to state that there was no element of truth in those allegations, as people living in this community are gainfully employed. Most of them are traders at the Alaba International Market, which is just behind us. So I’m appealing to the government to come to our aid by saving us from this oppression,” Nwigwe said.
Another community leader, Alhaji Razak Banire, described the treatment meted to residents by the power officials as inhuman. He stated that, despite the directive of the federal government that prepaid meters should be installed without charge, the power company had refused to comply.
“And when we tried to fight for our rights through a series of letters to EKEDC officials on Marina and in Ojo, the electricity company refused to restore power to our community.
“We bought our transformers with our own money; we even carry out maintenance with our money, yet this people don’t have any regard for us. They give us crazy bills; we contribute money and give them yet they treat us with insolence,” he lamented.
Speaking on the hardship being faced by Mosafejo residents, Obi Ndigbo in Mosafejo, Chief Jude Okoye, said that the community had been going through hell since EKEDP disconnected its supply. He recalled that the problem started way back in 1994 when the community approached the then Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA) for a transformer; when the efforts failed, the residents taxed themselves until they were able to raise enough money to buy a transformer. He said the community has so far procured five transformers without any assistance whatsoever from EKEDC.
“The most annoying part was when we wrote them requesting for prepaid meters and they refused to grant our request. Rather than do that, they embarked on mass disconnection of electricity supply to the area. Surprisingly, our friends in the neighbouring communities all have the same prepaid meters they have refused to give us. So, we don’t know why our own case is different.
“We are appealing to the federal government to come to our aid by prevailing on this electricity company to restore our power and let us have prepaid meters as well.”
Another angry resident complained to Daily Sun that, after he had paid close to N70,000 for a prepaid meter, the electricity company had continued to bring estimated bills to him.
While brandishing copies of his prepaid meter payment and an estimated bill of N19,000 sent to him, Mr. Sugar Iwuoma, lamented that the bill had continued to create big holes in his pocket.
In a petition and letters of reminder addressed to EKEDC, Ojo, Iba and Marina, the copies of which were made available to Daily Sun, Nwigwe regretted that the residents had almost exhausted all peaceful means of resolving the crisis. He appealed to all the authorities saddled with the responsibility of regulating electricity in the country to come to the people’s rescue to forestall a breakdown of law and order in the area.
Also unhappy with the power distribution company, the United Community Development Associations (CDAs) in Era and Adaloko, in the Oto-Awori Local Council Development Area (LCDA), have resolved to reject forthwith further estimated bills, until pre-paid meters are distributed and installed in the communities.
In several meetings held by concerned landlords and tenants in the last few weeks, it was decided that the EKEDC could only be tackled through such actions.
It was gathered that teams from the communities had visited the Agbara regional offices of the firm to dialogue over the crazy billing issues, all to no avail.
For over a decade, these communities have waited on the NEPA/PHCN/EKEDC to fulfil its obligation of allocating pre-paid meters to consumers in the area, even after many landlords had paid receipted charges ranging from N25,000 to N50,000 for meters that were supposed to come free.
“While beneficiaries of pre-paid meters are yet to exhaust a N5,000 credit loaded since January 2017, more than 80 per cent customers without metres and those with aged ones that have not been read over 25 years are intimidated into paying almost 17 times more for power that comes only for 25 hours in a week,” a concerned resident lamented.
“The few times we caught the Agbara district manager in office, he postponed the meeting. And, finally, when he insulted us on the last visit, we then resolved to liberate ourselves from their exploitative grip,” a retired editor of the old Daily Times and a coordinator of the united action, Mr. Dele Odebiyi, said.
“I paid to be allocated a pre-paid meter, but the PHCN installed another prototype that has not been read in almost seven years and they have kept coming back, through the years, with estimated crazy bills every month,” he complained.
Mr. Jon Oghayator said he was concluding a loan deal with his cooperative society to install a solar electricity system in his home “especially because of my wife and kids who have lost touch with current world affairs and what goes on locally.
“I urge caring parents who have the wherewithal to follow suit and liberate their families from these power scoundrels because you are ‘lost, blind’ and ignorant when you cannot operate your computers nor turn on your television for information and entertainment, and you are being blackmailed monthly to pay for electricity that won’t come. It’s been years since I last ironed my clothes,” he said.
When Daily Sun visited the Ojo office of EKEDC, an official who pleaded anonymity acknowledged that the company received complaints from Mosafejo community. He said that efforts were being made to address the problem.
On the issue of prepaid meters, the official said the company was making arrangements to distribute prepaid meters to all its customers, including residents of Mosafejo.