Fred Itua, Benin
Aggrieved customers of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) have called on the Federal Government to revoke the operating licence of the firm. The customers who lamented the epileptic power supply in the four states under BEDC, also criticised what they described as the inhuman face of the management of BEDC.
The customers drawn from Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states vented their frustrations during a town hall meeting with the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy in Benin. The committee is headed by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.
Abaribe who led four other senators including Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Suleiman Hunkuyi, James Manager and Ahmed Ogembe on an oversight visit, promised to look into concerns raised by aggrieved customers.
On the issue of whether or not the Senate Committee will recommend a revocation of BEDC operating licence, Abaribe said the relevant agencies were already looking into that.
He, however, vowed that the Senate will not allow Discos, including BEDC, to short change Nigerians. He insisted that there must be value for money and also called on the management to ensure that the concerns of customers are immediately addressed.
“We decided to hold a forum here because of the volume of petitions we have received. If we want a better Nigeria, let us make those who should be held responsible to do that. We can’t blame one side.
“We have generation, transmission and distribution. Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) said it doesn’t have money to carry out repairs of faulty transmission lines. TCN is owned by the Federal Government. If the Federal Government doesn’t give them money, who do we blame?
“We are getting to a point that anybody who has the money to bring in metres, should come in and we can do business. What I have seen is the issue of poor services. The Nigerian electricity market breeds difficulty for everybody. What we are looking for is solution.”
An aggrieved customer who spoke on behalf of others in his earlier remarks said: “What we pay for in Benin and in other states is darkness.
BEDC has short-changed us. We don’t want them to operate again.”
Let the Federal Government revoke their licence and give it to a company that has the capacity.
“When the power sector was privatised, all the Distribution Companies boasted that they had the money to run these companies. But I want to tell senators that BEDC for instance has not invested anything. They are not doing enough. They have refused to provide prepaid metres and it’s deliberate.”
At an earlier town hall meeting in Issele Uku, Delta State, the same concerns were raised by the traditional ruler and community leaders. They lamented how they have taken over the responsibilities of BEDC in fixing faulty lines.
They also decried the high estimated billing system and called on the Managing Director of BEDC, Mrs Funke Osibodu to immediately step in and provide prepaid metres to the community.
Reacting to their concerns, Abaribe insisted that in line with the law, every electricity consumer must be metred.
He also told the community leaders that any financial cost incurred on behalf of BEDC or other Distribution Companies, must be refunded through other means.
He said: “Nigeria is made up different cultures and inclinations. We believe that Nigeria should be for everybody.
We also believe that we must look at where we are and ensure that we are making progress. We have had many complaints about BEDC. We are here today about one key problem and that is the fact that those who consume electricity find it hard to pay.
“If you buy a transformer or anything, the DISCO is supposed to pay you back in a way. You are not supposed to give anything to DISCO for free. There is a regulation. The regulation is that everybody must be metred. The regulation is that each consumer must be metred.”
In her brief reaction, Managing Director of BEDC, Mrs Osibodu, explained the challenges her management team is facing in meeting the growing demands of customers. While acknowledging the various concerns, she promised to immediately address the issues.