Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya, has expressed concern over the epileptic power supply in Sapele.
Answering questions on a radio programme in Oghara, on Thursday, Igbuya decried the excesses of officials of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC).
He also lashed out at some people who constituted themselves into cogs in the will of progress in Sapele.
“I have done my best to leave worthwhile achievements behind in all my public endeavours. As council chairman, I observed then that Sapele was and is still known for its timber business. Of course you know the famous Africa Timber and Plywood and a cluster of Saw Mills, which was the economic main stay of the town. Electricity was a major problem to the saw millers and they were losing patronage. I am not a saw miller but I took it as a challenge, knowing the adverse economic effect of the perennial power outage.
Driven by an abiding concern for the well-being of the good people of Sapele, Igbuya said he marched in the streets.
“Sapele then was using 6.6 Transformer while other areas were already on 11.5. I led the protest and that was what led to the changing of the 6.6 to 11.5 transformers. I also led the protest which gave rise to the step down in Amukpe. I did all of that and I was arrested by the Federal Government for leading a protest and kept in Abuja. It was Chief James Ibori who secured my release from the Directorate of State Security Service. He supported us and we got the contract awarded. That is what is in Amukpe today.
Using the opportunity to point out certain aspects of electricity agreements in Sapele, Igbuya said those who signed the Ogorode Power Station agreement didn’t take into cognizance the need to step down the power for everybody.
“If you go to Ogorode today, the NEPA estate is enjoying electricity from the Ogorode Power Station” he said.
The lawmaker who looked at the realities in the country’s power sector said electricity supply was no longer a social responsibility but a commercial venture.
“Where there is no competition in commercial services, there is bound to be a monopoly and where there is a monopoly, efficient service is at the mercy of the monopolist. This is simple economics.
Igbuya stressed that the problem of inadequate power supply to residents of Sapele has continued to be a source of worry to him.
“For Sapele to have steady electricity, the emphasis should not be on individuals who are not key players in the power sector, who did or did nothing but asking the service provider to sit up and calling on the federal government to further liberalize the sector to bring in new competitors, as it is in the telecommunication industry. Once that is done, consumers will then be at liberty to choose their service providers. Energies should be channeled in this direction”,
Apparently angry, Igbuya said that he suspected ulterior motives in the recent protest.
“I am representing Sapele State Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly and I can say that I operate a 33 line. There is no doubt about that. I am not the only person on 33 KVA in Sapele and I am not the first to use it. It is an industrial line. My people should not suffer because I am on 33 line. Being on 33 is an enormous cost to my finances. The tariff is higher. I would have loved to be on 11.5 and payless like every electricity consumer in Sapele. Electricity is now a private concern and Investors want returns on their investment” he said.
The presiding officer of the Delta State House of Assembly pointed out the short comings of the Benin Distribution Company (BEDC).
“Reverend Father Christopher Ekibo, a priest of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Sapele, said there was going to be a protest. I was in London when he called and I expressed excitement about the protest. Sapele used to get only 2 hrs electricity supply from BEDC daily. I held meetings with the managing director of BEDC in Benin. And she told me that my people can get more power if they so desire but they have to pay their electricity bills. When I met Father Ekibo in Sapele, I appealed to him to encourage our people to pay bills. If they pay bills, we will get more hours of electricity supply”
He charged BEDC to leave no stone unturned to ensure uninterrupted power supply to Sapele.
“BEDC is a private concern. This is the issue. BEDC is not giving metres to houses. What it brings majorly is estimated bills” he said.
Igbuya, a man who has provided more ladders to success for young men and women in Sapele, said the economic fortunes of many business men and women in Sapele appear to be dwindling because of the poor electricity supply.
“When I came back from London, a meeting of the major stakeholders was called. I am a stakeholder. I was born in Sapele, I live there. My property is there. I have no other home, Sapele is my home. My businesses are all there. I am not an Asaba man. A meeting was held in my office. The stake holders were there. Chief Felix Anirah, Father Ekibo, community leaders, market men and women were there. BEDC officials were there.
“The power station operators were there, National Electricity Regulation Commission officials were in attendance. We agreed on eight- hour supply daily as a start. Some of them refused to participate in the meeting saying that the meeting was holding in my office. You can see the political angle. Father Ekibo was in attendance. He asked BEDC to tender an apology for a statement credited to it that Sapele people were not pay electricity bills. That is insulting to him. He brought out his 18 months bills to the meeting,” he said.
He expressed appreciation on the role the people played to bring about increase in the hours of electricity supply.
“We expect the best from BEDC. It must improve the quantum of electricity available to consumers in Sapele. BEDC must ensure stable power supply in Sapele. I will continue to contribute to the development of my people” he added.