…Residents protest outrageous bills, demand removal of AEDC staff
By Magnus Eze
The anxiety caused by the alleged meningitis disease outbreak in Durumi, one of Abuja’s slum settlements, with unconfirmed reports claiming that three lives were lost, was yet to abate when residents of the area took to the streets to protest outrageous electricity bills two weeks ago.
Residents of the area had that fateful morning picketted the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) office at Zone E, Apo Legislative Quarters, by 10am to protest what they called incessant increase in bills despite deteriorating power supply.
The protesters, numbering over 300, made up of married men and women, bachelors, spinsters, teenagers and children, marched to the AEDC office chanting protest songs, with placards that expressed their anger.
Daily Sun gathered that the protesters had duly informed the Chief of Durumi, who counselled that they must inform the police before embarking on the protest. The police were eventually informed, while the local vigilante group was on hand to keep everyone in order.
At the AEDC office, spokesman for the protesters, Mr. Yakubu Elijah, told the officials of the distribution company that electricity bills of residents had in the past six months skyrocketed, for instance, “from N16,000 to N40,000, N50,000, N60,000 and so on.”
The protesters called for the removal of one Mohammed, who our reporter gathered was the officer in charge of the billing section for the area. Shouts of “Mohammad Must Go,” filled the air as they surged towards the entrance, accusing him of extortion and corruption.
The protest continued until the regional manager of AEDC, Mr. Usman Maku, addressed the crowd and invited their leaders to a meeting. He promised that the company would resolve the issue amicably and pleaded with the protesters to disperse.
Maku explained the increase and also disclosed that the company would soon install prepaid metres in every business and household to address the complaints of the protesters.
“We have various feeders that feed all these communities. One of them is feeding Durumi. At the end of every month, the energy drawn by the feeder is calculated and given to us to account for.
“If the energy they are drawing increases, the only option is to increase the unit of consumption. All things being equal, between now and the end of the month, we will commence mass metering, and complaints of abuse will be a thing of the past,” Maku said.
Expressing their frustration, a young lady said: “We have laid several complaints. They promised to do something, but up till now the bills keep skyrocketing.”
Yet another protester, who claimed to be a widow, remarked that, “I don’t have (electricity) to sell my pure water, but every month they come to charge me. In fact, we were owing them and paid half of the money in December, but they said we must complete the payment before they give us light. We went and completed the payment. Now that we are not owing them, they have come and said we should start paying twice what we have been paying. How will I get the money to pay them and also feed my children?”
No change yet
Over two weeks after the protest, when Daily Sun visited the area to find out whether the issue had been resolved, it was gathered that nothing had changed.
A young man operating a barbershop opposite Divine Clinic at Durumi Phase 1 told Daily Sun that their plight began when the AEDC got a new manager.
“Before, most shops were not paying more than N500 per month. But now, every month, my bill increases by N500; they may bring N1,000 this month, next month they bring N2,000 to me for this small salon. How much do I make in a month?”
The barber said that the worst hit were residents of the Living Faith Church area. According to him, “They don’t even give them electricity but they serve them heavy bills.”
Asked whether the situation has changed since after the protest, he said “Nothing has really changed but the AEDC promised not to bring any other bill to us until the issue is amicably resolved. They said that we must pay the contentious bills first.”
It was gathered that the AEDC had earlier in the year enumerated the area and pasted stickers assuring residents that it would install pre-paid meters. But residents at the weekend said they were still waiting and suffering under the the distribution company’s yoke of exorbitant, estimated bills.
Leader of the Durumi electricity consumers, Yakubu Elijah, indicated that the war was far from being over: “They have listened to our complaints. They gave assurance that all the complaints we tabled before them would be followed one after the other. We are putting our faith in them that they will do what they said, otherwise we will be back soon.”
Our attempts to find out if any progress had been made by the disco on the Durumi issue could not yield fruit as AEDC Head of Media; Mr. Ahmed Shekarau said that he was not neither aware of the protest nor their demands.
He however, promised to get across to the manager in-charge and revert to Daily Sun; but could not do that as at press time.