The Executive Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area in Rivers State, Barr Phillip Okparaji, has charged the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) to commence the distribution of prepaid meters to residents of Eleme community.
Okparaji, who made the statement during a town hall meeting with officials of the PHEDC and residents of Eleme community held recently at the Eleme Civic Centre, said that the purpose for the meeting was to interface with the officials to ascertain the cause for the unstable power supply in the community. He lamented that the residents had faced untold hardship with their businesses which could not survive the exorbitant electricity bills, while some industries were on the verge of relocating to the urban areas, leaving the residents unemployed.
“The purpose for the town hall meeting was for the people of Eleme to meet face-to-face with officials of the PHEDC on the issue of unstable power supply in our community. There has been this issue of epileptic power supply in the community for a very long time. Yet, the PHEDC claim that we owe them a whooping sum of N1.8 billion,” Okparaji said.
“So, it was a necessity that they came for a resolution and explain how they came about such outrageous debt, and find possible ways to resolve the lingering issue. We hope that at the end of the day, we will come to a conclusion and expect to see an implementation in no distant time.”
He stressed that the irregular power supply in the community had crippled its economic development, as well as become a threat to the safety of residents, with criminals taking advantage of the darkness to perpetrate crimes in the community. He therefore urged the immediate distribution of prepaid meters to the community, assuring that regular power supply would attract investors and improve economic growth, as well as infrastructural development in the area.
“Now, the way forward and the lasting solution to this issue is for the PHEDC to commence distribution of prepaid meters to residents of Eleme community. This will go a long way to reduce cost, both on the consumers and power holding company. There will be no complaints of unstable power supply because it will be regulated by the prepaid meter.
“We have set up a five-man committee from Eleme to follow up on the distribution of prepaid meters to the community at a subsidised rate and resolve the alleged N1.8 billion debt owed to PHEDC. I expect to see the implementation by January 6, 2020,” he said.
The town hall meeting, which was highly attended by residents of Eleme community, had an interactive session where they expressed their grievance and dissatisfaction over the imposition of electricity bills, as well as the inconsistent power supply.
Barr Loveday Obarry, a resident of the community, said that most of the transformers were bought and installed by the people of the community. “First, I thank the Executive Chairman for organising the town hall meeting with PHEDC. The way electricity is supplied in this community is very poor. You can feel the anger and aggression of the people from the tone of their voices. That tells you that a lot has gone wrong over the past two years.
“The importance of electricity cannot be taken for granted. Without power, small and big-scale businesses cannot survive. Most people have relocated, leaving the community looking deserted due to lack of power supply. We understand the fact that the community is owing some debt, but we cannot pay for a debt we didn’t not incur as it that was imposed on us.
“I appeal to the PHEDC to be sincere and accountable in their activities. They have promised to commence distribution of the prepaid meters by January 2020. I pray and hope it’s done because it will stop a lot of inappropriate conducts by officials of the PHEDC,” Obarry expressed.
PHEDC Operational Manager James Efetobori commended the Chairman for organising the town hall meeting, while appealing to residents to exercise patience as their complaints, messages were heard and would be investigated accordingly. He advised them to always arrest or report any suspicious activity from any official, noting that it is their right to query any official who demands money before rendering a service.
“I commend the Chairman for organising the town hall meeting which has been a productive one. Now, we all know what the challenges are and have reached an agreement on how to solve them once and for all, which is the use of the prepaid meters,” the PHEDC official said.
Emphasising the importance of prepaid meters, Efetobori said: “It’s a good thing that the people of Eleme have embraced the use of prepaid meters which is well regulated and calculated because it enables consumers become conscious of how they use power, and also helps them save a lot of cost, as well as prevents over-billing and electricity waste,” he added.