By Eseoghene Emuke
Thousands of electricity consumers in Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State on Wednesday stormed major roads in the council including the ever-busy Effurun Roundabout and the Warri/Sapele road to protest the lingering power outage in the council running over two months.
The protesters comprising women, youths and the elderly were drawn from various communities of Effurun, Ekpan, Alegbo, Ugbromo, Uti, Ebrumede, Jakpa and other communities decried the poor power supply recorded under the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC)
Wednesday’s protest was the day three of electricity consumers’ protest against the activities of BEDC in the area; even as they vowed to continue the ongoing protest until power supply was restored to their communities.
At the Effurun Roundabout where the protest climaxed, the situation led to massive gridlocks for several hours as they demanded for the sack of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, BEDC, Mrs Funke Osibodu for her inability to provide power.
The protest was as a result of blackout by BEDC; BEDC shut some areas in the Ekpan and Effurun axis down, areas like Ugbromo, Okuatata, Ebrumede, Okoloba, Dumure, Alaka, Sokoh Estate Road, Akah Avenue, Okito Barracks, Alegbor, Uti, Ovie Palace Road. Generally, the people protesting are from areas from Refinery Junction to Airport Junction.
The protest also incited some level of violence in some of the areas touched by the protesters; some hoodlums and louts took advantage of the chaotic situation to carry out petty robberies and thefts, causing most of the shops and business ventures around the areas to shut down for the period of the protest.
The whole of Effurun/Sapele Road; which is between the Effurun Roundabout, the gateway into the Warri metropolis and the access route to the East-West Road, and Jakpa Junction, was on lockdown, leading to a huge vehicular gridlock that affected both those going into Warri and those passing through to other parts of the South-South states.
They lamented the situation that BEDC had been subjecting its customers, especially in the Warri, Uvwie and Udu council areas of the state, calling for a serious action against the company by the federal government.
Mr. Martin Okuse, a resident of Ekpan area said employees of BEDC had been making life difficult for their consumers, narrating instances in which the company collected money for services not rendered, advising the company to surrender its contract licenses and allow government engage a more efficient service provider.
“The corruption of BEDC is on the highest level. They come to your house, even when you have a prepaid metre, they will come and leave a message like ‘if you people do not come to present the bills you use in buying units in the next two days, we are going to disconnect you’. These are people who have their own jobs to attend to, these are people who spend between N18,000 to N20,000 monthly on electricity bills.
“Even if they want to come to your house to do disconnection, are they not to do it politely, give you a notice to that effect, and do so at a time convenient for the customers? Also, there is no light, but they bring bills for you and tell you it is estimated, whereas, the rule states that if you don’t have a metre, the electricity company should provide you with one and should not bill you pending when you get a metre, upon which reading they can only bill you.
“Now, they come with N3,000, N4,000 bills in the name of estimation, if you refuse to pay they resort to violence, BEDC now uses violence in Ekpan, Jakpa, Alaka, Dumure, Alegbor, Uti and other areas. They will beat you up, they now move about with thugs. That’s the latest now and the people are tired. This ongoing protest is overdue. Getting money in this country isn’t easy, so when you want to spend your mone, you spend it wisely and see what you are spending it on”, Okuse said.
Another protester who agreed to speak, Comade James Banky, noted that the protest was long overdue, stressing that people could not continue to be in darkness without any remedy in sight. He said it had become obvious that BEDC had shown incapacity and is unfit to continue holding its consumers to ransom.
“The federal government must relieve them of the job by giving the contract out for a more capable and reliable company” Banky said.
When contacted, a spokesperson of BEDC in Warri, Mrs. Helen Ogagarue, said she was out of town and had no idea of what was happening for her to comment.