Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, has ordered the management of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), to restore power supply to some communities in the state, including Auchi, allegedly disconnected from the national grid by the company, within 48 hours or has its Certificate of Occupancy revoked.
The Governor handed down the ultimatum when he invited management of Benin Disco to his office.
He took the management of the company to the cleaners over the company’s alleged sabotage of the state economy by mass disconnection of communities and criminal extortion of the people of the state through high estimated bills for electricity not supplied.
Speaking through the company’s Chief State Officer (Edo) Richard Obshai, the Managing Director of BEDC, Mrs. Funke Osibodu, explained that the disconnection of Auchi community from the national grid was carried out because of the refusal of the people to pay their electricity bill.
She further complained of incessant harassment, intimidation and beating of the company staff and as well as destruction of its electricity installations and vehicles.
She said the current load shedding embarked upon by the company was as a result of the allotted megawatts to the company for distribution from the national grid that has gone down by 40 percent due to vandalism of gas pipelines which has affected generation.
According to her, although the company has the installed capacity to provide electricity for at least 12 hours per day, it gets an average of 320mwt which is distributed to customers in its four states of operation made of Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo, adding that 53 perceent of available power is allocated to Edo.
She attributed the exorbitant bills issued to customers to the new tariff which was not peculiar to Edo State but to all other Discos.
While acknowledging the absence of meters for appropriate billing system, the BEDC boss explained that of the 700,00 customers of the company, about 40 percent do not have metres and that was why it relied on the estimated billing methodology to bridge the gap.
But Oshiomhole who was not impressed by the electricity company’s explanation, said it has always been the basic rights of customers to contest price increase, especially when what they are asked to pay does not in any way correspond with services rendered.
“I do not need to argue anymore from your narrative because whether we like it or not, the regulator must regulate what exist and not what does not exist. This is an issue of private business, how often you get your power is not the headache of customers but yours. It is the headache of customers to find a way to pay.
“Nobody forced you into this business. If you know you don’t have the technical know-how, why bidding for the job? If other parts of the country accept the hike and arbitrary tariff which I consider criminal and sabotage, we will not accept that.
“You cannot embark on the habit of anybody who argues with you, you disconnect. That is worst side of private monopoly. Therefore, I order you to discontinue with that attitude.
“You cannot be giving minimum input and be expecting maximum revenue. If power supply drops, revenue should correspondingly declined because you cannot be giving minimum input and expect maximum revenue. You are only careful to protect your profit margin irrespective of whether you supply power or not using a crude estimate to collect revenue as if power has not dropped,” he said.
The Governor while decrying vandalism or threat to live of any sort, however added, “If you have people who you suspect have done a criminal act on your property, do the needful by using a lawful means of ensuring they are brought to book. Do not embark on criminal act of sabotaging the economy of the state.
“The tariff in Nigeria is higher that that of India. So what model are you applying” he queried, just as he added; “Life is tough for the average person. Do not add to it because if you provoke the people to the point they cannot take, there may be total break down of law and order.
“When that happens, you may not be able to do your business effectively which we do not pray for. Therefore, review your books and stop setting targets by slapping customers with tariff that does not commensurate with supply.
“Discontinue with criminal estimate and do not expect maximum profit in the face of decline. If you cannot do the business, say so and the Federal Government will revoke the privatisation,” Oshiomhole said.