Members of the Edo State Civil Organisations and National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), have demanded that the Federal Government withhold the renewal of the operational licence of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, (BEDC), over poor performance and unfriendly labour practices.
They made the demand on Wednesday, during a protest and picketing of the company by the CSO members and electricity workers.
The mass protest which coincided with the five years anniversary of the licencing of the BEDC, grounded all forms of activities in and around the headquarter building of the electricity company located along Akpakpava road, in Benin, Edo State capital.
The protesters who carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Funke must go; FG don’t renew the license, BEDC must go; Five years of continue darkness is enough; Treat customers with respect; Nigerians are tired of blackout among others, accused BEDC of providing epileptic power supply consumers in the State as well as its failure to honour contract agreement, unfriendly labour practices, among others.
The group therefore urged the Federal Government not to renew the Company’s operating license as it does not have the capacity to meet customers’ electricity demand, adding that the privatisation of PCHN has failed.
Coordinator of the Edo State Civil Society Organisation, Omobude Agho, who addressed journalisits, said the protest is to demand that the license of BEDC should not be renewed over poor performance.
He said; “The license is a five years contract which expired today, we are saying that it must not be renewed, BEDC should be taken over by the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) and get capable investors willing to do business and follow the terms of agreement.
“BEDC has not met any of the conditions of the terms of the contract agreement. There was no provision of transformers, electricity, replacement of poles, wires, amongst others.”
Agho also alleged that the company had rejected power from the transmission company and prefer to give the little it accepted to big companies and wealthy individuals who can pay N2m and above.
“There was an occasion the Managing Director said that she can’t give power to a community that can’t pay N1m bill when an individual can pay N2m,” Agho alleged.
On his part, the Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employee (in charge of Lagos District), Richard Kedee, said the protest was as a result of the unfriendly labour practices and poor services by BEDC.
“BEDC management doesn’t observed labour laws and treats worker like slave. There is no condition of service and they are owing workers.
“Today makes it five years BEDC has been licensed, but from what we have seen, privatisation of PCHN has failed and as such we are calling on the government not to renew their license this year,” he said.
Responding to these barrage of allegations, the BEDC Public Relations Officer, Tayo Adekunle, said members of the NUEE were trying to impose the condition of service that is obtainable in the public sector on BEDC.
He said: “As as a private sector organisation, we operate in line with private sector condition of service.
“We were still engaged in that negotiation to a point that we were told that what we could offer in line with the financial reality on ground.
“They said that it was unacceptable to them and that based on that, they would picket us. We wrote to the Federal Ministry of Labour on the situation and they told us both NUEE and BEDC to stay action and come for a discussion next Monday. There is nothing wrong in picketing but in the company, majority of the staff are not union members.
“There is nothing like licence renewal, the privatisation exercise was a once-for-all transaction that transferred the assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria to core investors in the BEDC.”
Adekunle added that all over the world, the power sector is a long-term investment and that even when the Bureau of Public Enterprises spoke about a review of performance, it said that it would be done in December, 2019.