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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Imagine being a resident of a community that has been in darkness for years due to no fault of theirs.  Consider that at a point, the residents resorted to self-help by levying themselves to buy power transformer, poles and wire.

The power distribution company came in and connected them to national grid. Then there is light. Despite the huge money they contributed, they had no choice than to be paying exorbitant monthly bills.

Then something happened and the community was thrown into darkness again. The distribution company was contacted and then the shocker. There was a strange demand that the residents should sign off the items they bought with their money and relinquish the ownership to the distribution company if they desire to enjoy power supply again.

This is what is playing out in Shebwokpma and Karu Extension layout communities in Nasarawa State, a suburb that shares boundaries with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Residents, mostly of those working in Abuja, are currently not happy with the treatment meted to them by officials of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), resulting in the communities being plunged into total darkness.

The AEDC is adding salt to injury with outrageous bills. The latest being for the communities to sign and hand over the poles, transformers and cables bought through community efforts to AEDC before they can reconnect power to the transformer affected by the rain of Sunday, May 12, 2019.

They had in the past taken to the streets to protest, accusing AEDC of deliberate ploy to frustrate government’s commitment to reposition the electricity sector. They called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently look into their plight and order the electricity company to immediately restore power supply to the area.

They were enraged by the incessant disconnection of the communities from the 33 KVA, which they said was the only source of power available to the entire area. They lamented that the situation has exposed the people to untold danger, as miscreants have taken the advantage of darkness to carry out their nefarious activities.

Specifically, for the Shebwokpma2 community, Karu Extension, the heavy rain on Sunday, May 12, uprooted two electric poles close to the transformer and thrown the community into darkness. Some parts of the community were forced to take alternative routes to go about their businesses because the poles fell and blocked the major access road.

On Monday, a member of the community executive, informed residents through WhatsApp group that efforts were being made to fix the situation: “Dear compatriots, sorry for yesterday’s (Sunday, May 12) near calamity that befell our community and neighbours, caused by windstorm. Measures are already on going to salvage the situation.

“The road is being cleared at the moment. The High Tension line has been severed meaning that part of the community will have power in a few minutes from now. The other part of the community feeding from the affected transformer would have to exercise some more patience for remedy. The High Tension line is also being worked on to take power to adjoining communities and transformers. Patience! Patience!! Patience!!!”

But on Friday, after several complaints from residents that their generators were packing up from constant use as well as the cost of buying fuel to power generators, and others who have had to empty their refrigerators as all the food prepared have gone bad, another message came from the source:

“My fellow community members, AEDC are saying that we should sign and hand over our poles, transformers and cables to them before they can connect light to the transformer that was affected by the rain on Sunday. It may interest you to know that the community has bought and changed the three Low Tension poles damaged by the rain on Sunday but AEDC said we must sign that we should hand them over to them. We should all come out tomorrow by 8am to meet with the Miangwa in his palace to see the way forward.”

This again led to another round of anger being expressed.

The Miangwa, Chief David Aboki, at the meeting said AEDC ought to pay and take over the poles, transformer and cables and not the other way around: “We have to solve this problem once and for all because they are doing their business, we are not meant to pay them to do their job.

“We are ready to go to court to ensure they pay us off. Why should we donate items we tax ourselves to pay? We have donated materials worth N4million in the past ignorantly and we suffered for it. Now they are coming through the back door to do same. If we continue like this the cycle will not end.”

About IWIN

The Independent Energy Watch Initiative (I-WIN), an enterprise of Energy ConServ and the Roundtable for the Growth and Development of Power (RODEP), is an online/web based power sector portal that strives to engage stakeholders and the Nigerian public on topical issues in the power sector.

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