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A coalition of civic groups has called on the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET) to intervene in the ongoing unrest in the franchise areas of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC).
The Transparency Advocacy for Development Initiative, alongside other allied civil society groups, made the call during a press briefing on Friday in Abuja, warning that it would embark on protests to the offices of the aforementioned regulators should they fail to take action.
“We call on every concerned regulator to immediately come out and clear on the needless controversies being stirred ostensibly to cripple the Benin Electricity Distribution Company under its current management,” the group said in a statement signed by its convener, Solomon Adodo and shared to journalists shortly after the briefing.
“If we do not get appropriate feedback within seven days of this notice, we shall be left with no other option but to embark on a peaceful procession to these offices for the sake of sanity in our power sector.”
Mr Adodo said the call became necessary due to vandalism of critical electricity installations and electricity theft going on in the areas, including “media and physical attacks on BEDC”.
He described such attacks as “highly political and fuelled by businessmen bent on taking over the company from its current management at all costs using strong-arm mafia manoeuvres.”
The call comes two months after PREMIUM TIMES reported how groups of youth stormed the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Maitama, Abuja to protest against the renewal of the operational licence of the BEDC, accusing the company of refusing to provide transformers and electrical poles including ancillaries.
But the company described the protests as ill-motivated. Days later, its managing director, Funke Osibodu said the protest against the organisation was due to the stoppage of power theft by some people.
Mr Adodo said findings by the group revealed that many electricity users have been involved in electricity theft in the area. “They deliberately do not want to be metered but intend to be using electricity at no cost, business cannot be carried out in such manner.”
It urged all consumers within the region to comply with the prevailing laws by promptly paying for electricity consumed so as to avoid electricity theft.
Mr Adodo advised that all “communities should maintain vigilant, watch over electricity installations in their respective domain, to stall off power facility vandals and saboteurs.”
On the issue of license revocation, the convener argued that the federal government handed “certificates of ownership to the 11 respective DISCOs with clearly stipulated contract terms on a long term basis. Thus the sanctity of contract protects the DISCOs as long term investors.”
Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Delta States are under the franchise areas of the BEDC. The Distribution Company (DISCO) has been embroiled in prolonged run-ins with its users over epileptic power supply among other issues.
Sometime last year, many parts of states under the BEDC franchise area were thrown into darkness for three weeks. This followed the breakdown of the 150MVA power transformer that supplies power to these areas. This prompted protests against the activities of the BEDC and calls for revokation of its contract.
Weeks after the protests last year, the company assured its customers of its readiness to address power outages in the affected areas.
Tayo Adekunle, its spokesperson who gave the assurance said a contingency plan had been adopted to get the affected areas connected. He said the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) was assisting the BEDC to replace some faulty transformers.
Both the managing director of Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (N-BET), Marilyn Amobi, and Head, Public Affairs Department, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Usman Abba Arabi, could not be reached for comments, as at press time.
NBET is the manager and administrator of the electricity pool in the Nigerian electricity supply industry (NESI). Owned by the federal government, it distributes and determines the amount of power allotted each DISCO based on the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO).
NERC on the other hand is an independent regulatory body with authority for the regulation of the electric power industry in Nigeria.
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