Caution was recently thrown into the winds by the people of Kajola and Araromi communities in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State as they took to the streets to protest the eight months power outage. But for the timely intervention of men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the protesters would have set the office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) in Akure, on fire.
The security personnel also saved the BEDC officials from being beaten to pulp by the irate protesters. Attempts were also made to beat some of the officials met at the company’s Kajola office.
For eight months, the people of the two communities, which are both suburbs of Akure, the state capital, said they had lived in total darkness. They alleged that the situation paralyzed both commercial and social activities and efforts to get the attention of the BEDC failed.
Major roads were blocked, even as public places like schools, markets and shops were forced to close down. The protesters moved round with placards of various anti-BEDC inscriptions and chanted uncharitable songs. They were mainly artisans and youths who trooped out in their large number and prevented motorists, commercial motorcycle operators and other road users from moving through the two communities for the period that the protest lasted.
BEDC was accused of not responding to their complaints and that its officials deliberately frustrated them and made life unbearable for them. Their leader, Mr. Otaru Jerry Eshimakhe, said the communities made several efforts to the BEDC over the outage but to no avail, accusing BEDC of being insensitive to the plights of its customers.
He disclosed that the power outage affected the economic and commercial activities of the people, saying many businesses closed down as a result of the ugly development: “We have been in total darkness for over eight months now and BEDC has not been responding to our plights.
“Majority of our artisans are closing shops now, while others are leaving the communities as a result of the prolonged power outage. We are pleading with the BEDC to have mercy on us and restore our light.”
However, the Business Manager of the BEDC in Igbara-Oke Unit, Mrs. Iyabo Adefemi, said the company was aware of the power outage, adding that the company was doing everything possible to restore light to the community. She informed that the transformer supplying electricity to the two communities had been damaged for over eight months, advising the residents to pay their bills for them to have a new transformer:
“We are aware of the protest by the people and we have advised them in our meetings we had with them that they should pay their bills. They are owing us over N29 million, but through several reconciliation of accounts, the bill has been reduced to N11 million. They should pay and we will work on the faulty transformer for them to have light. We can’t use payments from other communities to repair their damaged transformer.”
But Eshimakhe said the communities were not at any time briefed on their outstanding bills, saying no official of the company has ever visited the area: “How could any one claim that just two communities which have no industry or commercial centre owe over N20 million? This is strange to us.
We are not even aware of the N11 million she claimed we owe.” He insisted that the faulty transformer serving the two communities needs replacement and not repair, saying that the BEDC is the only authorized organization to provide it.
Also, a traditional chief in the area, Olubunmi Opaniyan, appealed to the BEDC to come to the assistance of the two communities, rather than dragging issues. He said the economic and social activities of the two communities are currently on the lowest ebb as a result of the ugly development, just as he pointed out that they are exposed to agents of evil, especially armed robbers.
An official of the Akure South LGA, Mr. Jimi Ola, promised that the council would intervene in the matter, with a view to bringing permanent solution to electricity problem in the communities.