Hundreds of residents in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital have expressed concern over the 14 days total black out experienced during the celebration of the yuletide season following the face-off between the management of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) and the umbrella body of Ijaw Youths,the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC).
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) had on December 23, invaded the offices of the PHEDC besieged the offices of the power distribution company and forced the staff to ground operations and occupied the premises.The development resulted to power outage in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital and its environs including Ahoada and parts of River.
More worrisome to the residents of the Bayelsa State capital is the unexplained silence of the State Government led by Governor Seriake Dickson over the “Black out” experienced in the state.
However the authorities of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) has declared readiness to seek an amicable resolution of the conflict which resulted in shutdown of its operations and subsequent blackout for the past 14 days.
Mr John Onyi, Manager, Corporate Communication, PHEDC said on Thursday that the development had taken a negative toll on the utility company, expressing regret that Ahoada community also shut down PHED office in the area leading to total blackout in the ancient town compelling its customers to have a ‘black christmas’.
.“Members of PHED staff are now living in palpable fear as their lives have been threatened by the IYC who warned them not to be spotted around the offices, claiming that it has taken over PHED offices in Yenagoa.
“In addition, the IYC threatened that any vehicle belonging to PHED spotted in the city would not only be seized and impounded but have the driver of such vehicle assaulted.The IYC according to its leadership is demanding for 24/7 power supply and removal of breakers to enable the residents of Yenagoa have uninterrupted power supply”.
“At various meetings previously held with the IYC, PHED had made its position known that the installation of breakers was for administrative convenience of the company and also not to jeopardize the life span of the equipment.On 24/7 power supply, the IYC has repeatedly been told that the limitation from the national grid does not allow that for now and PHED gets its share based on what is generated”.
“The responsibility of PHED for the umpteenth time is to distribute what it gets to its customers in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers state. Yenagoa is NOT marginalized in terms of power supply as alleged by the Ijaw Youth Council but it is a common knowledge that every disco including PHED does systematic load shedding”.
“However, the sustainability of not only PHED but the power sector depends on payment of electricity bill from the customers,” Onyi explained.
Onyi also bemoaned the high debt profile stifling the company saying that as at November 30, 2019 customers in Bayelsa owed PHEDC about N16.5 billion, a development that hampers operations.
“PHED is not at war with any of its customers or indeed the IYC but where a group of persons decides to take laws into their hands by barricading and chasing staff members away from performing their legitimate duties, then it calls for a serious concern. We therefore, call on relevant government functionaries and security agencies to prevail on the IYC to vacate PHED offices”.
“On the other hand, Ahoada community did not only shut down office but damaged all items including office materials in addition, to seizing its operational vehicles totaling two,” Onyi said.
Onyi said that alhough, talks were underway with a view to a resolution it is becoming one protest, too many at the slightest power outage without corresponding payment.
He recalled that PHEDC had witnessed series of protests in its franchise area despite its effort in improving service delivery by introducing several initiatives in midst of numerous industry challenges.
On his part, Mr Ken Olorogun, Chairman of the Central Zone of IYC comprising Bayelsa, said in a telephone chat that IYC was already in talks with PHEDC and Bayelsa government on the development.
He said that the youth group was dissatisfied with the performance of the utility firm adding that there was no basis for using estimated billing to arrive at bogus figures when there is no corresponding supply,“Our position is that PHEDC should be alive to its responsibility of making power available to our people, and our resolve is total, the only thing we can do is to shift the date forward by suspending the current action till next year”.
“The argument of N15.5 bn is a blackmail, we cannot be paying based on estimates when there is no power, even the regulators have outlawed estimated billing so how did they arrive at the figures?.I can tell you that we have been in talks and going by the intervention of stakeholders, we are going for another meeting soon where we may take decisions to suspend the current action,” Olorogun said