Residents of Ijebu Ode in Ogun on Thursday protested over non-provision of prepaid meters by the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC).
The residents, under the aegis of Balanced Measure Impact Initiative (BMII) and Electricity Consumers Protection Forum (ECPF), comprised youths and the aged.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the protesters marched round the city with placards.
They demanded the provision of prepaid meters, stable electricity and reduction in tariffs by IBEDC.
The protesters, who defied the rain, carried placards bearing: ‘Reduce Tariff Rate to N5:97k’; ‘No Prepaid Meter, No Payment’; We Can’t Continue to Pay for Darkness’ and ‘Free Prepaid meter Is Our Right.’
The Ijebu District Coordinator of BMII, Mr Jaiyesimi Adebowale, in an interview with NAN, accused IBEDC of exploitation and disregard for the rule of law as the company still distributed estimated bills to consumers.
“We have been meeting with IBEDC for more than one year on this issue of prepaid meters to stop distributing estimated bills.
“In spite of our efforts and plea, the company refused to oblige, even though its services in Ijebu region had been very poor.
“Two to three days before the company commenced the distribution of the bills, it boosted power supply.
“After that, as soon as the company shared the bills, it started enforcing disconnection.
“When you challenge the company’s staff, they tell you that they have targets to meet as they needed to meet their commitment with the Generating Companies (GenCos).
“The masses are the ones suffering and now we have reached a breaking point. This arrangement is no longer acceptable and we demand our prepaid meters,’’ Adebowale said.
He said they were aware the meters were free as directed by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) but IBEDC still obliged consumers to pay for the meters.
Adebowale told NAN that they demanded an increase in output of electricity supply to minimum of 15 hours daily and instant supply of prepaid meters to all residents and general good services.
Also speaking, a pensioner, Mr Taju Mustapha, said many consumers who received the estimated bills, got not less than between N7,000 to N25,000 monthly, depending on the size of the household.
Mustapha said that he could no longer pay, noting that many consumers who paid for the prepaid meters were yet to take delivery after a year.
Mrs Ireti Disu, a Deputy Director at the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Ijebu Ode Catholic Diocese, accused IBEDC of not being fair to its consumers.
“We have gone to IBEDC office several times for the past one year and sent countless petitions to the regional office in Ibadan, yet they never seemed to bother; hence our protest today.
“If we have the prepaid meters, each consumer would know that it is what he uses that he will pay for, whether there is light or not.
“This is a struggle and a starting point we know will end well for us. We know that one day, competition in the power industry will drive growth like in telecommunications.
“For now, the company is only exploiting us and with this protest, we give the officials one month to meet our demands,’’ Disu said.
Efforts to speak with the IBEDC management through IBEDC Business Hub, Ijebu Ode, proved abortive as the office was barricaded by security personnel.
Police, army and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel were all present to protect IBEDC facility.
NAN reports that no official of the company was willing to react to the protest.