By Kunle Adedoyin
Residents of Odokekere in the Sagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State have protested the continued darkness being witnessed in the community due to absence of electricity supply by the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC).
The residents in a protest are also blaming Adelejke Okunuga, the Odogunyan District Manager of the Ikeja Electric, for the estimated bills issued to them by the electric distribution firm which led to their disconnection from the national grid.
However, the management of the electricity company is alleging that the community was disconnected following assault and wounding of its staff by residents.
The protesters said the firm was charging each building in the area between N10,000 and N95,000 every month for power supply that was not constant, adding that their ordeal began when they began complaining about the highly inflated estimated charges.
They alleged that after several efforts to get the residents to pay the amounts being charged proved abortive, Okunuga and his colleagues invaded the community with soldiers on Friday, July 12, 2019, and disconnected power supply to the transformer serving the community.
Frustrated by the failure of the firm to restore power supply to the community, the residents, late last week, staged a protest against the IKEDC, saying the community was no longer safe as criminals had taken advantage of the darkness to perpetrate evil.
Daniel Adegboyega, the Chairman, Odokekere Community Development Association, said the Federal Ministry of Power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission had been notified of the problem in the community.
“We have been on the issue with the IE for a while now; we have gone as far as petitioning the Ministry of Power in Abuja to come to our aid as a result of the inflated estimated bills and we were directed to the NERC,” he said.
“When the IE realised that it could no longer cheat us, it came to disconnect us. We have been speaking with them since July 12, but till date, nothing has been done; if the firm refuses to supply power to us, then we may sue it to court.”
Isaac Sunday, a youth leader in the community, while blaming Okunuga for the problem, condemned him for taking the law into his own hands by disconnecting power supply to the area.
He also lamented that officials at the IKEDC headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos, had failed to do anything to alleviate the residents’ suffering.
“We are protesting because of the power outage in our community. Three months ago, the Undertaking Manager of the Ikeja Electric at the Odogunyan Business Unit, Adeleke Okunuga, came with military men to disconnect our transformer and ever since, we have not had power supply,” Sunday said.
“We are customers; we pay our bills as and when due, but the firm has denied us its service despite paying. We have some residents with prepaid meters and some without meters, who don’t have outstanding payments, but Okunuga disconnected all of us. He has kept us in darkness and that is why we are protesting to get justice.
“During a town hall meeting to resolve the issue, Okunuga insisted that for us to be re-connected, we must pay whenever they bring bills regardless of the amount. How can they be charging a single room N10,000 monthly; two-room apartment, N25,000; and an entire building N95,000 and they expect us to pay?
“We told Okunuga that we were going to pay considerable amounts but he disagreed with us, insisting that we must pay the amounts on our current bills. So, we are protesting so that those in authority will assist us to get justice.”
A resident, Abayomi Oseni, complained that the amounts being expended on generators had become unbearable, adding that the safety of the community had been jeopardised as cultists and armed robbers were using the cover of darkness to perpetrate crimes.
“Commercial activities in our area have collapsed as traders and artisans no longer have access to power. People are moving out of the community because of the absence of electricity supply,” another resident said.
However, the Public Relations Officer, IKEDC, Felix Ofulue, explained that the community was disconnected because the residents attacked and wounded its employees, adding that a meeting had been scheduled to resolve the issue.
“The reason why we disconnected Odokekere is that the residents attacked, assaulted, wounded and threatened the lives of our employees; it does not have anything to do with estimated billing,” Offulue said.
“We have a written standard that whenever you beat up our staff, you have to face the consequences. I am aware that our people met the community members to resolve the issue and what took place was not a protest.
“I don’t think this is the era to make issues about estimated billing, because that was why the Meter Asset Provider scheme was introduced to address issues of estimated billings.”