Ijaw youths, PHEDC dialogue collapses as outage persists in Bayelsa
The blackout in the Bayelsa State capital, Yenagoa, and its neighboring towns and villages yesterday entered its 10th day amid the continued shutdown of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).
This is as the meeting involving the power firm, the state government and the youths deadlocked following disagreement over the debt owed the utility by customers in Bayelsa.
The IYC had challenged PHEDC to substantiate the N16.5 billion indebtedness by electricity consumers in the state.
The power company’s Manager, Corporate Communication, John Onyi, had bemoaned the high debt profile, stating that as at last month, customers in Bayelsa were owing his organisation the huge sum.
He added that the development was hampering PHEDC’s operations.
But the Ijaw youths had on December 23 besieged the firm’s offices, forcing the workers to ground operations before occupying the premises to protest against poor power supply to residents.
Speaking on the outcome of the dialogue brokered by the state government to resolve the face-off, the Central Zone Chairman of IYC, Kennedy Olorogun, insisted that the claim was a “fairy tale”, adding that the shutdown remains in force.
He argued that the N16.5 billion indebtedness had no bearing with power supply to Bayelsans, the crux of the protest, adding that the allegation was a cheap blackmail.
Olorogun said: “The leadership of IYC Central Zone is challenging the claim made by the PHEDC that Bayelsa people are owing electricity bill of N16.5 billion.
“The people of Bayelsa have not been enjoying uninterrupted power supply over the years, which is the reason we are protesting. How come such a huge amount when we are saying that we do not see power. The claim is just a blackmail.”
He went on: “We are demanding for service which we are ready to pay for. We are saying that we can no longer pay for darkness and services not rendered. That is our position.
“We call on PHEDC to justify and produce a proof of their claim with all necessary documents within this period, or be ready to face a legal action from Ijaw people for defamation of character caused by the allegation.”
The spokesman for the electricity firm however regretted that the development had taken a toll on the organisation and caused untold hardship to its numerous customers.
He contended that, “Yenagoa is not marginalised in terms of power supply as alleged by the Ijaw Youth Council, but it is a common knowledge that every Disco, including PHEDC, does systematic load shedding.”
Onyi added: “PHEDC 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 PHEDC offices.”