Pandemonium as soldiers swoop on Osun communities over protest against IBEDC, blackout
There was pandemonium when soldiers were drafted to stop a protest embarked by three communities in Osun State against Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) over lack of electricity supply.
Aggrieved members of Alatise, Ilupeju and Ijaregbe communities in Ilesa and Obokun Local Councils of the state had marched on Friday to the office of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), accusing them of disconnecting their transformers from the national grid.
During the demonstration, some of the protesters were said to have sustained injuries as armed soldiers swooped on them.
The Guardian learnt that the management of IBEDC allegedly deployed military officers to disperse their protesting customers for allegedly holding some of its staff hostage for hours when they besieged the Ilesa IBEDC office to demand that electricity be restored to their communities.
Some of the electricity consumers in the affected communities were said to have paid their bill into a wrong account before the electricity distributor decided to disconnect their transformers from the grid.
Speaking after the incident, Alatise community leader, Moroof Sanjo, said many of the protesters sustained injuries as there was a stampede immediately they sighted the armed soldiers.
On the genesis of the issue, Sanjo explained that, “the transformers serving the three communities were bought by members of the communities at the rate of N10 million each. Each house contributed N65,000 and also bought the controversial meter from IBEDC agents at N75,000, though, the IBEDC gave each consumer a month free electricity after which they have been loading credit through the smart prepaid cards.”
Sanjo faulted the decision of the IBEDC management to punish the whole community, instead of finding an amicable solution to the problem, stressing that the use of force through the deployment of Army officers was a violation of their fundamental human rights.
“Many of our people sustained injuries, scampering for safety on sighting the soldiers. Does it mean that we don’t have the right to protest against injustice? Why would IBEDC disconnect us when discussions were ongoing to find solution to the problem? All we care about now is for IBEDC to restore electricity to the areas,” he said.
In an interview, the Chairman, National Union of Electricity Employees, Ilesa chapter, Olusegun Alaketu, attributed the face-off to breakdown in understanding.
Alaketu said mutual relationship existed between the communities and the IBEDC before the issue of the controversial prepaid meter. He appealed to the community leaders to cooperate with his organisation to proffer solutions to the problem.
“We would have reconnected the areas to the national grid on Saturday if not for what happened. I did all I could to persuade the protesters to go home and come back the following day to find a way of managing the crisis for mutual benefits to no avail.
“The gate to my office was shut by aggrieved customers who prevented in and out movements of staff, until the soldiers came, although, I don’t know at whose invitation. All I want to say is that we should allow peace to reign to avert a repeat of what happened in 2019, the consequences of which are still telling on our services to Ijesaland,“ Alaketu explained.
Addressing the protesters at the Ayeso A, Divisional Police Headquarters Ilesa, a police officer, Segun Iyanda appealed to them not to take laws into their hands. He fixed an appointment with them for today to properly address the matter.
When contacted, the Ilesa Branch Manager of the IBEDC, Akinrilola Fowobi said the soldiers were engaged by the management at headquarters to disperse the protesters, who allegedly held its staff hostage for hours to prevent the protest from being hijacked by hoodlums.