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Rights Groups Condemn Fraudulent Activities In EEDC



Angry protesters overturning a disused EEDC vehicle

FROM Afikpo, Ebonyi State through Enugu and Onitsha, Anambra State, it has been protests galore against the activities of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC).

The protests are for a variety of reasons. In Abakaliki, apart from rationing of electricity supply whereby some streets have specific days on which to suffer darkness, the absence of proper metering highlight the pains electricity consumers face in Ebonyi State capital.

In Aba, Abia State, despite the efforts of a private energy provider, Geometric Energy, to augment the supply of electricity, the contest for control of supply infrastructure has bedeviled availability of electricity in the commercial cum industrial town.

Apart from the fact that the Southeast zone has been witnessing these series of protests, various power consumer bodies including the large-scale, small and medium scale industrialists, market associations, landlords associations and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have rallied against alleged unchecked sharp practices of the EEDC in the zone.

They complain that the underhand practices include abandonment of management and maintenance of distribution transformers and replacement of their accessories when burnt or worn out; non-provision and installation of distribution transformers; swindling and extortion of customers.

EEDC is also blamed for non-provision and installation of prepaid meters; indiscriminate arrests and long detention of customers in police cells with unsubstantiated accusations of vandalism or tempering with equipment including prepaid meters; issuance and collection of fraudulently estimated bills; reckless mass disconnection of power lines and abysmal customer relationship.

It was against this harvest of complaints against EEDC that some rights groups met recently in Onitsha, to draw the attention of Nigerians to the ugly development in electricity supply and management in the Southeast zone.

Some of the groups that met and addressed the media included, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law; Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization; Forum for Justice, Equity and Defense of Human Rights; and the Electricity Consumers Forum in the Southeast, represented by Iyiowa Electricity Consumers Forum in Ogbaru local council of Anambra State.

The groups disclosed that petitions had been lodged in several public offices including the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) against the EEDC.

The chairman, board of trustees of Intersociety, Emeka Umegbalasi, Intersociety and Anambra CLO on November 10, 2015, as well as the Consumers Forums through their lawyers had written different petitions against the EEDC. He added that while response from the addressees especially NERC was being awaited, a media briefing was held in Iyiowa Layout of the Ogbaru Business Unit in Anambra State on November 25, 2015, to further raise public awareness on the issues under review.

At the briefing, the groups noted that unambiguous messages have been sent to the management of the EEDC to “retrace its fraudulent steps or face the legal and advocacy wrath of the rights community in the Southeast zone.” The rights groups called on the management of NERC to be proactive in discharging its statutory responsibilities, particularly those that have to do with regulation, if it should not to be seen as “an accomplice, aider and abettor” in fraudulent practices under complaint.

However, when contacted, the Head, Owerri Zonal Office of NERC, Mr. Sam Eke, told The Guardian that though his office received petitions against EEDC, the company was yet to respond to the issues.
Eke said: “We have escalated the petition and replied the petitions by the Civil Liberties Organisation. We informed them that the issues are being handled.”

He noted that being a zone, his office has also communicated with its headquarters in Abuja, adding that he hopes to receive further information on the petition at the next meeting of NERC zonal controllers in Abuja next week.

He disclosed that the public affairs unit of EEDC told him that since the complaints are basically about operations of different business units, especially Ogidi, Ogbaru and Onitsha, the company was waiting for the reactions of the various business managers.

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