By SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN — GOVERNOR Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has said that he had to intervene in the disagreement between civil society organisations in the state and the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC, in the interest of justice, public good and to stem a breakdown of law and order.
Speaking at Government House, during a meeting with executives of BEDC in Benin City, yesterday, Oshiomhole recalled that what led to what is now globally referred to as the Arab Spring, was a solo protest by a man, who committed suicide.
He said: “I called this meeting for us to talk through some of the issues raised by the leaders of the civil society groups that organised protests against some of the actions of BEDC. I believe our role here, as a state government, is basically to facilitate a dialogue between the consumers of electricity, who happen to be my employers, and BEDC as they have complained about the policies with regards to some charges by BEDC. I think we can talk through the issues and hopefully get results and resolve them in an amicable manner so that it does not degenerate into a major crisis.
“So, when I heard that people were protesting and I asked questions, I was told about money collected without services rendered. I then appealed to my civil society people that we might need to engage the company and let us see how we can sort it out.
“MD, you will recall the day I had the honour of receiving you in my office, when you formally introduced your company to us. I made some statements basically that privatization will lead to greater efficiency and I remember I told you that a private service provider cannot collect money for services not rendered, and therefore, the challenge of privatization and the beauty of it is that you pay only for what you consume and the service provider has certain obligations; both as a market player, but also in the eye of the law.
“When I began to hear the complaints and about the protest, it just reminded me about the things that I said to you. For me, the issue here is not what the regulatory authority wants to do; they cannot regulate in such a manner as to compel someone to pay for something he has not consumed. If they seek to do that, they will be acting outside the law. No law in a democracy can empower anyone to collect money from anyone who has not been offered a commodity or a service.”