BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME, Asst. News Editor
“I have not bothered to connect to the national grid since I moved into this my new house in Elelenwo area of the state three months ago because of the epileptic power situation”, Mr. Tamy Charles told Vanguard Metro, VM.
The epileptic power supply has dropped to its worst level in most parts of Port Harcourt and adjourning local government areas that residents generally regard as Port Harcourt.
A resident of a part of Rumuegbo in Obio Akpor Local Government Area, one of the urban communities around the state capital said they had not seen electricity generated by the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution company, PHED in their area for about two months.
“We have not had light in this part of Rumuigbo for about two months now. We have all been relying on generators,” Francisca said.
The story had been the same in several parts of the state capital in the last three months. Youths who could not tolerate the ugly situation took to the streets on June 14, protesting the epileptic power situation.
The angry youths went to the PHED office on Moscow Road to vent their anger on any staff of the electricity distribution firm but none of them was around that day. The rampaging youths disrupted the free flow of traffic on the busy Moscow Road that day.
Some of them had told newsmen that they had to embark on the street protest hoping that it would force the electricity company to improve on its services to enable residents enjoy the World Cup tournament then.
The poor power situation has crippled hitherto thriving businesses in the state. An ice cream vendor who sold on a bicycle said most of them were faced with the challenge of scarcity of ice blocks to cool their ice creams. “Some of us cannot even find ice block for our business anymore because of the power situation,” he said.
Public Affairs Manager of PHED, Mr John Onyi, in a statement titled: “PHED set to cut electricity supply in Port Harcourt” pleaded for understanding, saying the firm was to begin upgrade of its facilities in some areas of the state capital, so there would be reduction in power supply from 9am to 4pm daily between July 13 to 23.
“PHED wishes to inform its customers of plans to cut electricity supply from July 13 to July 23 in the hours of 9am to 4pm each day.
This planned outage within this period is to enable the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN improve some sections of its transmission line that transports power supply to Port Harcourt.
“This upgrade when completed will enhance the power wheeling capacity of the transmission lines, thereby, enabling PHED provide better services to its customers. PHED will make concerted effort to resume normal electricity supply to its customers from 4pm to 9am the next day,” he said.
Unfortunately, the firm could not keep to its electricity supply schedule for the state capital in the ten days as most parts of the state were plunged into darkness.
The ugly situation continued even after the ten days the firm said it would need to finish the job. “We have continued to remain in darkness 10 days after PHED said it would need to finish work on its facilities in the state”, Anayo who resides in Ogbunabali area of Port Harcourt said.
Spokesman of PHED, Mr Onyi in his statement blamed the poor power situation on insufficient megawatts, adding that there had been reduction in the megawatts to the state from 694 to between 150 and 160.
“This shortage of megawatts forced the company to embark on load shedding to ensure the limited-electricity available go round users,” he said.
He also linked activities of vandals to the problem. “Loss of nine of its distribution transformers to vandals was responsible for current electricity outages presently experienced at Ada George, Mile 3, Ikwerre road, Iwofe road and parts of Rumueme community. Also, work is still ongoing at the vandalised five towers (132kv lines) that feed electricity to Mgbuoba, NTA, Rumuosi, University of Port Harcourt, and University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital,” he added.
Onyi further appealed for patience from consumers. A statement he later released on Saturday said they had extended the period the TCN needed to conclude what it was doing to July 31, pleading for cooperation. “The contractors of Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, handling the reconductoring of the 132kv lines from Oginigba to Ogbunabali junction have assured that normal power supply will be restored to Port harcourt metropolis by the evening ofThursday 31,2014.
“The assurance followed the inability of the contractors to complete the work on the reconductoring on Saturday as earlier scheduled due to technical reasons. The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company therefore,wishes to further appeal to its numerous customers to exercise patience as the work is aimed at improving service delivery, “ his statement read.
But residents were worried that their patience was being overstretched. Indeed, some consumers prayed that this time there should be improvement in the service delivery of the electricity company, stressing that they were getting worn out with its many excuses.
“This is not the first time they told us they were upgrading. We have been used to this excuse. We just pray it will be different this time,” a consumer who resides in Iwofe area of the state said.
Consumers also lamented the high tariff from PHED, saying that in spite of its epileptic service, the electricity firm still had exorbitant tariff for consumers. “The last time we saw our bill we thought they made mistake because we just could not understand how my apartment will be asked to pay N15,000. What do we do here? In anycase the light is irregular. So how come they had such bill for us?” Philip, a consumer in Agip area queried.