By Chimaobi Nwaiwu
NNEWI — MORE than 1000 electricity consumers in Onitsha, Anambra State and some rights’ groups, weekend, protested over non- supply of pre-paid meters and alleged over billing by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC.
Those who carried out the demonstration included the Onitsha South Elite Forum, OSEF, Concerned Residents of Onitsha South, CRO; the Campaign for Democracy, CD, as well as the International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation. This was even as the head, communications, EEDC, Mr Emeka Eze denied that the company was neither involved in over billing of its customers or deliberately refused to supply pre-paid meters saying that EEDC had committed over N10 billion towards the provision of the latter.
The demonstrators blocked major roads including Zik’s Avenue, Orlu and Uga Streets, disrupting vehicular movements as they chanted lamenting their sufferings as a result of non- supply of electricity and pre-paid meters giving the EEDC 21 days ultimatum to provide them with prepaid meters or stop coming to the area to transact any business.
Displaying placards with various inscriptions like, “we have endured EEDC’s cheating for a long time; we say enough is enough; EEDC must provide us with prepaid meters; we say no to estimated billing method; Our wives cook soup daily because of no light to preserve same; We pay between N10,000 and N20,000 per flat monthly on estimated billing method,” among others.
But, a member of OSEF who also represents Onitsha South 1 Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Patrick Aniuno, said “my people decided to embark on peaceful protest today to send a signal to EEDC that they are tired of the cheating experienced at hands of the company. Do you know that the whole of my constituency does not have prepaid meters? They use estimated billing system to exploit us; whatever they like they give us as estimated bills. Sometimes we may consume between N2000 and N3000 electricity but at the end of the month they will bill us between N30, 000 and N40,000 which is outrageous.
“We have been complaining for so long that they should provide prepaid meters. We are ready to buy, they should come and install them so we can pay for what we consume and not for what we did not consume. We are sick and tired of their cheating methods.”
National Publicity Secretary and Chairman, South East Zone of CD Mr Uzor A. Uzor, and his campaign/publicity officer, Comrade Obi Ifediora, in his comments, however, threatened to mobilize the entire South East states to protest against EEDC if the pre-paid meters were not provided after 21 days.
“This is a general problem in the whole of South East; there is no light anywhere in this part of the country. The people celebrated Christmas and New Year without light and the situation has not changed since then; instead it is getting worse,” they said.
The CRO in a petition to the managing director of EEDC, Enugu, entitled, “Black out in Onitsha South: Crazy estimated billing, failure/refusal or neglect to procure and install pre-paid meters signed by Mr. Noel Udeoji, and copied to the Acting Chairman of NERC, Dr Anthony Akah, said close to 10,000 high rise buildings as well as bungalows have for over one month not been supplied with electricity in Fegge area.
“We are proposing only two issues for determination, we are asking why the on-going Credit Advanced Payment for Metering Implementation, CAPMI was suspended and can EEDC explain why it has chosen to make estimated billings the norm applicable to majority of residents instead of being an exception in special circumstances?” Udeoji added.
However, reacting to the allegations, EEDC’s Emeka Eze said, “We do not bill our customers arbitrarily. We bill according to NERC guidelines. However, we advise our customers who issued issued with their bills to visit our Customer Service Desk at our District Office or service centres. On the issue of pre-paid meters, we are committed to metering all our customers and this is already happening.
“With a metering gap of over 700,000 customers there is no way we can meter all at the same time. Metering is capital intensive and funding is a key challenge. Our customers should exercise patience as we have metered a greater percentage of our Maximum Demand, MD, customers and have also commenced metering of our individual /residential customer.”