• Tony Igele

Benin Electricity Distribution Board Intimidated by Civil Society Groups

THE Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) has cried out that civil society groups in Edo State were preventing power consumers in Edo State from enjoying power supplies by obstructing the operations of the company.

The power company listed areas such as Ugbor, Oko Central, Ekae and Sokponba in the Benin metropolis as some of the places experiencing reduced power supply due to the activities of the civil society groups, which the company claimed prevented its technical team from clearing faults in the affected areas.

Civil society groups in Edo State had last week protested against what they described as alleged intimidation and oppression of customers by BEDC including one Mr Innocent Okpara, by security operatives offering protection for expatriates working for the power distribution company.

However, the BEDC in a statement Sunday, accused the civil society groups of forcefully shutting down its offices to the detriment of its numerous customers in the state, adding that the matter had been reported to the state police command.

The statement read in part, “Our offices are being closed down, staff molested and their working tools seized over frivolous (the) excuse that their disconnected member, Okpara, be reconnected even when he is still indebted to the company.

“It is pertinent to note that their other grouse against BEDC is over our resolve to stop them from bypassing the meters and stealing of energy. The authorities of the Edo State Police Command has stepped into the matter after they were informed and currently engaging members of the society.”

Meanwhile, the company has dismissed the speculation of a proposed industrial action by its workers in Edo, Ondo, Delta and Ekiti, describing it as “a tissue of lies intended to malign the reputation of the BEDC as a good employer of labour fulfilling its obligations to employees, in line with labour laws and regulatory standards.

The Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr Tayo Adekunle, said, “Yearly, our graduate scheme aimed at developing managerial skills for the power sector employs a minimum of 250 graduate trainees and technicians, aside the employment of thousands of professionals in the company.

“Edo State enjoys a sizeable chunk of indigenes employed by the company.”

But when contacted, the civil society groups claimed responsibility for the shutdown of the operational offices of the company and threatened to include others until the Federal Government revoked its licence.

The spokesman for the civil society groups, Mr Osazee Edigin, stated, “Yes, the shutting down of their offices were carried out by the locals at our various study centres at the grassroots. It is further reactions from the way BEDC management has treated Innocent Okpara and their refusal to reconnect him after making some payments out of the contested outrageous bills, rather giving him condition to withdraw his petitions against them.

“What they have experienced thus far is a tip of the iceberg as we are sensitising more communities on their electricity rights which the BEDC had overtime infringed upon. In the coming weeks, more of their offices are going to be shut down until the Federal Government revokes their licence, the people are tired of their inefficient services.”

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