By Saheed Ibrahim, Adedotun Aderoboye & Oluwatosin Adeeyo
Electricity consumers in Ondo State are angry against the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) for non-issuance of prepaid metres. They accused the company of exploiting them by distributing crazy estimated bills.”
The Federal Government had in 2020 commenced the distribution of free pre-paid electricity metres across the states of the federation and the BEDC, covering Ondo, Ekiti, Delta and Edo States received about 90,000 metres to be distributed across the four states.
Some of the residents who spoke with The Hope, alleged that the BEDC was hoarding the metres in a bid to exploit consumers through crazy bills instead of distributing them free as directed by the Federal Government.
A resident in Oke Obere, Akure, Mrs Adekemi Osundairo lamented that she receives between N6,000 and N12,000 monthly estimated bill despite the fact that she does not use any heavy electrical appliance.
She told The Hope that all her efforts to get a prepaid metre had proven abortive, adding that there was a time her community compiled names of landlords who hàve no prepaid meters but nothing had been heard concerning the distribution since then.
Another Akure resident at Oke Ijebu, Mr Olu Isaac said he had been receiving outrageous bills from the BEDC, which led to his house being disconnected because of his refusal to pay the bills running to about N200,000.
The President, Ekimogun Youth Connect, Mr. Famakinwa Lucas, who recently led “give us our prepaid meters” peaceful protest to the BEDC headquarters in Ondo town, condemned the company for distributing estimated bills to some residents of the city as high as N18,000 monthly when they only enjoy electricity in less than three hours daily.
He added that complaints had been coming to his association about BEDC officials collecting money from the people with the promise to help them get prepaid meters.
He urged the government to help stop the problem completely by fulfilling its promise of metering every house in the federation.
Chief Ladi Bello, an Akunnu Akoko community leader who berated the insensitivity of BEDC said despite the fact that there is hardly electricity in towns in Akoko, the distribution company still come with its huge bills at the end of the month.
“We are paying for darkness. Crazy bills, irregular and eratic supply of power have crippled our businesses.
“BEDC should give us prepaid meters or stop making us to pay for what we did not consume”.
The coordinator of Akoko Artisans, Mr Jimoh Ola Ibrahim, expressed sadness over the state of electricity in Akoko.
Jimoh expressed sadness and regret over the situation which he said has turned many of his members to Okada riders.
Jimoh said it is only convenient for BEDC to give this to consumers because it allows the electricity distribution company to fleece the people of their hard earned money.
Mrs Rashidat Michael from Ikare-Akoko lamented that she had incurred estimated bills running into N300,000.
Mr. Ayomide Kingsley also from Idanre told The Hope that every effort made to get the prepaid metre had amounted to nothing, disclosing that he was asked to pay N50,000 by BEDC officials in order to get the metre but he refused to pay since it was supposed to be given free of charge.
In Owo, a landlord, Mr. Aderibigbe lamented that he had been paying about N10,000 for power supply which does not last not more than three hours daily.
He said, “I want a prepaid meter in my house but could not get it. I am ready to pay to get a prepaid meter and stop this exploitation”.
According to Mr. Abiayo Ojo, “we do not have light in my street for the past one week now but we will be made to pay as much as N20,000 to BEDC at the end of the month”.
He appealed to the government to intervene in the matter and help the people get prepaid meters, which will save them from exploitation.
Another house owner, who simply identified himself as Mr Tope said, “I like to have a prepaid meter at home because it works just like my phone. It will only work when I recharge and there is power supply. Nobody will have the opportunity to cheat me. I hope the government can help us get the prepaid meters”.
Reacting, the BEDC Public Relations Officer in Ondo State, Mr Michael Barnabas appealed to the residents of Ondo State to be patient with the company, saying only 20,000 metres were allotted to Ondo State out of about 90,000 received by the company.
“Everybody cannot get the meter. When we started admitting processing, we put out a statement on how we are going to distribute the meters.
“If I am not mistaken, what we said was that within the first quarter of the year, we will be concentrating much on customers within band A to C. Majority of our customers fall within the range of band E and D, so everybody will not get the meter overnight.
“It’s a planned and gradual process which we all need to abide with. We are moving ahead with our metering process, so everybody will need to have patience with us.
He said the company was expecting more metres, which would be distributed as soon as they were received.
On estimated billing, he said the template for billing houses without metre was on the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) website and that was what BEDC was using.