Rivers Community protests disconnection by PHEDC

Okenyi Kenechi

Protesters on Wednesday barricaded the access road leading to the Afam Power Station in Afam Community, Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State for being disconnected from the national grid.

The 726 Megawatts gas power plant was built in 1982 provides electricity to four Niger Delta States of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers.

The community housing the power plant was disconnected from the grid two months ago over the inability of residents to meet up with their electricity bills.

Angry youths from the community in July forcefully took over control of the station belonging to the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN and shutdown Afam Transmission lines thereby, throwing the entire Port Harcourt and Rivers state into darkness.

The community had said that they had an agreement with the federal government when the power station was built not pay electricity bill until after 50 years.

But the Acting Manager, Corporate Communications of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC, Mrs Chioma Aninwe said that the ugly incident has become the order of the day due to their acclaimed inadequate power supply to the community.

“PHEDC also informed them of the need for the company to apply systematic load shedding in order to accommodate all its customers.

“However, all our attempts have proven futile as the youths insisted on 24-hour supply, negating our efforts at ensuring equitable distribution of supply to customers,” she said.

PHEDC ’s Managing Director /Chief Executive Officer, Dr Henry Ajagbawa in August echoed that the reason the community was disconnected was that it was owing bills to the tune of 50 billion naira, adding that the company was fully privatized in 2013 in other to generate more revenue.

The MD said: “As you all know, this company became wholly privatized on November 1st, 2013, and privatization comes with profit. It’s a profit-oriented organization what I will do is to receive energy from the national grid and we receive energy at a cost and from November 1st 2013, we have been able to serve our customers satisfactorily and keep improving on daily basis.”

He said the company has over one million customers but only about half of that number is in their data, a development he regretted is making PHEDC lose over 50% of its revenue.

“We have over one million customers that we’re serving and we have about 50% of them on our database and that tells you something. If we’re serving our customers and we have only 50% of them on our database, then we’re losing some money.

“Of that 50%, only one-third of these customers are metered and that is why you see us engaging in so much campaigns to ensure that our energy is not consumed freely. As you know,6.5% of the energy we get from the national grid, we also account for he said. Now in serving these customers are we facing challenges ? of course we’re facing challenges.

“The South-South people of Nigeria, in particular, perceive energy consumption as a social service. We all notice it’s not true. Of course, you know we have the infrastructure to maintain, we have capital investments to make, and to do that, we need finance and we all know today, that the banking sector is not an easy place to get funds from.”

The PHEDC MD said to serve their customers, the company needs funds, adding that other challenges apart from funding, include anti-vandalization and energy theft. Laws that are not fully implemented, tampering of meters and maintenance of staff.

“If all these things are put in place, I don’t think we will be in the position that we are today.” He said as a result of these challenges, their revenue is half of what they earlier projected.

“We projected to generate up to 5 Billion, but as at today, we’re just about half of what we anticipated,” he said.

On the Afam crisis, the company said it has engaged the area ten times on the issue of non-payment of bills, but regretted that it’s being owned Billions of naira by Oyigbo.

“As at today, what they owe us is Five Billion, Eight Hundred and Twenty-Seven million, Nine Hundred and Seventy-One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Six Naira, Ninety Two Kobo. The question is if they owe us so much, why do they still shut down our system ?” he said.

The PHEDC MD, however, said that Ndoka Urban still have light because they pay up to 30% of their bills.

He, however, said the issue is being resolved as the Oyigbo youths left the flow station following the intervention of some stakeholders, adding that the company is working with the stakeholders to ensure that such incident does not reoccur.

Meanwhile, the protesters vowed not to reopen the access road until electricity is restored to the community.