Members of the Electricity Workers Union have raised alarm over the increase in meter bye-pass, multiple payment and extortion of consumers perpetrated by Staff of Installation Companies approved by the Federal Government.
In an interview with our correspondent, Assistant General Secretary, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) South-South Zone, Comrade Innocent Lord-Douglas, lamented that the Meter Installers under the guise of PHEDC Staff, extort money from Consumers to bye-pass the meter, describing the act as criminal.
He noted that on several occasions, their members have been assaulted and attacked by Consumers, on realizing they were tricked by the meter installers to bye-pass their meters.
“Some months ago the federal government instructed that electricity consumers should be metered. What the federal government did was to get a loan from Central Bank for the distribution company to meter every household
“Just as the program was approved, there were also companies approved alongside to install these meters, of which they are not PHEDC staff and they are not our members. But currently what is happening in Rivers State is, the meter installers will go for installation and tell the consumers to pay some amount of money in order to reduce the meter speed.
“By so doing, they extort from the electricity consumers who are so naive and they Bye-pass the meter by removing some load that was supposed to go to the meter. They trick the consumers that their house is not properly connected and they cannot meter it, which is not true.
“It is becoming very worrisome to us and recently we have caught some of these meter installers perpetrating the act, we are not taking it likely with them.
“For instance, if someone’s meter is bye-passed and our members who are in charge of that particular network discovers the discrepancy in the meter installation, there are penalties the consumer will pay or he/she would be disconnected.
“Consumers have on countless times lynched our members thinking it is was a setup between the meter installers and the PHED staff to extort from them.”
Comrade Lord-Douglas, however, urged electricity consumers in Rivers State not to pay any money for meter installation, as it amounts to double taxation.
“As labour, it is our duty to protect our members and one of the ways in which we are doing it is to inform the public that those people who come to install meter in their houses are not PHED staff or our member, they should not give them any money because they are not supposed to collect money from consumers.
“Giving them money during meter installation amounts to double taxation and extortion, make sure you get the name of the person that tries to extort money from you, if possible call in the police on them and inform us we will be right there.
“We also want the public to know it is a criminal offence to bye-pass a meter, it is called electricity theft”