By Oyeniyi Iwakun
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Silence over injustice as entrenched in this wise word of Martin Luther King is more injurious to humanity than the activities of the evil doers themselves as such silence legitimizes and encourages the evil deeds. Therefore, the silent authorities may never be forgiven by posterity.
It is becoming a recurrent experience for the weak and peasants to be subjected to unpleasant treatments and even infringements on their basic rights on daily basis in Nigeria. Notable among others is the regular Nigerian Police’s inhumanity to man that is no more news to the world. Of course, it is unarguably correct to say that only the children of “Mr. Nobody” are apprehended innocently and convicted for crimes they know virtually nothing about. In this part of the world, human rights and privileges are immaterial to government. It is the case of “know your right and suffer more”.
Some years back, the atmosphere seems to be better because notable human rights groups always stand to defend citizens who find himself under the oppressive jackboots of these ungodly agents. However, reverse is the case today as the average citizen encounters more hardship from the corrupt and heartless enforcement agencies and service providers.
The most recent is the awful experience of Ijora, Orile, Obanle, Amukoko residents in the hand of Eko Electricity Distribution Plc. (EKEDP) that has subjected them to another form of abuse and extortion on electricity supply and tariffs.
MMS Plus findings revealed that, residents of this axis are mostly average Lagosians who cannot afford the huge financial requirements to reside in other high class residential areas in the state. Unfortunately, despite their poor financial status they are usually subjected to most brutal form of extortion by the management of EKEDP through consistent hike in electricity bills on an average of 200% increase every month. Astonishingly, most houses there do not have meters (pre-paid and post paid) even after making several efforts that has ended fruitless due to EKEDP frustration and the few available ones aren’t functional, hence the easy move for EKEDP to place them on constant billing system without any stated means of measuring or quantifying the amount of electricity they consume. For instance, a tenement house, 4 bedroom bungalow, popularly called “face-me-I-face-you” without a functional Meter was billed N8000 in December, 2017; N15, 000 in January and now billed to pay N22, 000 in February, 2018. Another Two bedrooms was made to pay N6000 December 2017; N12,000 in January and now N19, 000 in February. On a similar note, another bill carrying Account No=03/72/38/1407-01 with the name: Ben Ngozi Oyi has N82,000 debt with a current charge of N16,056.00 seen by MMS Plus. The holder claimed her compound has only three bedrooms with just two residents but she is asked to pay all the accumulated debt even when none was residing in the house and neither was it connected to electricity during the period in question. These and many more outrageous bills are meant to be paid by the residents of these areas or risk total disconnection.
MMS Plus also saw a crowd of customers who have gone to register their displeasure over the development at the Ijora Badia office. In fact, the Obanle landlords had approached the Marketing Manager with a delegation including their lawyer.
The question here is: How did EKEDP arrive at these outrageous bills especially for those houses without meters? What is the pedestal of increase? Till when will incessant these increment continue unabated?
It should be noted that residents of the area in question are not financially buoyant to purchase electrical appliances and other domestic equipments that consume electricity. Most of them only use a fan, bulb, television and possibly DVD.
Speaking with MMS Plus, Mr. Aliyu one of the affected residents at Obanle who trooped down with his neighbors to the Ijora-Badia marketing office, under Apapa Business Unit to express their grievances said, it has gotten to alarming stage that such outrageous bills had to be resisted, noting that it has become a culture for EKEDP officials to indiscriminately jerk up the bills every month and force the residents to pay or risk disconnection from the national grid.
An insider from EKEDP confirmed to MMS Plus that the exorbitant bills became necessary as a result of the need to meet up with some targets as instructed by their superiors. According to him, the management had mandated the marketers and those in operations to ensure that a huge amount is generated irrespective of whose ox are gored. Explaining further, the source said this target increases every month and Orile, Ijora, Amukoko, Obanle areas are perceived to be dominated by illiterates and peasants who may not have the resources and willingness to challenge any arbitrary decision of EKEDP.
“What do you expect when our bosses say they need certain amount and it must be generated from this axis at all cost? They said their contracts would expire by October 2018 and they haven’t made enough profit. Even though they are making huge profits at the detriment of the people, they still claim that they are at loss.
“The target before used to be 3 reconnections per day but now it is 26. What they meant by this is that those people you see carrying ladders to disconnect your light are not EKEDP staff but are paid from the proceeds from reconnection fees you pay. So they are always eager to do the job because the more houses they disconnect the more their pay and more money EKEDP make.” He said
MMS Plus efforts to speak with Marketing Manager at Gaskiya road, Ijora-Badia proved abortive.
“Look, I am very busy now; you may come back later if you have any complaint to make” the obviously frustrated woman told MMS Plus.
The complaints in Nigeria overtime has always been irregular power supply but despite this, the citizens have been subjected to more hardship through paying for the services they don’t enjoy.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC} have pronounced several policies on regulating this act in defense of the consumers, yet, they haven’t seen any fruitful implementation. It is expected they rise to their responsibilities on this issue.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) is expected to come to the aid of the common man in Nigeria. Else, they remain in this abysmal status of oppression forever.
EKEDP should also look inwardly and re-appraise their activities by considering the interest of their customers. Over billing would mean no well to the development of the nation as citizens may be frustrated to resorting to self help.
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