Communities in a local government in Ekiti State have endured years-long non-availabity of grid electricity, which has brought adverse effects on the economy of the people.
Ekiti East Local Government Area, which has Omuo as its headquarters, has experienced power blackout since 2016.
Apart from Omuo, the local government consists of other communities such as Ilasa, Omuo-Oke, Ikun, Araromi, Isinbode, Eda-Ile, Kota, among others.
Speaking on behalf of the affected communities, a local leader in Omuo, Taiwo Alonge, told PREMIUM TIMES that the electricity problem could be traced to the disconnection of the communities from Kogi State and the reconnection, afterwards in 2016, to Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC).
Mr Alonge also added that the issue of accumulated bills came up when the communities' new supplier, BEDC, said residents were indebted to the company to the tune of N75 million.
He said BEDC told the communities that they would have to clear the debt before electricity could be restored to the area.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that when the issue of accumulated bills came up, the leaders had a dialogue with the communities and an agreement was reached to the effect that each household would be charged N3,000 to settle the debts.
However, less than a quarter of the required sum of N75 million was raised.
When the communities could not raise the money requested by BEDC, the company brought up the idea of bulk metering, which the people rejected outright on the basis of problem that may arise from sharing due of unequal electricity.
However, the communities welcomed prepaid metering for each house instead.
Mr Alonge said, "When the communities sought government intervention; BEDC came to do the necessary wiring. They informed the community leaders that a hundred houses will be connected to a transformer with a bulk meter, and the residents will have to contribute money to settle whatever bills the bulk meter reads.
"Through the Council of Obas, the community rejected the idea and requested that a prepaid metre be used, instead, in order to avoid crisis."
Another resident, who only identified himself as Mr Fatoyinbo, said, "the bills were too exorbitant, and there were no specific modalities to pay the bills from the bulk meter."
According to Messrs Alonge and Fatoyinbo, the main reason for the rejection of the bulk metre was how the money to settle the bills would be contributed.
"You don't expect an old woman using just a bulb to contribute the same amount with a carpenter or welder," said Mr Alonge.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the lack of electricity in the communities is having an adverse effect on local businesses and breeding hardship among the residents.
"We are badly affected," lamented Mr Fatoyinbo. "Carpenters and Welders, who are supposed to work don't have light. We are badly affected."
In an interview with this newspaper, Deji Ajiboye, a saw miller in Omuo, narrated his experience.
"It's been a huge challenge because we now use three times the litres of diesel we used when there was light. We buy 20 litres of diesel in a day which amounts to about N4,000 then. But now, we buy close to 60 litres in a day which is around N15,000. This is grossly affecting the profit we are making.
"Four months ago, when they came with the bulk metre claiming there will be light, we were so happy that our boss hurriedly went to buy poles to pass wire to our new site but up til now we're yet to see anything.
"When we wrote to the state government, they claimed the distribution company is independent and not in its jurisdiction, as the federal government has sold it to a private company, though we also learnt they are taking steps on it."
Another resident, Blessing Aregbesola, a welder, said, "We don't have electricity, if we don't use generator, we can't work. We spend almost everything on fuel and maintenance of the generator.
"When there was still electricity, rarely would I take a N5,000 job without making at least N3,000 but now I can hardly make a profit of N3,000 from a N10,000 job.
"Sometimes, it becomes very hard to pay my children's school fees. We often go to places as far as Ibadan to repair the generator when it develops fault because there are limited experts here. I am still doing this because that is my profession and the only thing that still brings in little money."
Distribution company reacts
In an e-mail reply to PREMIUM TIMES, Kunbi Labiyi, BEDC's Chief State Head for Ondo and Ekiti states, said power was cut in the communities due to the acute load limitation which was caused by a failed 30MVA transformer in Okenne Transmission Station in 2016.
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She said all efforts by the BEDC to restore it were unsuccessful.
Her mail reads: "From the onset of privatisation, all the towns in Ekiti East were connected to national grid through Okenne Transmission Station, (Isanlu Mokutu 33KV feeder in Kogi State).
"The feeder continued to serve the communities until acute load limitation rendered no supply and all efforts by BEDC to restore yielded no result in June 2016. The acute load limitation was caused by a failed 30mva transformer in Okenne Transmission Station.
"Although the supply was restored in October 2017, following an upgrading of the failed 30MVA to 60MVA Transformer, there was little or no improvement in the supply from Okenne Transmission to serve the affected communities, hence the communities were severed, again, in June 2018.
"As a result of the persistent problem, detailed above, BEDC, in a quest to serve the customers affected, came up with an alternative to the supply from Okenne TS, which is Omuaran Transmission Station. The line diversion involved the rehabilitation of an aged and abandoned network which was successfully completed in February 2019.
"After the complete rehabilitation, the next phase of activity was the enumeration of all the communities, as this will assist with critical information required to supply electricity to the communities."
She said BEDC had a meeting with the representatives of the communities to advise on metering scheme in other to address complaints over estimated billing.
"After the conclusion of the enumeration, a meeting was held with representatives of the communities to advise on the different metering scheme available. This is to prevent issues of complaints on billed amount under estimated billing.
"It was important to seek consent from the community if they preferred the individual metering scheme and most importantly, were ready to pay for the meters. The response was affirmative as they are willing to pay the approved metering cost. The metering of the communities will commence this month.
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"We appreciate the patience of our esteemed customers and assure them that all plans are geared towards ensuring the metering is concluded within 2 weeks from the 19th of August, 2019. BEDC also appeals for their cooperation in adhering to the metering process."
The state government's reaction
In a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES, Olayinka Oyebode, the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Kayode Fayemi, said the government had engaged with the BEDC to ensure the restoration of electricity in Ekiti East.
He said: "This administration came on board in October 2018 and realised that some communities were without power supply for the past three to four years. What the government did, after listening to the side of the communities was to call for a meeting with the top officials of BEDC.
"The electricity supplying company gave several reasons for the situation. Reasons cited include huge indebtedness by some communities, vandalization of facilities among others.
"The Governor who led the State officials to the meeting in his office in Ado Ekiti directed BEDC to rectify the issue. The company swung into action immediately. The company linked about five of such communities back to the national grid. Work is still ongoing on the other communities."