By Sodiq Yusuf
Customers of the Ibadan Electricity
Distribution Company (IBEDC) have
called on the state government to caution the company, as its officials have embarked on disconnection of electricity of households during the total lockdown declared to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The disconnection of the electricity is against the assurance of the Regional Head for Osun, Akin Ogunleye, who had during the donation of relief items to the state government promised that the company would not disconnect electricity wires of indebted customers during the period.
But barely two days after Ogunleye’s promise, officials of the IBEDC embarked on disconnection of electricity of indebted households during the lockdown, a development that infuriated residents of the state.
The residents, who bemoaned the action of the company, said the decision to disconnect their electricity was ill-advised, as they had no means of offsetting their electricity bills due to the lockdown.
According to some of the residents who spoke with Bioreports on Tuesday, the company was insensitive to their plight, as they had fulfilled their obligations over time.
One of the residents, Mr Mikail Yunus who lives at Sabo area of Osogbo, the state capital, told the medium that he was frustrated with the move by the IBEDC, saying that the company should have given its customers two months of grace to recuperate from loss of income, occasioned by the lockdown.
Yunus explained that he had been unable to make ends meet in the last four weeks due to the lockdown, questioning how the IBEDC expected him to get money to settle his N7000 ‘crazy bill’ it issued to him.
He said: “I was at home for four weeks. It was not easy for my family to feed. All we lived on was the grace of God. We were surprised to see operatives of the IBEDC at my residence last week. They had come to disconnect us. We told them we had not gone to work and had no money with us. Yet, they disconnected our electricity.”
A trader who sells cold drinks at Irojo market in Ilesa, MrsTayo Adeniran noted that the IBEDC disconnected her from the grid when she was unavailable in her shop.
Mrs Adeniran who claimed to have N4000 bill to pay, maintained that the action of the electricity distribution company was inimical to the economy of the state, which resumed activities during the week as many artisans who needed steady power after the lockdown had nothing to work with.
She said: “The IBEDC had promised us during the lockdown that it will neither disconnect nor provide epileptic power supply due to the shutdown. I had stayed at home in compliance with government’s directive without coming to my shop. I got in here this morning and discovered that the power supply to my shop had been cut-off.”
“Where do they expect us to get money to pay? We have not been working. I cannot even pay for the electricity I did not use. Where did the IBEDC get the N4000 bill it gave me? Who used the electricity as I was not in the shop for a month? They should please re-connect us before it turns to a wild protest.
“We are unhappy about this and it is sad that the company which I have not owed for once did this to me as a customer. It is definitely appalling.”
Another customer of the company, Azeez Akanji who is a welder in Ede said the power supply to his workshop was disconnected when he resumed work on Monday.
Akanji told Bioreports that the IBEDC officials failed to come to terms with his position, alleging that they had presented to him ‘crazy bill’ for the period he was not in shop.
“I have not been in shop in compliance with the orders of the authorities to keep us safe. To my surprise, the IBEDC officials came and told me to pay or else they would disconnect me. I argued that I had not made any amount and did not use power for the 30 days were at home. But the IBEDC staff refused and went ahead to disconnect the power supply”, he said.
But the Public Relations Officer of IBEDC in the State of Osun, Ms Kikelomo Owoeye justified the actions of the company, noting that the customers had access to power supply while at home.
Owoeye said those with prepaid metres were also affected by the lockdown and paid their electricity bills, maintaining that power supply in Nigeria is not free.
She urged customers to do the right thing to avoid being disconnected.
The IBEDC PRO said: “Were they not using the power supply during the lockdown at home? Those customers using prepaid metres, how were they able to vend and get money to use power supply? Dear Sir, with due respect, let us do what is right.
“Power supply is not free. We buy this energy and it is expected to be paid for. Despite lockdown people were getting money to feed. Workers were paid salaries. Let customers do the right thing.”