Kamsi Anayo, Awka
Residents and business owners in Aba, on Monday condemned the use of military personnel, by Aba Power Limited (APL), a subsidiary of Geometric Power to collect revenue.
Our correspondent gathered that the protesting customers are under the Aba-Owerri road 33KV Feeder that has about 13 transformers
Mr Ojukwu Joshua Imo, chairman in charge of Watchtower Road transformer electricity consumers said that it was a huge shock to them to see soldiers coming with the staff of the APL and even shooting in the name of trying to collect electricity money.
“Many people closed their shops and ran for their lives, because of the activities of the APL and their military men. We started wondering if there was war here.
“They even keep threatening business people here that they’ll come back to arrest them for refusing to pay the excessive estimated billing they’re giving to us on monthly basis.
“As if that was not enough, they came again with members of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) for the same purpose and start harassing us all in the name of trying to get electricity money in this same watchtower zone.
“We’re asking APL whether they want us to run away from this zone, because of them. We beg the Federal government, Abia State government and all relevant authorities to please stop APL from what they’re doing to us.
“We’re law-abiding people. We don’t want to fight and we’re saying that coming with armed men to intimidate us here may lead to a breakdown of law and order.
“If APL can follow the normal NERC regulations in billing us, we’ll pay, but they cannot just wake up one morning and begin to force people to pay any amount. We’ve been educated on our rights according to NERC regulations and it is obvious they’re not giving us power according to the bills they’re issuing to us.
“If they give us power according to the hours stipulated in the bill, we’ll pay but if they think we’re just some ignorant citizens, who don’t know what to do with their money, those years are gone. We’re more enlightened today and nobody can cheat us anymore. Let them serve us well and we’ll pay without delay.”
Mr Nnamdi Ajama, a resident of Okereke Street, Aba lamented that the use of military men by APL in the collection of electricity money in his area is causing serious panic amongst residents.
“At the end of September, APL brought a bill to us, but within two days of getting the bill, the next thing we saw was those who came to cut the light. When we asked them why they should be in a hurry to disconnect our lights, they said they don’t care. And the money they’re bringing for each house is much.
“For instance, if they bring N17,000 and you pay N10,000 they still insisted they’ll cut it. When we tried to ask why they have not followed the right procedure, rather than giving us an answer, they invited soldiers and began cutting power supply with the help of soldiers.
“Later we found out that they even lied to the soldiers that we were fighting them which was never true. We have 30 days in a month, our line is rotated. They give us light for only 15 days, not even all day, but after 15 days of power they’ll bring N17,000 estimated bill to each house. Is that fair?
Responding to their allegation , Chief Ike Opigwe. Executive Secretary, of the Joint Action Group (JAG) condemned the use of military and armed men in revenue collection and urged the electricity consumers to always stand on their rights and not be intimidated.
Opigwe urged them not to engage in any form of fight, but to always address their grievances with the bills they are getting from the APL to the NERC Forum, where it will be deliberated on and addressed properly.
Opigwe stressed that the estimate billing the APL is giving to the customers under the Aba 33KV Feeder is not in consonance with NERC regulations.
He said, “Don’t fight anybody but engage them to realize that you know your right. The military is made for war. We’re not at war here and using the military for electricity revenue collection is illegal.
“We learnt as alleged that gunshots went out, what if someone was killed, will they still collect the bills? No, we must exhaust the resolution process of NERC.
“The laws are there, you can take them to NERC forum, we educate consumers on their rights, we are a peace-loving organization.”