09 October 2015, Benin City — Hundreds of youths, including women and men of Ogbenogbo, Ogbegbuya and Goodwill/Trade Fair communities in Benin City, the Edo State capital, on Thursday morning held the workers of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) hostage at the company’s headquarters office located along Akpakpava Road, in protest against what they referred to as the persistent blackout in the communities for over two years.
The protest completely paralysed all forms of vehicular and human movements, as well as business activities in the company premises and all adjourning streets.
The protesters from the communities located off Ekehuan road in Benin, blocked the two gateways leading into the premises of the electricity distribution company.
The two gates were converted to kitchens where they slaughtered two goats, cooked jollof rice and yam porridge in large cooking pots, even as they chanted derogatory slogans on the company.
A youth leader from one of the communities, Aduku Monday, said the three communities has not enjoy electricity supply ever since the company took over from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
“We have not enjoyed power supply ever since BEDC took over from PHCN. The best we have is very epileptic. All forms of business activities in the two communities that depend on electricity have all been paralysed.
“Formerly, we were supplied electricity from the feeder piller in GRA. But when BEDC took over, they transferred us to Evbuotubu, because, as we heard, an Indian company gave them money to retain the transformers. Secondly, Evbotubu is already overloaded,” he said.
Another member of one of the communities, Curtis Obaghiagbon, said members of the three communities had depended on electricity generators to power their homes.
“There are 2,688 houses in these three communities and they all pay fixed charges. You can imagine how much they are making from us every month.
“I came from Austria where I am based last week. Ever since I arrived, I have been buying petrol to run my generator every day. If I can afford it, not everybody can afford it. This is not sustainable. It has to stop,” Mr. Obaghiagbon said.
“We will come here tomorrow, all of us in black dresses to complete the burial ceremony of BEDC and its owners,” another one said.
Protesters from Evbuotubu community had held similar protest at the same premises by holding hostage and cooking in front of the gates of the company a few weeks back.
Commenting on the issue, the General Manager (Public Affairs) of BEDC, Curtis Nwadei, said the communities are heavily indebted to the company and yet, they are demanding more than they presently get and also want to decide how they are served electricity.
According to him, “the communities are owing BEDC up to N28,140,962.26.
“The issue is that they want more than they are presently getting and they want to decide where they get power from even when they are not paying. And we say give us money to serve you better. If they pay their bills, we will give them power.”
*Adibe Emenyonu – Thisday