Port Harcourt — Residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, have been thrown into darkness since this week, following the shutdown of all offices belonging to the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHED, in the state by the Ijaw Youths Council, IYC.
Similarly, Ahoada area in Rivers State have also been thrown into darkness as community youths of have also shutdown all PHED offices, damaged its office equipment in the process, while seizing two of its vehicles.
Confirming the development, PHED Manager, Corporate Communications, Mr John Onyi, said PHED staff are now living in fear as their lives are been threatened by IYC members to not get close to their offices, as IYC members have allegedly taken over PHED offices in Yenagoa.
Onyi said the leadership of IYC is demanding for 24/7 power supply and removal of breakers to enable the residents of Yenagoa have uninterrupted power supply.
He called on relevant government authorities and security agencies to prevail on the IYC to vacate PHED offices in Yenagoa.
“Customers of PHED residing and transacting businesses in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital and its environs since on Monday, 23rd December 2019 thrown into unnecessary darkness arising from the action of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, who forcefully shut down all offices belonging to PHED in the capital city.
“Similarly, Ahoada community has equally shut down PHED office leading to total blackout in the ancient town.
“In addition, the IYC has directed that any vehicle belonging to PHED spotted in the city would not only be seized/impounded but have the driver of such vehicle assaulted.”
Onyi explained that the company hitherto informed IYC that a 24/7 supply was impossible, while installation of breakers was for administrative convenience of the company and also not to jeopardize the life span of its equipment.
He said sustainability of the power sector depends on payment of electricity bill from the customers, disclosing that as at November 30, 2019, electricity debt owed PHED by customers in Yenagoa stood at N16.5billion, according to figures released by the Debt Management Office.
“On 24/7 power supply, the IYC has repeatedly been told that the limitation from the national grid does not allow that for now and PHED gets its share based on what is generated.
“The responsibility of PHED for the umpteenth time is to distribute what it gets to its customers in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers state.
“Yenagoa is not marginalized in terms of power supply as alleged by the Ijaw Youth Council but it is a common knowledge that every disco including PHED does systematic load shedding.
“PHED is therefore, constrained to ask, when has it become ideal for a community or a group of persons to give an ultimatum for it to move its office(s) from a particular location or also declare manhunt for its operational vehicles.
“PHED is not at war with any of its customers or indeed the IYC but where a group of persons decides to take laws into their hands by barricading and chasing staff members away from performing their legitimate duties, then it calls for a serious concern.”
Onyi regretted that the company has witnessed series of protests in its franchise area, despite its effort in improving service delivery by introducing several initiatives in the midst of numerous industry challenges.
“Though, talks have already begun with the community but it is becoming one protest, too many at the slightest power outage without corresponding payment.
“PHED cannot be intimidated or coerced into doing the bidding of any interest group as we have the mandate of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to distribute electricity to our customers including Bayelsa State in our franchise area.”