Port Harcourt — Two weeks after the commencement of the protest against Ibom Power Company Limited, IPC, by the youths and residents of Ikpa-Ibekwe town in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, the protest has now turned to a carnival.
Recall that youths of Ikpa-Ibekwe communities since Monday, 13th January 2020, have continued to occupy the entrance of IPC in protests against lack of electricity supply in the area for the past three years, despite playing host to the electricity generation plant since 2001.
Ikpa-Ibekwe, an ancient town at the shores of the Atlantic ocean, which houses the first consulate in Nigeria, is also the host community of Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that all the ethnic nationalities residing in Ikot Abasi, have now joined the protest demanding for sustainable power supply from IPC.
The Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Andoni, Opobo, Ghanaian communities in Ikot Abasi on a daily basis, bring tubers of yams, live cows, goats, drinks and other food items to solidarized with the protesters.
Protest turns to carnival
Schools, markets and businesses in the area, for the past two weeks, have been shutdown to enable every resident of the Aluminium city to join in the protest.
Imeodu Ukpah, a former Youth President of Ikpa-Ibekwe, said the town, is now on a lock down, in order to drag the attention of the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, to the plight of the people.
Ukpah said the communities had brought traditional injunctions and a human corpse to the protest ground, in order to dissuade traditional and political leaders in the area, from sabotaging the essence of the protest.
He added that indigenes of Ikot Abasi in diaspora have been sending financial and moral support to enable them carry out the protest.
“We are still here, we are not going anywhere. The protest is now a carnival. People from all over the country have been coming to solidarized with us.
“The Yoruba, Ogoni, Igbo, Hausa, Opobo, Andoni and even Ghanaians living in our communities, have joined in the protest in solidarity, for the provision of power supply to our communities.
“Because when the aim is achieved, it will be for the benefit of everybody. Electricity supply will not be only in our homes, but those residing and doing businesses in our place will also benefit.”
The communities’ grievance
Earlier, the incumbent Ikpa-Ibekwe Youth President, Mr Benjamin Friday, said it was regrettable that having played host to IPC for 20years now, Ikot Abasi has been in darkness, while electricity is taken from the community to other parts of country.
Friday explained that the protesting youths will continue the protest until electricity supply returns to Ikot Abasi.
He said the town was been disconnected from the national grid since 2018, adding that they have been suffering environmental hazards due to operations of IPC, yet nothing to show for it.
“Ikpa Ibekwe is the landlord and host community of IPC. Since they began their operations here, there have been no Memorandum of Understanding or any form of Corporate Social Responsibility.
“There has been no employment of our people in the company, no Ikpa-Ibekwe indigene is in the management cadre of IPC.
“For three years now, there has been total blackout in the whole of Ikot Abasi. All we need now is electricity supply or they should pack their property and go.
“In December 2018 and January 2019, we had a meeting with the management of IPC and the state government in Uyo, where IPC claimed they could not give us power because there are no transformers. The governor provided transformers for them to supply electricity, only for IPC to renege on their promises.
“So we are saying enough is enough. We are not going to leave here until the management of IPC and Akwa Ibom State Government come out to address us.”
IPC working to resolve the problem
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Ibom Power Company Limited, IPC Engr. Meyen Etukudo, has said that the company was not the cause of the three years power outage in Ikpa-Ibekwe town, but the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC.
Etukudo explained that PHED disconnected Ikot Abasi from the national electricity grid due to N60million unpaid electricity bills, adding that a similar incident occurred about two years ago when PHEDC disconnected the entire Ikot Abasi from the electricity grid over unpaid electricity bills that allegedly accumulated to about N43million.
“As the Special Assistant on Power to the Governor at that time, I took the matter to the Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel. After negotiation with PHEDC, the Governor approved that N13million should be paid and the community should be reconnected to the grid.
“The money was paid and PHEDC reconnected the community. Subsequently, when PHEDC officials went to collect bills for the electricity supplied for that period, the community did not pay and PHEDC disconnected them because according to PHEDC, the bill had accumulated to about N60million.”
On the community’s agitation to receive power directly from Ibom power plant, Etukudo said that such provision was not included in the original design of Ibom power plant when it was constructed in 2001.
The IPC boss, however, expressed dismay that the youths would barricade the entrance to the company, when plans were already underway by the state government, to provide a substation where power would be transmitted to Ikot Abasi communities.
“The wrong belief is that there is a wire that can be connected directly to Ibom power plant, which will give light to the community.
“Power, however, does not work like that. To get power from any power station to the community, there must be a station services transformer. The station services transformer will connect to the host community through a 132kV line. This provision was not at Ibom power over the years. I resumed on 1st August 2016.
“Steps have been taken to solve this problem. Ibom power appointed a consultant to provide a preliminary design and a bill of engineering quantity for the construction of a 132/33kV, 1 x 30mva substation to be constructed adjacent to Ibom power plant. This substation will receive power directly from Ibom power plant and supply Ikot Abasi communities.
“The Governor directed that I should present the proposal for the construction of this substation at the meeting of the Finance and General Purpose Committee, that meeting held on Friday, 10th January 2020.”
He also said that meetings have been held with the Paramount Ruler of Ikot Abasi, HRM Edidem Ntuk Obom, the Local Government Chairman, David Eshiet and other stakeholders in Ikot Abasi to resolve the issues as soon as possible.