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Power Outage: Bayelsa Govt. appeals to Ijaw youths to vacate PH DISCO offices

Yenagoa – Bayelsa Government has appealed to Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) and Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) to resolve the rift between them over power outage across the state since Dec. 23, 2019.

The state government also ordered the distribution company to restore electricity supply that was disconnected due to the face-off between it and the youths causing anguish to residents, and paralysing economic activities.

The IYC had on Dec.23, 2019 besieged the offices of the PHEDC and forced the staff to shut down operations, occupying the premises to protest perceived poor power supply to residents.

The development, resulted in total power outage across the state and Ahoada in Rivers, has made the residents to rely wholly on power generators with resultant increase in petrol demand and cost of living.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Kemela Okara, the Secretary to State Government, convened a meeting on Tuesday after earlier talks between the parties hit a brick wall.

My Kenedy Olorogun, the Chairman, Central Zone of the IYC who participated in the meeting, told NAN that officials of PHEDC and leadership of the IYC made some progress.

He said that the decision for the IYC to vacate the PHEDC facilities was yet to be concluded.

Olorogun said that the youth group would need to consult widely with the people of Bayelsa and hold a meeting where the decision to suspend the action would be taken collectively.

“The leadership of IYC, PHEDC and the state government met to discuss the shutdown of PHEDC office in Yenegoa by the IYC and the alleged inflated N16.6 billion electricity bill slammed on the Bayelsa people.

“The high point of the meeting was an appeal made by the government through Okara to the youths for the IYC to open and vacate the PHEDC office.

“The SSG on behalf of the government promised to liaise with the PHEDC to ensure there is power supply in Yenegoa and other parts of the state within 48 hours if IYC opens the office.

“Though, the leadership of IYC insisted holding executive meeting on Wednesday and to conduct wider consultations with the Bayelsa people before giving feedback to the state.’’

Mr John Onyi, the PHEDC spokesman had earlier, stated that the N16.6 billion debt owed by customers of the power distribution company was hampering its operational capacity to render services on a commercial basis.

“An updated record, as at December 2019 now stands at N16, 620,458,203.

“A breakdown of the figure showed that PHED inherited N6 billion from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, on Oct. 31, 2013 while the balance of N11 billion was from Nov. 1, 2013 till December 2019.

“Residential customers had N13.5 billion while State Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs, Yenagoa had N2.6 billion while Federal MDAs owe an outstanding of N91,558,680.

“Private Maximum Demand and Commercial Maximum Demand customers owe the PHEDC N388, 779, 285 and N102, 954,096 respectively.”

According to Onyi, the average electricity monthly billing in Yenagoa based on the allocation from the national grid is about N159.2 million out of which PHEDC receives an average payment of N27, 523,737.

He said that with a customer base of 21,453 only 3,555 customers representing 17percent were the ones paying their electricity bill on monthly basis, a development that is adversely affecting the viability of the firm.

Onyi also called on all relevant stakeholders including security agencies, government to prevail on the IYC to vacate PHEDC offices to enable the firm serve its customers satisfactorily.

The IYC had challenged PHEDC to substantiate its claim that customers in Bayelsa owed it N16.6 billion.

Olorogun said the debt claim was a ‘blackmail’ to cover up incompetence by the firm despite verifiable evidence that there was excess power stranded at the Yenagoa transmission substation.

He dismissed the claim by PHEDC that residents were not meeting their obligations for energy use adding that the people were being coerced to pay for ‘darkness’ based on estimates.

According to him, information from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) showed that there was sufficient power at the substation at Gbarain, Yenagoa, but the PHEDC was not taking the power to homes. (NAN)
NN/OYE/MNA

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