By Kingsley Okoye
The Landlords, Tenants, Residents Association (LATRA) of Aku and AMAC Estates in Lugbe, FCT on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest over high estimated electricity bills by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC).
The protesters numbering over 30, comprised of elderly men, women and youths from both estates besieged the headquarters of the AEDC in Abuja to register their grievances over the non-supply of electricity to the area and high estimation bills.
The protesters, who were carrying placards with different inscriptions which read; “AEDC give us light, “we are tired of estimation billing’’ “stop billing us on estimation,’’ “give us our meters“ among other inscriptions vented their anger through different songs.
Mr Mukoro Samson, the Chairman of LATRA, Aku Estate told newsmen that residents of the estate had not be supplied electricity for one month.
According to him, in a bid to help the distribution company, residents contributed money to buy a dedicated transformer, cable and pole for the estate.
He said that the residents had also written to AEDC with over 200 signatories, notifying the company of the epileptic power supply, high estimation bills and non-metering of many of the customers.
Samson said regrettably, the company refused to head to any of their complaints.
According to him, the economic consequences have become unbearable on their families, given the expenditure incurred on running generators.
“The economic consequence is unbearable on our families and our pockets, the little salary we collect all goes to purchasing fuel in order to get light in our estate and that is why we are here to register our grievances.
“We have been to their office at airport road, they have been trying their best possible, but their best possible had not be able to give us light.
“As far as we are concern in the estate, they have done nothing to ameliorate our suffering as regards light in AMAC and Aku estates.
“The charges are outrageous, for two bedroom flats they give us bill of about N12,000 monthly.
“Even if you are occupying a self-contain apartment, it is the same thing they give and it is unbearable, unheard of without light, if the light is there we will not complain’’.
He said in spite of the huge estimation bills, some little villages and communities around the estates enjoy more electricity than the estates, this he said was unacceptable.
Samson said it was important that the company stopped the high estimation and meter residents of the estate.
“From today, we are demanding that we be metered, and reconnect us to the airport dedicated line where we were formally connected.’’
He said that very few consumers had been metered in the estates, in spite of the payment made by some customers for meter under the CAPMI scheme.
“Not up to five per cent of the residents have been metered, some people like myself paid for four meters, but was given only one.
“As we speak, the three other meters are nowhere to be found, most of us paid and they also promise that they will give us free meters, but we have not seen anything, even the one we paid for.
“Our demand from today is that we don’t want to see any AEDC official on our pole or disconnecting our light from today henceforth.
“We want to warn the authorities of AEDC that if we see any of their staff in our estate until we are metered and power supply to the estate is restored.
Another customer in the estate, Mr Ekemelu Nnoli said that it was unfortunate that the company had not responded to their complaints.
He said it was wrong for any company to treat its customers with levity when there was a complaint from the consumers.
Nnoli said that he had been disconnected severally in spite having paid his electricity bills.
According to him, all the payments he made has never been reflected, hence the bill keeps running.
He expressed worry over the refusal of AEDC to address the complaint of customers, this he said was unacceptable.
“Is it because you guys are running a monopoly, it is not done anywhere, please restore this light, we are tired of this, we cannot take this anymore, give us our light, we paid for it.’’
A resident of AMAC, Mr Samson Chollom also corroborated the same experience by other residents.
According to him, he pays between N14,000 and N15,000 monthly on estimation for a two bedroom flat.
He called on the company to provide prepaid meter for him and stop billing him on estimation.
“I am not owing and there is no light, please give me meter even if I don’t have light, I will not complain, but let me know what I consume,’’ `he said.
Addressing the protesters, the Head of Corporate Communication of AEDC, Mr Oyebode Fadipe, said that the issue of estimated billing admittedly was vexatious one, applicable to all distribution companies in the country.
He said that the metering gap in the country was more than five million, noting that the metering gap could not be covered overnight.
“It takes a little bit of process, even if you have all the meters in the country today, it will still take a bit of time to make sure that all your customers are metered.
“So, for some time to come, estimated billing is going to be a part of the power sector in this country.
“But the issue is that we are not folding our hands and celebrating estimated billing.’’
He said that 50 per cent of AEDC revenue was being lost on estimated billing, noting that the company was working hard to meter its customers.
“But as a company, we are ensuring that we fulfil our mandate of at least 120,000 meters annually that is a project we are doing.
“As I speak to you now, we have two vendors that are supplying us, Mojeck is one of the local vendors, so we are metering customers, but unfortunately the pace at which we are metering them is not the same pace at which the demand for it coming.
“I can tell you we are not enjoying estimated billing’’.
He appealed to the customers to be patient with AEDC.
Fadipe said “the claim by customers that they don’t have light for some time, we will not dispute it.
“The records are there on our data base, if our records show that the customers don’t have light, our responsibility as a company is to expunge that part of which we know that they don’t have light.
“They should not be billed for what they have not consumed.
“However, for some part of Lugbe, we have poor network in some aspect, but we are working on it,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, investigation also reveals that some parts of FCT are also faced with the challenge of estimation billing and low power supply.
These areas include Kubwa, Nyanya, and Games Village among others.