—————By Onitsha Shedrack,————–
Commercial and social activities were grounded in Sapele, Sapele local government area, Delta State, Friday, as resident for the third in two months took to major roads to protested against Benin Electricity Distribution PLC, demanding for improved power supply and end to estimated billing.
The protesters who blocked the Benin/Warri highway, at Sapele for about an hour, accused the management of BEDC of crippling businesses in the town, while demanding for at least 12 hours power supply; they urge government for a step-down from the two power generating plants in Sapele to serve the town.
Addressing the protester, one of the organizers, Barrister Mike Egbune, a human right activist, described BEDC action as oppressive; said that they protesting because they have been cheated for too long.
According to him; “companies are closing down. Small scale businesses are folding up and nightlife practically non existence. Obasanjo commissioned a step down for us, which is line 33kva and BEDC removed us from the line. Now that line is the exclusive line for politicians and the wealthy”
Egbune stated also that BEDC was “insensitive to their plight. Imagine, twice now, we have protested and pass our demands to them. They keep promising without doing anything. They say we are indebted to the tune N2billion.
“They want us to pay for darkness. Let them tell us how, or is it the estimated bills they told us was an error from their part, that we are going to pay for? We are giving BEDC another 21 days and after that, I can’t guarantee what will happen” he said.
The protesters, displaying banners with inscriptions such as “NIPP, show us our MoU and power our step-down”, “we don tire for darkness”; “Funke Ole”; “No light, no pay”; ” we want step down”; and so on, blocked both sides of the highway, preventing motorists from continuing with their trips.
For hours shops and all businesses, were completely shut down and security agencies struggled to control the crowd as they danced to the music of Fela Anikulakpo Kuti, while others sang round the Eku- Amukpe roundabout.
As early as 7am the protesters gathered at Olympia roundabout and were addressed by Barrister Egbune, and Comrade Benson Okorodudu, before taking the long walk to the Amukpe- Eku roundabout, which led total collapse of commercial and socio-economic activities in the town.
However, reacting to the allegation, the Head of Corporate Affairs, Benin Electricity Distribution Plc, Adekunle Tayo denied the allegation noting that they are not unmindful of the complains of residents Sapele.
According to him; we held a meeting chaired by the Delta State House of Assembly Speaker. Rt. Hon Monday Igbuya and in that meeting, it was agreed that a committee will be set up to look into their demands. The government has not even set up the committee. Let them understand our part, that we are doing all we can to serve them better” he said.