By Dave Okpogadie, Asaba
There is actually no need to cry over spilt milk otherwise, the manner Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was sold to power distribution companies actually left a sour taste in the mouth of Nigerians.
The sale of PHCN was enmeshed in serious controversies and it is very obvious that cronies and friends of politicians in government benefitted from the sales, even when they lacked rudimentary knowledge of power distribution. It did not matter if competent companies with positive track record also came to bid for the takeover; they were destined to fail because the publicity and advertisements put IP prior to the sale was just to ‘fulfil all righteousness’.
Since the take-over by DISCOs, it has been tales of woeful performances from the various zones but none of the zones’ abysmal performance can be said to be as bad as Benin zone where BEDC operates.
Starting from staffing, BEDC has few staff and takes delight in exploitation of Youth Corps members posted to the state. Even the few staff engaged are poorly remunerated. The company is always looking for avenue to deduct staff’s salaries, sometimes by more than half.
It is on record that notable figures in the zone have openly called for the termination of BEDC contract as a result of very poor performance. The governors of Edo and Delta states met sometime ago and BEDC was extensively discussed, with the agreement that the company has failed in its responsibility.
At a point, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State had to walk the MD of BEDC out of his office while calls have been made directly to President Muhammadu Buhari to come to the aid of the zone by terminating the contract of the distribution company as it has not offered anything positive in power distribution.
Besides the colossal failure to give light to the people, BEDC is also in the habit of defrauding the people. Since it came on board to distribute power to Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo states, the company is yet to commit fund into the business, yet it smiles to the bank every month after arm-twisting power consumers through a fraudulent estimated billing.
Thank God for the cancellation of fixed charge; it was worse than this during the era of fixed charge when people paid continuously for services not rendered.
As it is now, BEDC cannot point to one transformer it has provided since the inception of its operations in the four states. From investigations, when people go out of their way to buy transformer for their own use, BEDC compels them to write a letter stating that the transformer was being donated to the company by the people. Even the money to install the transformer must be paid before BEDC would consider any installation.
The atrocities of BEDC are endless. How can one explain that even when power generation is on the increase, people do not get electricity supply. Some shady deals by distribution companies are responsible for this as they sometimes refuse to buy enough power to service their customers. They know that through estimated billings, they would make huge profit whether there is supply of power or not. Same reason they have frustrated distribution of pre-paid meters which would put an end to the fraud associated with estimated billing.
The crux of the matter is that BEDC is not into the business of power distribution and it is not capable. The people understand this and have been registering their objection to BEDEC’s incompetence through series of protests. The federal government should do the needful by engaging the services of a more competent and transparent distribution company to serve the people. Let the people not continue to be victims of untold hardship and undue exploitations in the hands of BEDC. Power is key to development and the continuous imposition of this distribution company on the affected states is a draw-back and serious cause for urgent concern.