By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
The above quote from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” seems to have been recreated by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, in Kogi. The electricity company has created a class status in their distribution of electricity to consumers in the state.
AEDC presently operates Tariff plans of A, B, C, D and E. A enjoys light supply for between 20 and 24 hours daily, B for 16 to 19 hours, C for 12 hours daily, D for 8 hours and E for 4 to 7 hours daily.
Each tariff class comes with its own billing rate. A is divided into two: Non-MD and MD billed for N49.75 and N67.70 kw/h; tariff band B, Non MD and MD billed for N47.7 and N64.65kw/hr; Tariff band C Non-MD and MD billed for N45.69 and N63.6kw/hr, respectively. For D and E it is frozen.
While those in C, D and E had for years accepted their fate, recent developments in the state has resulted in agony for them.
Five years ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was the first to get power from the new electrification Sub-station in Zango, a metropolis of Lokoja, which afforded them the opportunity to enjoy uninterrupted power supply. This development resulted in people tagging the electrification line “CBN line”.
The line has now been extended to the Government House, and some parts of the state capital.
Informed with this development, rich individuals in Lokoja began to tap power from the line, which comes at a great price. Any interested individual would have to pay the AEDC N1 million, asides providing a transformer that can accommodate the supply that comes from the 33kv sub station.
The interested person will also provide recline cable (which is the only wire allowed) along with other electrification auxiliary materials to get the CBN line to their building. Afterwards, the individual becomes the owner of the transformer and charges any other interested persons who wish to tap from his transformer.
That’s how a line, dedicated for industrial use only, suddenly became available to individuals who have the money and means. The individual in turn commercializes the usage at a price he sets.
Take the case of Mr Akeweje, one of the privileged individuals in Lokoja who lives around Redeemed headquarters, Phase 11. He was one of those who got connected to the CBN line.
Some persons visited him under the guise of being executives of the community which he lived, urging him to grant access to the transformer.
But just after he did, the community executive charged N100,000 to interested persons, who still have to provide recline cable asides the “logistic” money for connection. Vanguard gathered that the development irked Akeweje who put a stop to people tapping from his transformer.
The Phase 11 community situation is the same all over the state capital. Those who own the transformer or give it out to people to coordinate, charge N100,000 and above to each building that wants to be connected.
But as more people became aware of the 24-hour “CBN line”, the fortune of those on the lower tariff bands began to dwindle.
Information from the AEDC Twitter handle placed their daily purchase from Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, between 450 and 480 megawatt; which is distributed across their service states of Niger, Abuja, Kogi, and Nasarawa states. Though, breakdown for each state was not stated, but those on the 24 hours supply are given more priority.
Invariably, the increase in the numbers of those hooked to the 24 hours supply of band A, means a reduction in the supply for those on tarriff band C, D and E.
To achieve their aim of satisfying the 24-hours customers, AEDC reduced the power supply to 9 hrs for Tariff band C from 12 hrs. Rather than follow the norm of restoring light to those affected areas by 10 am, it will be delayed to 11am. Same for the night period.
The supply scheduled to start by 10pm – 5am will either start an hour late, or it will be switched off before the 5am.
The ancient town of Kabba in December 2020 went berserk as youths mobilised to the AEDC office over high billing they referred to as “CRAZY BILL”
Vanguard gathered that the whole community who were placed on tariff band D, were billed for band A. The November 2020 billed shared in the first week of December reflected so.
The area manager of the community was able to calm the nerves of the people, admitting that the bill was a technical problem that will be resolved in the next month. But nothing changed, the December bill shared in the month of January reflected same.
The November ‘error’ bill was not changed either. It has now become a debt burden on the consumer. The community has mobilised for a final showdown if the anomaly is not corrected in the January bill which will be shared in February.
The scenerio in Kabba town is present in Lokoja, the state capital, but many consumers have no idea that they have been placed on a wrong tariff band. One of the consumers who quickly detected the anomaly was Engineer Leke Oloruntoba.
Oloruntoba has been active for some months interacting with the AEDC Twitter handle complaining bitterly about the low supply as well as the high billing.
Speaking with Vanguard at his residence, Oloruntoba revealed that the AEDC have been billing consumers with the wrong tariff, “The Tariff band A as reflected on their system is for commercial lines, but they have been billing residential apartments with same plan. Intentionally, they placed people in residential areas with that of commercial. I have complained many times, but it seems those who are supposed to rectify the situation are waiting for gratification from me before they restore me to the proper band.
“Asides that, I have issue with the way they allow people to tap into this 24-hr line. The more people tap into it, the less light those on the residential band enjoy.
”I am not against people getting on the 24-hr line if they can pay, so that those who paid will not feel that we are complaining because we cannot afford it. But let the AEDC increase their purchase from the transmission company. They should stop placing people on the 24-hr line until their allocation increases.”
Engr Oloruntoba also advocated free distribution of prepaid meters: “For me, I’m on prepaid meter, and I am still complaning about shortage of supply. Imagine the plight of those who are on estimated billing. Their light supply is decreasing, yet the billing is increasing.”
Oloruntoba urged consumers to log on into the AEDC info website with their prepaid meter number: “This process will immediately show the Tariff band billing for the meter. One can easily detect if its wrongly billed, just like I did.”
Oloruntoba also said the AEDC on their Twitter forum account complained about people by-passing the prepaid meter to connect directly some home equipment that consume high voltage, but stressed that the situation could be corrected.
He said: “AEDC has to undertake a self-assessment project to ensure they block those who by-pass.
“In the first instance, it is the AEDC staff that helped those people carry out the meter by-pass. They collect money and connect some directly to the poll through the ceiling and the other to the prepaid meter.”
90 per cent of consumers on tariff band C, D and E are connected to the 11kv station, while those on the 33kv that supply 24 hrs light serves only 10 per cent.
Consumers in Lokoja and Kogi State in general are complaining bitterly about poor services and decreased power supply. They said they are willing to pay, if only AEDC will increase their supply and provide adequate services.