A group of entrepreneurs and customers of Ikeja Electric Plc in Lagos State have sent a Save Our Sour (SOS) to the minister for power of the firm’s threat to withdraw pre-paid metres.
They accused the electricity distribution company of desperate attempts to crush their operations.
Specifically, the consumers accused the officials of the energy supplier, believed to be the largest electricity distribution company in Nigeria, of threatening to ‘’forcefully confiscate their meters under the pretext that the consumers were operating their with what they termed ‘’old meters’’.
Thrice last week, the officials of the company from Igbobi Undertaking in the Somolu area of the state who mobilised to forcefully uninstall and chart the meters away were resisted.
In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP in Abuja yesterday, two of the affected consumers, Mr. Dele Oguntayo, a journalist and Mr. Abass Adie, a businessman, narrated how the “bold-faced” Ikeja Electric personnel swooped on their premises for the withdrawal of his meter to which he declined.
Oguntayo said he applied for a meter in year 2010 having paid N55,000 bank draft to Ikeja Electric and was not metered for several months.
While he was being issued what he termed “cut-throat estimated bills” for about a year, he added that “at a point, despite operating with a stand-by generator for several hours daily, the Ikeja Electric was billing him ‘’thousands of naira every month.
‘’The meter l applied for in the first quarter of that year was not supplied until about a year after my application and payment despite repeated visits and pleas to the company. Something will interest you: A professional colleague in a news agency as energy correspondent in Lagos had come visiting; and, about a year after his first visit, he promised to take my matter up with the managing director of Ikeja Electric.
“He even challenged me that as a journalist, l should have approached either the company’s head of public affairs or better still, the managing director. ‘So, less than 24 hours of his intervention, two meters were brought to me, same day, on the instruction of the managing director of Ikeja Electric!
‘’My conclusion then was that the officials were hoarding the meters for highest bidders and did not attend to applicants, except through touts.
‘’It may interest you again that about 10 years later, a female staff of the Ikeja Electricity Company who claimed to be of the marketing department came with another joker, claiming that the meter I was using was the allocation of a woman within the zone,” Oguntayo said.
“And, despite repeated explanations and appeals, the electricity company team said to be led by a male management of the company refused, bluntly to listen, saying that Ikeja Electric Distribution Company had already phased out ‘old meters’, the affected consumers stated.
‘’We further appealed to the officers that the meters were purchased by us and that it will be illegal to withdraw the meters which we bought, without replacement.
‘’In fact, we told them that we are of the opinion that in normal a clime, the meters should be replaced when they are withdrawing the current ones instead of putting us in darkness.
‘’But to our dismay, they mobilised the second day, in multiples, apparently poised for a showdown with us.
‘’However, as law abiding citizens, we maintained our position that our meters were sold to us by Ikeja Electricity company and further our claims that we paid with bank drafts in favour of Ikeja Electric, yet they insisted on taking away our property’’, the customers said.
‘’Yet the team leader who was simply called ‘Sam’, the Undertaking Manager told us that throughout the country, meters are the property of electricity distribution companies, hence they are at liberty to withdraw same anytime, even, without notice.
‘’Despite the argument that we would inform our lawyers about the development, for advise, the Ikeja Electric men re-surfaced the third day with ladders, threatening to illegally chart away our meters and we still, as gentlemen and law abiding citizens asked them to reason.
‘’At that point, one of them told us that he did not expect us to argue the matter because if occasion demands, he would never resist taking his own meter by the company.
The electricity company however said that customers with ‘old meter’ should apply for ‘new meter’ while they would be ‘put on estimates’ pending the approval of their application.
‘’We were mandated to pay for ‘new meters’ costing approximately N117,000.00 each, within 14 days, failure which the officials threatened to take “drastic action’’.
Similar situation was reported by a top Lagos civil servant at the Ipaja New Town Scheme, an estate flagged off by the Lagos State Government in Ilapo Village via AIT, Alagbado Lagos, who recently approached Ikeja Electric for the replacement of her damaged ‘Customer Card’ but was only told to buy a new meter because the present one one is ‘outdated’.
According to the consumer, ‘’they bluntly told me l would need to immediately pay for a new one which l did not plan for due to the present economic realities’’.
‘’She threatened to withdraw the meter because, according to her, l probably manipulated the system to secret the meter through the back-door.
‘’Consequently, I made several visits to see the Manager when they relocated to Obanikoro area of Ikorodu Road but was always told that their boss was busy.
‘’But when I spoke with one Mr. Ayeni, the Ikeja Electric spokesman on the telephone last week, about the recent threat and my resolve to brief a lawyer, he directed me to one Mrs. Ayanga, the Igbobi business manager who could still not be reached for an appointment.
While reacting to the incident, Adie was of the view that upgrading of facilities, including the metering system was a welcome development and asked the company to phase payment of the new meters rather than putting consumers on estimated bills after withdrawal of the existing meters.