Frustrated by the epileptic power supply and high electricity bills supplied to their area by the Eko Electricity Distribution Company in recent times, residents of FESTAC, a government established housing estate in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, took to the streets last week Friday to protest the development.
Gathered as early as 8:30am, the aggrieved residents marched peacefully with placards in hands screaming for justice. The residents, cutting across different age groups and socio-economic backgrounds, made their way to the premises of the EKEDC located on 23 Road, S Close, to explain their frustrations.
Top on the minds of the protesters were the issue of prolonged power outage and high electricity bills, referred to as ‘crazy bills’. Also, the protesters expressed their displeasure with alleged demand for outrageous fees by staff of the company for the installation of pre-paid metres which ordinarily should be free.
Lamenting a N50, 000 fee for pre-paid metres imposed on them by the company, residents who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, slammed the EKEDC staff for forcing estimated bills running into around N20, 000 down their throats without visiting their homes to take metre readings.
A protester, Dr. Alex Edo, told Saturday PUNCH, that residents of the estate have been paying for what they don’t get and so could not continue to allow themselves to be exploited by the staff of the company.
“There is only one solution to this problem. They must install free pre-paid metres or nothing. They charge us terrible amounts for what they don’t supply. This must stop,” he said.
Alhaja Yakubu, 72, who also joined in the protest, told Saturday PUNCH that the EKEDC had deprived them of rest in their old age through constant outage and high bills. According to her, the situation is making life miserable for households and individuals, including children.
She said, “The situation has been so bad. In December, when people go away from FESTAC for holidays, that’s when we enjoy a little bit of power supply. But after that period, we never have it good again.
“For several weeks now we have been sleeping on the balconies, while the children sleep on the corridors because of the heat. The bills we get from the power company are far higher than the supply we get. These people don’t read the old metres but keep bringing crazy bills. We’re tired of this.”
A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Sultan Adeniji-Adele, representing Amuwo-Odofin Constituency 1, who lives in the area, confirmed that power supply in the area had indeed taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.
“We see a lot of outrageous bills given to us. We don’t have electricity, yet they bring bills here. This is not fair to the people of this area,” he said.
According to Adeniji-Adele, people in other districts get pre-paid meters free of charge but cannot understand why it is a different situation for residents of FESTAC, one of the oldest and most popular housing units in Nigeria.
He said the company demands N50, 000 for pre-paid metres to be installed in each block of flats.
“You find out that people living in a room apartment are given N20, 000 as monthly bill. Do they have bakery or industrial equipment in their houses? This is unfair. I think enough is enough!” he said.
Ijeoma Mozie, another angry protester, narrated to Saturday PUNCH how in 2007 she paid N21, 000 for pre-paid metre into an account belonging to the power holding company but had not received the item till date.
According to her, an additional N5, 000 as installation fee was collected from her by some staff members of the company.
“Last year, I brought the documents to the Senior Marketing Manager here; he opened the system and told me that the pre-paid metre had accumulated a total bill of N65, 000. I asked him how the bill came about when I was yet to get the metre. All he said was that they would stop the bill and that I should bring additional N40, 000. I left his office frustrated and had not returned there since,” she said.
President, Festival Town Residents Association, Shola Fakorede, told Saturday PUNCH that several appeals made to the EKEDC to address their grievances in the past had not yielded any positive outcome. He revealed that the situation had become critical, hence the need to cry out to the world and relevant authorities to address the issues.
He said, “If you look round, majority of the people here are senior citizens. At the age they are now, they are supposed to be resting. It is unfair to bring out senior citizens out to protest. It is only in Nigeria that you see this kind of thing. It is very, very sad and appalling.
“People are being ripped off. Senior citizens that are supposed to be enjoying the fruit of their labour are losing their hard earned money in payment for services that are not rendered. They are using the pensions that do not come regularly to pay bills. Nothing explains why residential homes should be given bills of N30, 000, N20, 000 and so on. We are going to resist this rip-off by ever means.”
The community leader told Saturday PUNCH that they would not stop agitating until their situation is looked into.
He said the residents would also take their grievances to the head office of the EKEDC in Marina, Lagos.
Fakorede called for the free installation of pre-paid meters in the entire FESTAC area as seen in other parts of the metropolis like Ikeja.
Applauding the protesters for a peaceful demonstration, Commercial Manager, EKEDC, FESTAC, Mrs. Ogugua Veronica, said the management of the company would look into the key issues the residents of the area had raised during the protest.
“We are Nigerians. We are part of you. Your complaints have been noted. I also communicated to our management your grievances soon as I saw you. The Public Relations Officer of the company has also been informed and he would address all the requests you have made,” she said.
Public Relations Officer of the EKEDC, Godwin Idemudia, when contacted by Saturday PUNCH on Friday on the matter, said they were in a town hall meeting at FESTAC with residents at the time.
“There was no protest to our office as you claim. As a matter of fact there is a town hall meeting going now in FESTAC. Mr. Ogunlusi and three other people came to our office to submit a petition on the current power situation as it affects them,” he said.
Fakorede who was at the town hall meeting on Friday, told Saturday PUNCH as at press time that discussion was still ongoing and that an agreement had not been reached between both parties. The town hall meeting is a fall-out of last week’s protest by the residents.