The leadership of Edo Civil Society Organisations in collaboration with that of Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and Conference of Non-governmental Organisations made good their promise to picket the Office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) today. As early as 6am this morning members of the organisers of the protest and electricity consumers in Edo state had converged at the Museum ground, Ring Road for a take off to BEDC headquarters at the ever busy area of Akpakpava Street. The massive crowed moved few minutes before 7am going round the King Square to Akpakpava street where BEDC office is headquartered. There was heavy difficulty in vehicular movement owing to the massive crowd of Edo people that blocked the major road bearing a long banner and displaying various inscriptions on placards to drive home their demands.
The protest is over the recently increased electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the 11 DISCOs across the country by about 45% without, as the protesters put it, 'due consultation with stakeholders who are the consumers of power and also have the power to negotiate what to pay in line with the Electric Power Reform Act, 2015'. Another issue raised was what they described as 'the flagrant disobedience of NERC and DISCOs to a subsisting court order from a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos restraining NERC and the DISCOs from increasing tariff until the determination of the substantive suit. NERC and the DISCOs went ahead to increase the tariff disregarding the court order'.
According to Comrade Osazee Edigin,Public Relations Officer,Edo Civil Society Organizations(EDOSCO) the issue of non provision of meters for customers was also canvassed.He pointed out that ' the non availability of meters leads to the issuance of outrageous estimated bills'The fight for a workable power sector was orchestrated by Edo Civil Society Organisations in the year 2004 which saw a 10 day non stop street protest in Benin City and a subsequent petition to the National Assembly which was read on the floor by the immediate past Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Senator Ehigie Uzamere.
Comrade Edigin,visibly impressed by the large Turnout of protesters informed our correspondent that their lawyers have filed Form 48 and will be filing form 49 this week for enforcement of court contempt.He also confirmed that for over two years now, their union members and other consumers have not been paying their electricity bills as proof of the seriousness of their protest of the fixed charge.He goes on to say that With this new development, Edo electricity consumers are remaining on byepass pending a return to tarriff status quo ante or as negotiated by stakeholders. We gathered that the leadership of the coalition are currently meeting to work out plans in ensuring that revenue to the Federal Government and DISCOS are truncated as 'Full plans will be made public in due course' On the way forward and the expectated outcomes from the match he states 'We expect that the government Will mandate the DISCOS to call a stakeholders' meeting to agree on a new tariff to avoid anarchy of any sort'
He concludes by stating 'This is the first of a warning protest to signal the Federal Government that power belongs to the people and the people should decide what they want. More of this will be happening a few days from now. The protest took place simultaneously across the federation'