The electricity outage occasioned by the face-off between the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) has entered the 15th day causing anguish to residents.
The IYC had, on Dec.23,2019 besieged the offices of the PHEDC and forced the staff to shut down operations, occupying the premises to protest perceived poor power supply to residents.
The development, which resulted in a total power outage in Yenagoa and its environs, as well as Ahoada in Rivers, has made the residents to rely wholly on power generators with resultant increase in petrol demand and cost of living.
Mr John Onyi, PHEDC spokesman said in a statement on Monday that peace talks aimed at resolving the face-off which broke down has been re-convened by officials of Bayelsa government.
He said that the N16.6 bn debt owed by customers of the power distribution company was hampering its operational capacity to render services on a commercial basis.
“An updated record, as at December 2019 now stands at N16, 620,458,203.12.
“A breakdown of the figure showed that PHED inherited N5, 982,746,640.74 from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, on 31st October 2013 while the balance of N10, 637,711,562.38 was from November 1, 2013 till December 2019.
“Residential customers had N13, 478,505,726.34 while State Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs, Yenagoa had N2,558,660,414.34 while Federal MDAs owe an outstanding of N91,558,680.76.
“Private Maximum Demand and Commercial Maximum Demand customers owe the PHEDC N388,779, 285.35 and N102,954,096.33 respectively.” Onyi said.
According to Onyi the average electricity monthly billing in Yenagoa based on the allocation from the national grid is about N159, 253,559.42 out of which PHEDC receives an average payment of N27, 523,737.25.
He said that with a customer base of 21,453 only 3,555 customers representing 17percent are the ones paying their electricity bill on monthly basis, a development that is adversely affecting the viability of the firm.
Onyi caledl on all relevant stakeholders including security agencies, government to prevail on the IYC to vacate PHEDC offices to enable the firm serve its customers satisfactorily.
The IYC had challenged PHEDC to substantiate its claim that customers in Bayelsa owed it N16.6 billion.
Mr Kenedy Olorogun, Central Zone Chairman of IYC said the debt claim was a ‘a blackmail’ to cover up incompetence by the firm despite verifiable evidence that there is excess power stranded at the Yenagoa transmission substation.
He dismissed the claim by PHEDC that residents were not meeting their obligations for energy use adding that the people were being coerced to pay for ‘darkness’ based on estimates.
According to him, information from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) showed that there was sufficient power at the substation at Gbarain, Yenagoa, but the PHEDC was not taking the power to homes.
Investigation showed that TCN, had sanctioned the PHEDC for declining to take up available power from TCN’s Yenagoa substation to end users leaving power ‘stranded’.
“On Aug. 20, 2019, TCN announced the lifting of a suspension order from the electricity market it placed on the PHEDC on July 27, for breach of ‘Market Conditions/Participation Agreement.
According to a notice available on TCN’s portal, the lifting of the sanction was a regulatory measure to ensure that distribution companies evacuate available power.
TCN said that lifting of the sanction followed PHEDC’s compliance, and took effect on August 19, 2019.
The PHEDC and TCN had been shifting blames on the poor power supply in Bayelsa, with TCN saying that the PHEDC was unable to take up available power at its substation, while the PHEDC alleged that it was not getting enough power from the TCN’s grid.