By Maureen Ikpeama
Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC (EEDC) has appealed to the members of the public to stop assaulting its staff on legitimate duties ,frowning at the manner their staff were beaten up by three men in Ibagwa and Iwollo communities of Enugu State.
Head, Corporate Communications, EEDC, Emeka Ezeh, in a statement made available over the weekend, said that:
“Three young men were on Friday arrested”. Two out of the three were arrested at Ibagwa Town Hall area of Abakpa Nike, Enugu East Local Government Area and one was arrested at Imeama Iwollo in Ezeagu Local Government Area,of Enugu State.
“At Ibagwa Town Hall area of Abakpa Nike, the duo of Ifeanyi Ezeugwu and Daniel Uzochukwu Okafor descended on the EEDC staff, beat them up and inflicted bodily harm on them when they discovered that their house had been disconnected.
Ezeh expressed concern over the rate at which some customers boldly engage in energy theft without paying for energy consumed and still have the temerity to not only resist disconnection but go as far as attacking innocent people carrying out their legitimate duties.
He said the building in question has been on supply over the years without any bill or proof of payment, and to make matters worse, they extended supply to another building which also does not have bill nor proof of payment.
According to Ezeh, when their officials visited the premises, the occupants claimed they had a prepaid meter, an indication that they should not be disturbed with disconnection, but out of curiosity, they carefully inspected the building and discovered there was no prepaid meter, and then requested for evidence of payment, which was not provided.
It was then they carried out the disconnection, and as was customary, they were about handing over the disconnection notice to them when Ifeanyi and Daniel, who are occupants of the house, accosted and challenged the team to know who disconnected them, and immediately descended on the two EEDC officials.
On Friday, Obinna Amuruche attacked staff of EEDC on duty at Imeama Iwollo in Ezeagu as they arrived at his compound to carry out disconnection because he has not paid his bill and has huge arrears. He resisted disconnection, ran into his shrine, and brought out a knife to attack the EEDC staff before he was apprehended by the police.
“Attack on our field staff is becoming a regular occurrence, and we are not going to sit back and fold our arms and watch this continue; we shall make sure that perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted accordingly,” Ezeh said.
He hinted that the attacks on its staff ranges from beating, dragging them down from the ladder, seizing of ladders, releasing of dogs on them, locking them up and keeping them hostage, at times this escalates to damaging of the work vehicle, among other treatment.
“I can’t comprehend how someone will be stealing energy and when discovered and disconnected, rather than show remorse, would resort to assaulting people doing their job, forcing them to reconnect their supply”, Ezeh said.
He confirmed that the suspects were handed over to the Police for further interrogation and possible prosecution.
Ezeh noted that non-payment of energy bills and energy theft has been a major challenge to the day-to-day running of the company’s business, and that constitutes a huge commercial loss being experienced currently.
He appealed to customers to see the payment of energy bills as their obligation, and that is the only way the power sector can be efficient and sustainable.
He added that the staff are carrying out their legitimate duties to earn a living, and that they are representatives of the organisation, and not out there on their own. Therefore, no grievance or any amount of provocation warrants attack by our customers; rather the official redress procedure should be followed.
“The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) which is a body that regulates the activities of the distribution companies has provided a complaints redress mechanism for the resolution of all customer issues. It is therefore expected that aggrieved customers should use this channel to register their grievances, rather than taking laws into their hands.
“We would stop at nothing to ensure that our staff are protected, and that anyone or group that assaults them is arrested and prosecuted accordingly”, Ezeh said.