Eleme to Enjoy 24 Hours Electricity if Prepaid Metres Are Acquired

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Transformers, Clans with High Debt Profile Risk Disconnection, PHED Visits Akpajo, Onne this Tuesday.

Samuel O. Onungwe, the Publisher of adaaji.com had an interactive session with the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHED personnel who pleaded anonymity today, 20th September 2021 and he bares his mind on the challenges impeding electricity supply at Eleme LGA.

The staff who was full of praise for the LG Chairman, Emere (Hon.) Obarilomate Ollor, JP went down memory lane to explain what the PHED stands for which is to meet the power needs of its responsible and reliable customers. It could be recalled that some parts of Eleme particularly, Ogale, Ebubu, Onne and parts of Alode had been in blackout for several months before the emergence of the incumbent LG Chairman as the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party and that coincided with the administration of Hon. Barr. Philip Wuwu Okparaji PhD.

The PHED is a profit-driven enterprise thus it seeks to make a profit on its investment in the distribution of electricity. However, the incidence of theft, vandalism and natural disaster as was in the case of Onne in which thunderstorms and winds wreaked havoc on buildings, economic trees, and electric poles and cables led to power cut from the aforementioned communities. The PHED even though was obligated to restore electricity to those communities had to open its books as a way of carrying out a cost-benefit analysis, CBA. Those books revealed that returns from those communities would not be adequate to restore power to those communities for residents there rarely comply with paying their electricity bills substantially. The PHED had recorded so many losses in Eleme over the years as their debt runs into several millions of naira.

The belief at Eleme is that residents do not need to pay for electricity because they play host to many multinational companies. This belief would have made meaning were the expectation penned down in the various Memoranda of Understanding, MoU the indigenes struck with those companies. Unfortunately, they seem to be lacking. That made the PHED hold back its resources from investing in getting equipment, tools and mobilizing its men to urgently fix and replace the damages recorded in a bid to restoring the electricity.

The option left was to recourse to the LG Chairman, he then asked the PHED to carry out an assessment of the damage at Ogale among others and submit a proposal for his intervention. Unfortunately, after the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation, BEME were prepared and defended by the PHED local administrator, even with the assurance of Barr Okparaji that money had been signed and would be released, that ex LG Chairman promise did not see the light of day until the expiration of his regime due to reasons best known to him. A similar thing occurred at the Agbonchia town hall renovation project which he vowed to complete before the expiration of his regime but he left it unfinished.

The PHED went on to propose that if the LG Chairman would support her to make prepaid metres available to 7, 000 households, there would be about uninterruptable electricity to consumers. Again that project did not survive.

This lingered until Emere (Hon.) Obarilomate Ollor JP contested, won, and was sworn into office on the 17th of June 2021. The coming of Emere Ollor had coincided with the time when the PHED were rallying around to get the power issues resolved. The new LG Chairman had the opportunity to linger a bit to be sure of his finances but took the bull by its horns and released the sum of five million naira, 5, 000, 000. 00 to the power corporation after talks with its top management. The money was in form of old debt residents were owing and served as a boost to the about thirty million naira (30, 000, 000.00) cost of solving the immediate damage to the power facilities. The pragmatic leader whose name is currently synonymous with light or electricity had in the following month raised another 2 million naira and with a promise to raise another 5 million naira to the coffers of the power distribution firm in September 2021. This effort of the LG Chairman deserves huge commendation as it is the first of its kind and should be sustained. Today and indeed a few weeks into his administration, the immediate setbacks to electricity supply in the affected had been addressed and electricity has been restored in all the wards of Eleme LGA. This electricity supply has gone beyond the hours it was supplied before the advent of his administration as currently; Eleme communities are enjoying about 15 hours of power daily.

Many have argued that the LG Chairman had cleared all their outstanding electrical debt hence the number of hours of electricity the people are enjoying. This is a misconception as that thought, to say the least, is erroneous. In the actual sense, what is going on now in Eleme is that the lump sum of money paid into PHED’s coffers and piecemeal bill settlement being made by various individuals add up to make reasonable pool money entering into the PHED’s account representing seemingly a plus for the people Eleme and thus the electricity is being sustained and this has continued for many weeks now. It must be reiterated that LG Chairman, Emere (Hon.) Obarilomate Ollor has not cleared the outstanding electricity bills of Eleme LGA and he is not currently paying electricity for the people of Eleme and residents in an actual sense rather, he is making efforts to ensure that electricity is sustained in the land. Residents who want to continually enjoy electricity must fulfill their part of the bargain by promptly paying their bills.

This is important because the PHED is currently embarking on a disconnection exercise for those who have failed to pay their bills. It should be noted that once the 15th of every new month is past, the PHED at Eleme can indeed visit and disconnect your lines from their high tension lines. Sometimes people feel that they have paid their bills and therefore they ought to enjoy electricity having cleared up their bills. However, it does not work that way most time. This is because there has to be reasonable income generated from a location as earlier mentioned before PHED could see such a place a location that is profitable to supply electricity. Thus teamwork is required to guarantee electricity as the PHED knows the exact number of households that are connected to a transformer. For instance, if fifty (50) households are tied to one transformer and out of the 50, about 15 persons alone comply with paying their electricity, it would be a loss to supply electricity to such transformer and the best thing would be to shut down power to the transformer thereby denying those who pay and those who do not pay their electricity bill power. The setback here is that once power is cut from a particular transformer, it makes power facilities in that area susceptible to theft. This is why it is reasonable to be your brother’s or neighbour’s keeper as regards electricity in your neighbourhood. Members of a neighbourhood or community need to constitute electricity committees or can encourage their community development committee to take up the responsibility of encouraging members of their communities to promptly pay their electricity bills as it would be for a common good. If possible, electricity consumers’ meetings should be called regularly and issues of how to protect electricity facilities and payment of electricity bill should be discussed and those who fail to comply and on time should be disciplined as agreed to secure electricity supply. The PHED may find it difficult to deprive 40 households of electricity supply if 40 out 50 households comply with paying their bills promptly. This model was once adopted at Ogbunabali as residents in collaboration with the business manager in that community had a memorandum of understanding and together with the management of the PHED, a deal was reached and signed to legitimatize it. In it was agreed that so long as residents paid their bills they were sure of at least 18 to 20 hours of electricity and the deal was not binding if the community fails to meet up their side of the bargain. It was then discovered that the PHED is duty-bound to supply power to communities that keep to their side of the bargain. The trust enjoyed by the residents later resulted in their massive patronage of the prepaid electricity metres in that community.

Tomorrow being 21st September 2021 residents of Onne and Akpajo may have their power supply cut as there is a plan by the PHED to shutdown selected transformers in the various clans that make up Onne and Akpajo communities.

The PHED still believes that the use of prepaid metres is the right means to guarantee an uninterruptable electricity supply in Eleme as has been experimented with within many other places. This is because nobody would visit to disconnect any consumer whose units have been exhausted and it will make it easier to recoup their funds without recourse to unnecessary resentment. On this note, the LG administrator was called to consider this model by perhaps offering to subsidize the prepared metres to make it affordable to residents. This is achievable by excusing the big business owners such as hoteliers, banks, filling stations, bars, and the likes which can afford the metres themselves. The prepaid metres cost which includes that of installation is about 49, 000 naira and 86, 000 naira for single and triple phases respectively. It is believed that if at least 3, 000 units are purchased and installed, such could be used in a pilot case for instance at Ogale the core headquarters of Eleme LGA, and then when the PHED satisfies its aspect of the bargain, the scope can be expanded to other communities as they begin to buy in the plan. The PHED believes that 7, 000 units can cover the whole of Ogale, Ebubu, and parts of Alode. It went on to recommend three-phase metres for commercial outfits like hotels, guest houses, filling stations, shopping malls, eateries, banks churches, mosques, and schools but argues that households should not be bothered as there would always be electricity once bought and installation completed. What would be needed would be consumption management and that would that energy saving bulbs should be used, the bulbs should be switched once the room or place is not being used, the refrigerator has to be turned off once the internal is cool enough and the air conditioner has to be turned off when the weather is cold to maximize your electricity units.

For a community that has suffered untold hardship in some cases over a year due to lack of electricity, there is no gainsaying that dependence on the PHED for electricity is more economical considering the cost of running a power generator, fueling, and maintenance. After all, the use of a generator comes with noise and fumes which are not healthy to the ear and nose. Economically, electricity from PHED boosts the commercial activities in a place, an influx of people too, improves the security status of a place and this translates to an increase in the internally generated revenue in the LGA.

Samuel O. Onungwe

Some may think the issues that affected the electricity supply at Eleme have been settled because their electric bulbs are glowing and there is power in their sockets but truth is that the PHED personnel have deployed their expertise to get a quick result. For instance, the transformer at the millennium motel though it is healthy on its own but requires a proper connection. Ordinarily, that section of Ogale should not have electricity but the PHED personnel deployed back-feeding techniques by connecting them to the transformer at Aleubo town hall. There are many things the PHED men are doing to make sure the residents enjoy electricity pending when repairs are perfected in Eleme.

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