Ogun residents protest against estimated billings, drag IBEDC to court

Some consumers of electricity in Ogun State have lamented alleged estimated billings by the Ibadan Electrical Distribution Company.

The residents said aside from the excessive charges, the power supplied by the electricity company was poor. They noted that they were discouraged from paying their bills because the charges did not reflect their power consumption.

PUNCH Metro gathered that a human rights group, Balance Measures Impact Initiative (BMII), had been agitating against estimated billings of the residents since 2015.

BMII was said to have sued IBEDC to court on behalf of the residents after a series of complaints to override accumulated overestimated bills were turned down.

The Ogun State Chairman of the group, Lukman Odewole, accused IBEDC of harassing residents with military officers. He said, “Most Nigerians that do not have prepaid meters are feeling the pain of estimated billing. What we are fighting for is to correct the anomalies in the power sector.

“People still have the misconception that the 11 distribution companies are government owned, whereas they are private-owned companies that want to make profit. Whether they supply power or not, they will charge and expect you to pay for what you did not consume; that is why we have problems.

“I have photographs and video evidence of how IBEDC officials brought hoodlums and soldiers to harass us to pay; we have been facing a lot. We have a lot of people with outrageous outstanding bills; I know of someone with an outstanding bill of about N360,000; we have people with over N50,000 and N100,000 electricity bills.”

Odewole said the group had called for the cancellation of the overestimated electrical bills, adding that consumers of IBEDC in Ogun State needed prepaid meters to be in control of their power consumption.

A businessman, who identified himself only as Femi, said he was billed for the electricity he did not consume, adding that his efforts to resolve the problem worsened the case.

He said, “Last year, IBEDC gave me a bill of N19,000 in October. I visited their office to complain and what they told me was that I had a cold room at the back of my house. I asked if they had visited my house to inspect what was on the ground before they billed me N19,000.

“So, they promised to rectify my bill. I was surprised that the bill rose to N65,000; I did not pay because they had promised to rectify it. In January 2018, IBEDC gave me N5,000 and by February, it reduced to N4,000. I was eager to pay the bills because I thought they had adjusted the bill. But when I got to their office sometime in March to pay, I was given a bill of N637,000 for the month of March. I was stunned.”

Another resident, Sulaimon Oke, decried the poor state of power supply in his area, adding that IBEDC had been cheating its customers through estimated billing.

He said, “We used electricity for just four days last month and they gave me a bill of over N5,000. We have not been supplied electricity this month, we don’t have meter, but they give us estimated bills.

“I told them that I needed a prepaid meter, but what the officials of IBEDC told me was that everything was in the hand of the government. So, I am pleading with the government to intervene.”

A retailer, who did not want to be identified, said she had paid for a prepaid meter but had yet to be given one.

She said, “Despite the fact that prepaid meter is free, I paid for a prepaid meter. I have receipt with me. I bought it about N25,000 since 2016 and IBEDC has not supplied me. I even paid N6,000 at IBEDC’s office for installation, but they didn’t give me any receipt for the payment.”

PUNCH Metro learnt that the various complaints from customers of IBEDC in Ogun State propelled no fewer than 400 customers to converge on the Ota High Court on Wednesday to witness the court sitting between IBEDC and BMII.

It was gathered that BMII had filed a motion to change its counsel but needed the approval of the judge for the new counsel to take over its case against IBEDC.

During the proceedings, the new counsel of the group, Mr S. A. Ameh, sought the order of the court to grant his client’s application to change counsel from Dele Babalola and Associates to Ameh, Ameh and Co; adding that a motion to that effect had been served.

While reading the motion in parts, Ameh said, “The counsel on behalf of the claimant/applicant shall be heard praying the honourable court for the following orders: orders of the honourable court granting the claimant/applicant leave to change counsel from Dele Babalola of Dele-Babalola and associates, to Dr S. A. Ameh of Ameh, Ameh and co.”

Ameh prayed the court to grant his client’s (BMII) application, adding that once the application was granted, his chamber would have the statutory power to take over the case.

Our correspondent gathered that nobody appeared to represent IBEDC during the court proceedings.

The presiding judge, Mrs E. A. Fabanwo, granted the application and adjourned the case till October 10, 2018.

The Public Relations Officer, IBEDC, Ogun State, Mr Ayodeji Dada, said he had no knowledge of the court case, adding that IBEDC issued customers appropriate charges.

He said, “I am not aware of the court case they are claiming they have against us. One thing I want you to know is that we are not giving people outrageous bills. We are using average cluster billing methodology – a methodology where the bill of a three-bedroomed house will be different from a single-bedroomed flat and that of a two-bedroomed flat will be different from a storeyed building.

“Any area where IBEDC bills, it is based on what they consume. We have been saying it times without number that anybody that has any disagreement with any bill should bring it to our offices. It should be an individual thing because we connect individual customers, not communities. So, once you have issues with your bill, come around to our office and we will resolve it if it is justified.”

Ayodeji also said the government had put relevant measures in place to ensure that problems associated with estimated billings become a thing of the past.

He said, “Prepaid meter is free, but because all the DISCOs don’t have the resources to provide meters for everybody, that is why NEC brought out a scheme that allows customers to borrow us money to pay for these meters and on a monthly basis when they come to recharge, we will refund the money. So, directly or indirectly, it is still free.

“But the Federal Government is trying to make everything possible. NERC is bringing about 30 companies that will provide meters under the Meter Aspect Provider Scheme. So, once these companies start bringing meters, there will be enough for our customers and this issue of estimated billing will be a thing of the past.”