Hundreds of youths, women and men of Ogbenogbo, Ogbegbuya and Goodwill/Trade Fair communities in Benin City, capital of Edo state, southern Nigeria, Thursday morning held workers of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) hostage at their headquarters office located along Akpakpava Road, in protest against what they called persistent blackout in the communities for over two years.
The protest completely paralysed vehicular and human movement as well as business activities in the entire BEDC office area of Akpakpava road, all adjoining streets and parts of Forestry road.
The protesters from the the communities located off Ekehuan road in Benin, blocked the two gates leading into the premises of the electricity distribution company.
The two gates were converted to kitchens where they slaughtered two goats, cooked jollof rice and yam porridge in large cooking pots, even as they chanted derogatory slogans on the company.
A youth leader from one of the communities, Aduku Monday, said the three communities had not enjoyed electricity supply since the company took over from PHCN.
“We have not enjoyed power supply ever since BEDC took over from PHCN. The best we have is very epileptic. All forms of business activities in the two communities that depend on electricity have all been paralysed.
“Formerly, we were supplied electricity from the feeder pillar in GRA. But when BEDC took over, they transferred us to Evbuotubu, because, as we heard, an Indian company gave them money to retain the transformers. Secondly, Evbotubu is already overloaded,” he said.
Another member of the communities, Curtis Obaghiagbon, said members of the three communities have depended on electricity generators to power their homes.
“There are 2688 houses in these three communities and they all pay fixed charges. You can imagine how much they are making from us every month.
“I came from Austria where I am based last week. Ever since I arrived, I’ve been buying petrol to run my generator every day. If I can afford it, not everybody can afford it. This is not sustainable. It has to stop,” Mr. Obaghiagbon said.
“We will come here tomorrow, all of us in black dresses to complete the burial ceremony of BEDC and Osibodu,” another one said.
Protesters from Evbuotubu community had similarly held the premises hostage and cooked in front of the gates of the company.
Commenting on the issue, the General Manager (Public Affairs) of BEDC, Curtis Nwadei, said the communities are heavily indebted to the company and yet, they are demanding more than they now get and also want to decide from where they are served electricity.
He disclosed that the three communities are indebted to the BEDC to the tune of N28,140,962.26k.
“The issue is that they want more than they are getting and they want to decide where they get power from even when they are not paying. And we say give us money to serve you better. If they pay their bills, we will give them power,” he said.