By Basil Okoh
BEDC, the electricity distribution company (DisCo) responsible for supplying electricity to four states in Nigeria namely; Ekiti, Ondo, Edo and Delta is a family business.
The Managing Director is Mrs. Funke Osibodu and the Chairman of the Board is Mr. Victor Gbolade Osibodu. Husband and wife. There are other directors but you should expect that in a board with husband and wife as Chairman and Managing Director, all crucial decisions are taken in their home.
This fact alone should tell you the much you need to know concerning BEDC and the awful state of electricity supply in these states. The quality and steadiness of electric power supply in this area is directly related to the marital harmony prevailing in the home of the Osibodu’s. The wife they say, lives in Asaba and the husband in Lagos.
To the house owners in it’s territory, BEDC works for the public as a purely criminal enterprise. At the best of times and in virtually all places in its district, BEDC supplies between four to eight hours of electricity daily. That does not guarantee that you cannot go for weeks or months without a wink of electricity supply.
In the bills sent to its customers, BEDC charges the cost of 24 hours electricity supply. In the few hours of daily supply, BEDC bills you five to ten times the value of electricity you consume. You utilize 50Kw/h of electricity in a month but BEDC bills you 300Kw/h every month.
It does all these through a rigged system of operations which also exploits the people’s lack of understanding of electricity usage and metering. BEDC refuses to supply electricity metering machines to its customers, even when all other DisCo’s have endeavored to do so.
In Ikeja DisCo, almost every house, kiosk or warehouse has been fixed with prepaid metres. That is the story in every other DisCo. But not so in BEDC.
BEDC has refused all Government entreaties, threats and sanctions to provide electricity metres which are available and already in stock in it’s own warehouses. BEDC adamantly refuses to give metres to its customers, preferring to bill them arbitrarily without metering, in what they call “crazy bills”.
BEDC enjoys a monopoly in its district and no one appears able to do anything about a dead weight sitting possum on the economic progress of the over 20 million citizens in the four states.
The people themselves do not seem to realize the debilitating impact BEDC thieving and non-performance seems to have on the economic degradation of the area. The availability of electric power is directly related to the economic progress of every community in the world today. But BEDC sits on the progress of the people of it’s district without a serious challenge from anybody, not even the state Governments which ought to champion the cause of their own people.
The Delta State Government has gone ahead to remove itself from the pains caused by the BEDC in the capital city Asaba. It has contracted an independent power company to supply 10Mw of electricity to the Government House and all other Government offices in the state capital, leaving the populace to be screwed to death by the BEDC. I suspect some of the other state Governments have done the same thing.
The Osibodu’s and BEDC business formula is quite simple and reveals the cleverness of the devil. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) makes available, 7Mw/h of electric power to Asaba daily. But BEDC says no sir, we can only take 2Mw/h and goes on to take what it demands for distribution.
Because most of it’s customers do not have electricity metres, it bills everyone arbitrarily without a metering system. It inflates by a factor of ten what each household without a metre consumes. This practice passes because the people do not have the faintest sense of a measuring system for electricity consumption.
A two bedroom flat in Asaba consumes about 40Kw of electricity monthly with a daily Four to eight hour supply. Another two bedroom apartment with similar electric gadgetry but without a prepaid metre is sent a bill for 219Kw/h for the same four to eight hour daily supply.
By this simple deviousness and outright theft, BEDC creams off N2.4 billion from customers in its district monthly. BEDC actually gets paid more by buying less electricity from the transmission company and rationing whatever it buys arbitrarily among its customers.
So there’s no compelling reason for BEDC to give electricity or the metres to its consumers. It profits more by denying electric supply. And it denies them of their right to know their actual consumption through electricity metering.
Government appears helpless in this continuing scam of the public by BEDC. To be fair to Government, it has issued prepaid electricity metres in abundance to the 11 DisCo’s but BEDC is obdurate and refuses to comply with regulations.
And Government is doing nothing to a company which refuses to comply with its own regulations.
So people ask: “what hold does BEDC have on Government or its officials that it cannot be sanctioned or its operating license taken away? That hold must be strong indeed for a husband and wife family business to hold down the economic and social progress of four states in Nigeria.
We must state here that one of BEDC directors is also the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises of the Federal Government and his influence in that key Government Department comes to bear on the activities of BEDC.
So why are the Governments of Delta, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo states not seeking justice with BEDC, a rogue company brazenly fleecing their citizens and creaming off their wealth through forged electricity billing?
This question begs for answer as poverty and unemployment swells everyday in these states and as their economy tanks and their youth take the beaten roads to Asia in search of slave labour. Between N1.8 and N2.4 billion are believed to be stolen from electricity customers in these states monthly through rogue electricity billings.
It is obvious that progress in energy supply in the district can never come from BEDC, a company that so stoutly resists innovation and progress and factors it’s entire business survival on theft and scam of the public. BEDC will obviously go under if a true metering system is forced on its operations.
Communities and corporations are left with no other option than to explore the little window of opportunity now pried open by the Delta State Government on Independent power suppliers of 10Mw/h as the way forward. It’s about time we got serious about development in our communities. And we cannot do that without reliable supply of energy. BEDC is definitely out of contention for the way forward. It is a dead weight killing progress in these parts.
And it is time we exorcise the devil BEDC sitting on the economic progress of these four states.
***Basil Okoh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @basilokoh on Social Media.