The Management of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) wishes to respond to a publication in The Punch newspaper on February 16th, 2017 on page 4 titled “Power Outage: Ogun Residents Storm IBEDC Office With Lanterns” accompanied with a picture of protesters on the cover page. IBEDC would like state that the story does not reflect the true position of things and ignores in total our own side of the story, thus failing to observe the basic rule of news writing.
As a customer friendly DISCO, we are known to be proactive in community engagements, which has enabled us operate almost seamlessly, despite challenges in most of our coverage areas, including Ijako/Ishaka in Ado Odo/Ota local government. Despite these rigorous efforts, it is impossible to completely prevent incidents such as the reported protest considering the volatile nature of the power industry in Nigeria. Therefore when such an occurrence arises, we seek to quickly address it by treating it as an emergency. One of the major ways this is done is by liaising with the press to ensure that a balanced story is reported. Therefore, the claim that he Punch correspondent was not allowed to come into our premises to get the company's side of the story is a clear misrepresentation of the facts. As a company that constantly relates with the press as stakeholders in the business, we cannot bar any journalist from gaining access to our premises especially, while on a fact-finding mission on a sensitive issue such as this.
IBEDC operates a regional structure which makes provision for a dedicated Communication Officer for each region. The mobile number of this staff responsible for the affected area is available, not only to newsmen in Ogun state, but also to those practising throughout our franchise area. If it was impossible to gain access as claimed by the author, it would have been expected that the journalist would have contacted our officer in charge through a phone call or SMS before going to the press with such a one-sided story. Despite the damage caused by the report, we still wish to state our side of the story.
In line with our policy to always keep our customers informed on the challenges we face as a distribution company, we had engaged the Community Development Association (CDA) from the affected area the week before where we explained the issues with their power supply. They however refused to be convinced and decided to proceed with the protest. The protesters arrived our office around 10.30am on Wednesday 15th, February 2017 with various complaints including the unavailability of prepaid meters, crazy billing and erratic power supply.
It is worthy of note that we have held several meetings with the affected community and have explained to them the issues involved with prepaid meter distribution. The delay is due to the scarcity of forex which affected the contractors supplying the meters. The development stiffened the normally smooth process of supplying the meters to them by the manufacturers.
On the alleged high billing, we have records to show that in the last 6 months residents of the community have never been billed more than N500 (five hundred naira only) on the average per house. Strangely, most members despite this ridiculously lenient billing, have still refused to pay for energy consumed for the last three months, citing epileptic supply. It was only this month, with the supply situation improving, that their bills went up to N1, 000 (One thousand naira) on the average. Yet, they have refused to collect the bills or allow our staff to work in their community to date. IBEDC uses a NERC-approved scientific system for billing customers using the cluster billing methodology, therefore we maintain a tolerable variance in all our estimated bills.
Finally, it should be reiterated that the erratic power supply affecting the community is a national challenge and other communities on the same Ota Industrial feeder such as Owode and Ifo metropolis were also affected by the supply challenge. This was exacerbated by the 25 days TAT maintenance by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in November, 2016.
All these were communicated to the CDA Chairmen and Secretaries as we are always in touch with them, but it is unfortunate that their leaders embarked on a campaign of calumny and blackmail against IBEDC with all the allegations raised. To further see how could resolve the issue, we took the names and phone numbers of the leaders of the protest with a view to engaging. We are disappointed that none of our efforts on the day of the protest was reflected by the correspondent in his report.
In conclusion, we would like to restate that the claim that journalists were prevented from entering our premises or gaining access to IBEDC for comments is untrue. Our company has a Regional Office at Ijeun overseeing that Business Hub and there is a regional spokesperson for the company that could be reached for a balanced story. Secondly, the Head Office and our communication channels could have been explored for a balanced view of the situation. If all the platforms had been explored without any result, then it could be justified that ‘we could not be reached’