Benin City – Despite the service standards and performance agreement entered into with the federal government in 2013, officials of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) carry out their official assignment with rented ladders and vehicles.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that, the BEDC officials, mostly field workers are always not on uniforms, safety helmets, hand gloves, and identified by their identity cards and the electricity bills they distribute.
They often times carry ladders on their shoulders, and other work tools on their hands, trekking distance to do their jobs instead of moving around in official vehicles.
The officials are known to visit residence to serve bills, attend to complaints, or disconnect defaulters, as most customers are on estimated billings, a method civil rights groups calls for it scrapping.
According to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, some of them volunteer their vehicles to carry out official duties.
They argued, the company’s management did not invest in men and equipments hence most customers provided the materials needed to connect them to the national grid.
They expressed apprehension over continued hostility against them over poor service delivery.
“Population is growing, as a result, people, governments are developing lands, building houses; They need electricity.
“Nothing was on ground, and nothing is on ground to meet up with the huge gap we (BEDC) met, so we’ve to hire especially ladder and normal Audi (car) to go round and cover up”, an Official told our correspondent at New Benin, in Benin city.
Also, a landlord in the area, Anselm Momodu stressed, the practice was a waste of time and resources to go from one place to another, “when the process can be digitalize, so we can use (prepaid) card”.
“If NEPA (now BEDC) was sincere in giving us (customers) meters, they will give us and not going up and down with ladder”, He added.
According to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) fourth quarter report of 2017, BEDC ranked 2nd highest in Metering Gap.
BEDC, in September last year announced plans to rollout 190,000 meters within the next two years in Edo state, but checks revealed, DISCOs are no longer in charge of metering electricity consumers in the country.
NERC, in 2017 handed over the metering of costumers to third party companies through its Meter Access Provider MAP’s initiative, an arrangement that would see the companies install and maintain customers meters.
However, standards designed by the country’s electricity regulatory body, which is expected to result in a sharp increase in technical performance, customer care as well as regulatory compliance are not adhere to by the Benin Disco.
“When they (BEDC Officials) come, it is usually like on the 29th; they will continue to come and rent till they are through. Maybe for about 5 to 6 days, then stop.
“To come back again another month end”, said Anyanwu Moses, an electrical materials dealer, who also rent out ladder, at Iguomon junction area, near Benin city.
Recall a coalition under the aegis of BEDC Franchise States People’s Alliance had during a press briefing in November 2018 challenged the Benin DISCO’s management to give details of power infrastructures procured, installed or changed “with exact locations” since they took over, for verification.
But, the company’s head of public affairs, Mr. Adekunle Tayo on Wednesday told our correspondent that, BEDC provided the “necessary tools” for its officials, adding, “Sometimes they are overwhelmed” hence “some of them resort to doing that”.
He warned officials to comply to BEDC safety regulations, to protect against any accident in the course of discharging their duties.
“Every organization has their different approaches. Some of our staffs usually got ladders, they get vehicles, but sometimes the reality is that, there are some jobs that come, maybe like emergency and everything; and whichever ladders that they have in the office.
“If it’s being used or if it’s not enough, and there’s increase in terms of customers requests and all that, some of them resort to doing so, if they must rectify that fault they provide the necessary tools, but sometimes they’re overwhelmed”, Tayo said in a telephone conversation.