- PHED had demanded for N6.m loss of revenue
- SAN goes to court asking for N110m loss of his own revenue
- Eleme court returns case to Rivers State Chief Judge
By Kelechi Esogwa
Epic court case is brewing in Port Harcourt between a senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who own a hotel and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED).
Did the SAN carry out meter bypass as alleged or did PHED officials rather carry out wrongful disconnection at the hotel/
If out of court does not take place, this may require a High Court intervention.
The courts in Rivers State and maybe beyond are already heating up with fireworks as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) whose business hotel/resort was accused of meter bypass and was disconnected has rather dragged the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) to the Rivers State High Court.
The SAN who owns Oxygen Holiday Resort in Akpajo, near Port Harcourt, is now demanding N110m as loss of revenue since the electricity distribution company in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers (PHED) disconnected his facilities.
PHED had slammed a demand of N6.5m as ‘loss of revenue’ from the hotel complex but instead of getting an alert, it rather got suit and claim of N110m. This has set the stage for an epic class of the titans in the ongoing battle by the PHED to stop energy theft in the four states which is said to have climbed to as high as N36Bn per year (N3Bn per month).
PHED sends bills of over N5Bn every month but due to massive bypass by metered customers and outright theft by extended connections out the official network, less than half of the users do not pay bills despite what the management recently described as dire need for about N40Bn to meter about 500,000 customers.
PHED is spending heavily too for new hires because it just hired about 355 officials to boost its anti-theft war. These new hires are to directly manage revenue collections for specific transformers and take responsibility. They are to also listen to the problems of customers and attempt to solve them so as to induce self-compliance rates. These and other measures instituted in recent times are said to have boosted revenue from N2.1Bn to about N2.7Bn, hoping to reduce energy theft to its barest minimum and to record up to N5Bn per month.
These measures seem to attract resistance from customers and even segments of the workforce as the zero-theft policy gets hotter. Some however admit that some errors may occur along the line, requiring negations, dialogue and use of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Forum to resolve matters before the common courts may have to be the last resort.
According to documents of claims and objections filed in the suit, L. E. Nwosu (SAN) for the Resort says the premises was disconnected on October 14 and 15, 2020 and a penalty of N6.5m slammed on the Resort. The crux of the SAN’s anger is that two of the hotel’s eight pre-paid meters had issues and that PHED officials had not resolved the faults despite being contacted.
The claimant, in an application for interlocutory injunction, noted that the disconnected hotel still has six meters working perfectly and in credit balances, yet the PHED officials decided to cripple the business of the hotel. The Resort thus sought for a declaration that the disconnection is illegal and unlawful; an order directing the defendant to reconnect the premises and restraining them not to disconnect them; and special and general damages of more than N110million against PHED.
Documents show that PHED’s position thus; “The claimant premises should not have been de bulked in the first instance since it is one and the same customer with one account using its own transformer. (The lines come from one wire to the Hotel and cutting light only in offensive meters is impossible). One of the meters has been on negative reading hence the demand to pay loss of revenue. There is evidence of meter by pass of the bar and kitchen section”.
The matter came at Nchia in Eleme before Her Lordship Green but she transferred it back to the Chief Judge, Adama Iyayi Laminkara, who would decide the next court to hear the case. Many experts have however advised the parties to seek out of court settlement especially by resort to the NERC Port Harcourt Forum which they said serves as court of first instance in electricity consumption and payment disputes..