As meter bypass case gets sour, Disco gets extra time to comply with court order to reconnect customer
* PHED turns from hunter to the hunted
By Codratus Godson
It was fireworks at an Eleme magistrate’s court on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, where the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) struggled to wriggle out of a court order to give power supply to a customer it accused of meter bypass. It thus became a case of the hunter of bypass customers being hunted by the customer.
At the end, the Eleme Magistrate court insisted that the PHED must obey its earlier order to reconnect a customer before presenting its case as to why the power was disconnected in the first place.
This court however granted extension of time to PHED to respond to interlocutory injunction compelling the Disco to reconnect the customer who allegedly did a meter bypass. The customer is the one that rather took the Disco to court.
The case is before the Nchia High Court near Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but the claimant, Luscious Nwosu (SAN), took the matter to an Eleme Magistrate Court where an injunction to reconnect his hotel, Oxygen Holiday Resort in Akpajo, near Port Harcourt, was granted to be effected within seven days.
When the case resumed on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, lawyer to PHED, Mrs Efe Imonivwerha, argued that the business of the court for the day was to hear PHED’s motion which sought to counter the one by the SAN, the claimant.
The Disco tried to show that the motion by Oxygen Hotel & Holiday Resort was an abuse of Court process because one case cannot stand in two courts. When this seemed impossible, she asked for a short date to prepare a response to the Oxygen Hotel motion.
The magistrate, I.A Bobmanuel, however ruled in favour of the claimant who argued that the time had elapsed to make a defence. PHED had argued that it had a strong defence which was attached to submissions earlier made in their own motion.
The magistrate allowed the claimant to move its own motion, forcing PHED to render oral response.
In his ruling, the magistrate said there was no defence before him from PHED, but for the interest of justice, he allowed PHED three days grace for the Disco to file a defence. The judge insisted that the injunction granted must not be rendered useless or made to look like a paper tiger. He insisted that PHED must reconnect the hotel as the order had already been granted though PHED argued that injunctions were not to be granted for an action that had already been accomplished such as disconnection of the Oxygen hotels.
The SAN who owns Oxygen Holiday Resort in Akpajo, near Port Harcourt, is demanding for N110m as loss of revenue since the electricity distribution company in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers (PHED) disconnected its facilities.
PHED had slammed a demand of N6.5m as ‘loss of revenue’ from the Resort but instead of getting an alert, it rather got court summons demanding N110m for loss of revenue from the actions of the electricity company. This has set the stage for an controversial case in two different courts.