PHED, Oyigbo youths trade blames over Afam power plant shutdown

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* PHED:  You refuse to pay bills, you owe billions of naira

* Youths: We pay N120m every month without seeing light

By Codratus Godson

 

Power supply in Rivers State and beyond may continue to be threatened due to endless rancour between the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) and the Oyigbo community.

For one full day this weekend, Rivers State was thrown into total darkness following shutdown of Afam power station in Oyigbo local council area of Rivers State. The darkness has so far pitched the PHED against the people of Oyigbo.

Silver News gathered that the people of Afam want to use power without paying for being host community whereas the PHED says they must pay. The youths however said the their area pays N120m every month without seeing power. Now, the PHED got tired and disconnected power to the area, after about two months, the youths allegedly invaded the place and forced a shutdown.

Whereas PHED accuses the youths of Oyigbo of invading the plant and forcing a shutdown, the lawmaker representing the area in the Rivers State House of Assembly has come out debunking the statement, saying it was pure lie.

PHED’s Chioma Aninwe issued a statement Sunday morning announcing the situation, saying the Disco received a disturbing report at about 9pm Saturday night of some group of persons known as Oyigbo Youth that had shut down Afam transmission lines thereby throwing the entire Rivers State into darkness.

Aninwe said the youth in their erroneous belief took laws into their hands and marched in their numbers to the transmission station, allegedly forcing the operators to shut down supply without observing safety measures.

PHED recalled how it had held several meetings with the leadership of Oyigbo youth body enlightening the community on load allocation formula from the national grid and the need for PHED to apply systematic load shedding in order to accommodate all its customers as mandated by the National Electricity Regulation Council (NERC). “All these attempts have proved futile as Oyigbo youth insisted on a 24-hour supply, a situation that negates the effort of PHED in ensuring equitable distribution of supply to its numerous customers.”

She went on: “Added to this is the worsening situation of non-payment of electricity bill by the community with the majority seeing electricity as a social service. As at July 2020, the debt profile in Afam Community owes PHED over billions of naira since inception.

“The PHED condemns in its entirety, and hereby, draws the attention of the law enforcement agencies in particular and the Rivers State government to come to the aid of PHED and the good people of the state and to intervene and put a final stop to this frequent disruption of power distribution to customers at the slightest power challenge in the State.”

Reacting, oyigbo community through their lawmaker in the Rivers state House of Assembly, Promise Nwankwo, dismissed claim by the claims by PHED. He described the claim as false and misrepresentation of fact and advised the public to disregard claims.

The lawmaker said the people of Oyigbo were peace-loving and would not indulge in such an act. He however did not say what shut down the Afam plant and if his people were paying electricity bills. There has been no word from the Rivers State government.

The youth leader who gave his name as light Nwankwo, said the action of the PHED by publishing details of the invasion had rather worsened the situation. There have however been calls for the youths to use dialogue in pressing their needs.

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