DISCOs to Buhari: Stop Soldiers’ Brutality against Electricity Workers

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Sunday Oduntan

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The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors appeals to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to restrain soldiers from brutalising electricity workers who are performing their legitimate duty

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun 6, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE Nigerian armed forces are taking the laws into their hands to prevent the electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, from carrying out their threat to disconnect them because they failed to pay their bills. Soldiers are now brutalising the electricity workers because the Discos are now carrying out their threat under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, ANED, to disconnect government ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, because their indebtedness is affecting their job.

In order to end the brutality, the ANED is requesting President Muhammadu Buhari to call the military to order, saying the assault on the workers was the height of impunity by soldiers. Sunday Oduntan, executive director, ANED, told journalists in Lagos, that soldiers had been beating up electricity workers carrying out their legitimate duties for a number of years, without any action against such erring soldiers by the military authorities.

Calling on Buhari to restrain the soldiers, Odutan said: “You can’t continue to run a country, where soldiers will be beating our staff when we are only asking them to pay their bills.”

The distribution companies have continued to receive insults and beating while they are not responsible for the poor power supply in the country, he said, adding: “We are the one that give you bill. We are the one to collect money from you. We are the one you will insult; we are the one you will beat. This morning, one of our staff, Abdulahi Mohammed in Zamfara State, around 10.0am this morning, was beaten up by soldiers.

“As usual with their impunity, soldiers from 1 Base Ammunition Depot in Gusau, Zamfara State, beat up the guy this morning because the guy went to disconnect them for not paying their electricity bill for over two years. That is the kind of problem we are facing in the sector. You cannot continue to beat our staff and say that you can get away with anything.”

Oduntan also alleged that a serving army major had led a group of soldiers from Alamala Barracks under 35 Artillery Brigade Headquarters in Abeokuta, to attack the workers under Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company. “Under Ibadan Disco, there is a place in Abeokuta called Alamala Barracks. Some soldiers led by a major from Alamala Barracks went to a place called Rounda and beat up one of our distribution staff. I have the picture of the man with serious injuries. Up till today, nothing has been done by the military. We call on the federal government, particularly, the president, who is a retired general himself, to call his boys to order.”

The DISCOs recently commenced a mass disconnection of legacy debtors to protest the huge unpaid electricity bills by this class of consumers. The ANED had revealed that government establishments, including the military and security agencies alone, owed the Discos some N93 billion.

The figure, it said, comprised N39.1 billion pre-privatisation of electricity assets and N39.5 post-privatisations. Also thrown into the debt calculation is the outstanding interest of N15 billion, which the Bulk Trader charges DISCOs for late payment of their electricity bills, which was worsened by the non-settlement of electricity bills by consumers as and when due.

Oduntan had argued that his member-companies had to carry out its threat when it became obvious that there was nothing on the table. “Although we appreciate the efforts of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, but the stark reality is that there is nothing concrete to hold on to.

“There is no provision for MDAs’ debts to Discos in the budget, even though we started discussions before the budget was passed. The indebtedness has become so huge that we are truly troubled about how the government would resolve this without a budgetary allocation.” Oduntan, however, made it clear that the current mass disconnection protest embarked upon by Discos was not an exercise targeted at MDAs, but all legacy debtors.

Figures from the Discos have shown that as at April 31, 2016, the various MDAs of the federal and state governments still owed them a total of N78, 676,366,684.22. Also, on this inglorious list of debtors to the Discos are the various military and paramilitary formations, as well as the Nigerian Police stations scattered across the country which actually owes a larger chunk of the debt of N50, 048, 702, 696.3 or 64 percent.

The breakdown of the debts owed by the military, police and paramilitary formations to the Discos include:

DISCOs Military Police Paramilitary formations
ABUJA N3,805,039,794.87 N371,945,359.84 N11,800,433.36
BENIN N1,837,363,099.47 N120,721,997.61 N2,713,562.91
EKO N3,689,271,605.46 N158,315,423.73 N4,558,968.69
ENUGU N897,346,450.10 N73,865,841.93 N34,826,750.72
IBADAN N2,527,003,645.51 N168,373,253.80 N7,581,718.90
IKEJA N2,781,453,670.00 N648,224,118.00
JOS N1,623,369,157.17 N649,243,065.99 N11,038,786.04
KADUNA N2,053,947,838.95 N144,782,630.10 N22,835,595.16
KANO N619,847,824.60 N36,720,871.72
PORT HARCOURT N1,710,382,864.36 N72,780,889.47 N11,931,786.31
YOLA N935,990,027.02 N167,970,684.54

They all summed up to the outstanding N50, 048, 702, 696.3. Other federal, states and local governments MDAs also owe the Discos -N4,909,382,489.92; N700,831,976.07 and N574,296,266.39, while the Prisons, Customs and Immigration owe the Discos N533,600,628.01; N207,621,125.66 and N23,430,265.71, respectively.

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