Traders at the UTC market in Area 10, FCT on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the headquarters of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) over incessant power outage in the market.
The traders numbering more 100, comprised elderly men, women and youths from the market besieged the headquarters of AEDC to also register their grievances over the non provision of prepaid meters for the 470 shops in the market.
The traders also accused AEDC officials, Garki branch of constant power outages in the market and outrageous bills emanating from the one Maximum Demand Meter (MD) installed in the market.
According to the traders, the MD meter that serves the 470 shops is programmed to exploit the traders through outrageous billing.
The protesters, who were carrying placards with different inscriptions which read; “AEDC give each shop prepaid meters, we are tired of MD meter.
“We are tired of constant power outages, the bill is high, “give us our meters’’, among other inscriptions vented their anger through a song: “all we are saying, give us meters.’’
Some of the traders said they had over the years grappled with challenges of limited supply, outright non-supply, and outrageous billings, among others.
They said the non provision of individual meters for the shops and recurring power outages were inhibiting economic activities as the traders now resort to constant use of generators in the market.
The traders said the persistent power outages without a corresponding reduction in electricity bill were worrisome and inhuman.
They also decried the non response of AEDC over several complaints by the traders in spite of repeated calls from the Federal Government that DisCos should improve their communication network to attend to customers complaints .
The Vice-Chairman,of UTC Traders Association Mr Adewale Lawal said the traders had repeatedly made calls for provision of individual meters for the shops and for improved electricity supply to the market.
He said AEDC had refused to respond to demand of the traders.
“About two years ago, we owed them about N8 million and by God’s grace we have paid some of the money and the balance left is about N2 million.
“Since that time, we have been appealing to them to give us individual prepaid meters, so we can bear the cost of electricity usage individually, but AEDC refused.
“Last year, we wrote a letter to their Managing Director and we had several meetings with him, and he approved that we should be provided with prepaid meters but their office in Garki refused to give us meters.
“Currently, the bill they are giving us is too much, we requested for prepaid meters for each shop, we are ready to buy meters, so that we can regulate what we use if there is no light.
“Our protest is for AEDC to give us meters for individual shops, so that we can monitor what we consume.
“We normally open our shops by 7:30 a.m and close by 6 p.m., but they normally bring the light by 5:30 p.m when we are about leaving the shop.
“At the end of the month, they come with huge bill that will be shared by everybody, at times we will be out of light for two weeks.
“The bill they are bringing is very high, at times N3.8 million, the present bill is N4.2 million for one month for the entire market.
“We have 472 shops in the UTC complex and some shops do not have electricity.
“We are calling on AEDC to provide each shop with prepaid meters and we are ready to buy.’’
Mr Ndibushi Okadigbo, a trader in the market said they are concerned because they had not been treated fairly by AEDC on electricity supply.
“AEDC is over billing us, although we owed them around N8 million, though we have paid some reasonable amount and the balance left is around N2 million.
“We told AEDC to give us prepaid meters like it provided to other plazas. We told them if there is any money we are still owe, they should deduct it as we recharge for electricity individually.
“We wrote to them, appealled to them to give us prepaid meters but AEDC refused, so the only option left to us is protest.’’
He said the MD meter installed in the entire plaza was programmed to exploit customer.
“When the meter was installed, it was reading about N800, 000 to N900, 000 electricity wage, but suddenly we began to have a bill of around N4.2 million.
“We have been neglected by AEDC, because they see us as traders hence they took us for granted, no, it should not be so, that is why we have embarked on a peaceful protest to demand our right.’’
Addressing the protesters, the Director, Corporate Service of AEDC, Mr Abimbola Odubiyi said: “we know that we have not met your expectations concerning metering, but on the issue of meter what we have now is the MAP scheme and you will get your meters when you pay.
“I need the list of all those who has their money now, let s have your names and we will direct you to where you can go and pay to the account of the meter providers and you get the meters.’’
Odubiyi, who was not allowed to speak further as a result of the reverberations from songs by the protesters left for his office.
The News Agency of Nigeria gathered that some officials of the market association were called inside AEDC’s office for a meeting.
NAN, however, reports that the unpleasant situation being experienced by the UTC traders was not different from what electricity consumers were experiencing in some parts of AEDC’s franchise areas.
Electricity end users have had to grapple with the challenge of recurrent power outages and high billing.
According to NAN checks, in some quarters, constant electricity supply in some AEDC’s coverage areas is hinged on the ability of the customers within a cluster zone to negotiate with the company, a development many view as unpleasant.
AEDC had recently inaugurated the sale and installation of 900,000 meters in its coverage areas under the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) programme of the Federal Government.
Edited by Ese E. Ekama