Hundreds of coffin-carrying youths from Umueledi Village in Old Umuahia, Umuahia South LGA of Abia State on Tuesday protested Afor Ibeji Market in Old Umuahia against the criminally and unwarranted estimation of monthly bills by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) on their community.
The placards-carrying youths, who expressed disgust over the incident, accused the electricity body of billing each household in the area as much as N35,000, saying that the annoying issue om the matter is that any house that fails to pay two days after the release of the bill, the EEDC officials will promptly disconnect the house.
The youths, in the bid to openly display their anger, organised a ‘funeral ceremony’ for the power company; showcasing a coffin used in burying ‘the EEDC’ at the Afor Ibeji Market axis of the Umuahia-Ubakala road.
Led by the chairman Umueledi Village Council, Mr Stanley Onyemachi, the elders and youths of the community gathered in a canopy mounted at the entrance to the community with the coffin and palm fronds (Omu) as their symbol of protest.
Onyemachi, told the Witness that the community decided to take the action after going through the Act establishing NERC, which according to him, gives Nigerian citizens the rights to protest over bloated bills.
“I knew what my people are supposed to do. So I say no to what they (EEDC) is doing, the billing is outrageous and unacceptable. At this difficult time, the EEDC is giving us outrageous bills.
“Imagine a one room shop getting a bill of N30,000 monthly. Over N40,000 for residential buildings. Where would the poor villagers get the money to pay and where would he or her earn that amount?
“We have reported this matter severally to EEDC, Zone 9 of the Nigeria Police Force, the Commissioner Police, Abia State Command and to the NERC, but nothing has been done to stop the crazy billing. What do they want us to do, to stay in darkness? He asked rhetorically.
The community leader explained that since the efforts they made did not yield any positive result as the company continued with the estimated and unrealistic billing, the youths had no alternative than to embark on the funeral protest.
“They disconnected us for six weeks and we decided not to fight them as law abiding citizens. We now took the matter to our ancestors in line with our tradition.
“But two days ago they came to disconnect us again. We will continue to resist them peacefully and legally until they revert to the capping order of NERC,” he said.
In her comment, a woman who fries akara there (bean cake) and who refused to give her name, stated that the electricity company was doing this even when the community has stayed in darkness for over six weeks.
“What the youths are doing today is to appeal to our ancestors to come to our rescue. Could you imagine that I was billed N37,000 in my one room? They don’t come to read the metre, what they do is stay in their offices and give craze bills, “she added.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.