Youths of Itu local government area of Akwa Ibom State, on Thursday barricaded the offices of Portharcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) in Uyo with a mock coffin over alleged epileptic power supply and high tariff.
Sources from the PHED Uyo, said the total blackout witnessed in Akwa Ibom was as a result of the protest since the company was forcefully shut down.
According to the youth leader of Itu, Ubong Akpan, who led the protest “We are against estimated bills and we want them to restore the light to what it used to be before now.
“We can’t imagine how we can have two power stations in Itu local government area, and we have not been having light for months.
“PHED has not been treating us well, even when we pay our bills regularly. We need prepaid metres, so that we can also enjoy like customers in other cities. The government should look into the activities of PHEDC in Akwa Ibom State.”
Another youth leader, Idongesit Okon said, “We are giving them three days, and if they don’t restore our light, we will protest till they bring us light. We have suffered enough in their hands.
“There’s enough energy in the system, so they should not say it was lack of energy. We have enough energy, they have been taking our energy to go and sell to other places.”
In a swift reaction, the manager corporate communication of PHED, John Onyi said the state had been thrown into unwarranted darkness due to the activities of Itam Youth Forum.
The statement he sent to journalists in Uyo reads in parts, “The forced outage is sequel to the action of the Youth Development Forum under the leadership of Obong Ubong Akpan, who early this morning barricaded the Transmission Station, located at Itu close to the state capital, thereby forcing the station to shut down supply forcefully.
“In addition, the same group later moved to PHED office at 4-Lane with a coffin, a show of shame championed by its leader, dropped the said coffin at the entrance of the office, scared customers away, thereby leading to operations blockade of the company.
“The action of the Youth has therefore, led to inability of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, to wheel out power to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company for onward distribution to its valued customers in Akwa Ibom state.
“Also, the economic activities of the entire state have been brought to a halt as a result of the sacking of TCN’s officials on duty by the irate youth.”
Onyii alleged that the protest was selfishly and secretly sponsored by Ubong Akpan whose repeated demand to carry out an enumeration contract worth N6, 660,000.00 on behalf of PHED in his community, Itu, comprising 79 villages was not honoured.
“Of course the management did not succumb to his hate speech and blackmail, hence, he now organized and misled unsuspecting members of his group in order to achieve his self-aggrandizement which he purportedly hinged on poor supply to his community-Itu.
“He also submitted a proposal to PHED for sensitization in his community amounting to N731, 200.00 which was declined for lack of merit since there is an in-house department responsible for publicity,” he said.
He further said, “PHED cannot be intimidated or coerced into doing the biddings of “A self-acclaimed-messiah” as we have the mandate of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to distribute power supply to our customers including Itu community in our franchise area.
“We, therefore, call on the relevant government functionaries especially the security agencies to step in and advise Ubong Akpan and his group to vacate the premises of the TCN and remove their coffin from PHED’s office in Uyo with a view to wheeling out supply to PHED customers.”