ELECTRICITY SUPPLY: ORO NATION GROANS IN UTTER DARKNESS WHILE PHEDC SMILES TO THE BANK.

Residents and natives of Oro Nation(Mbo, Okobo, Oron, Udung Uko and Urueoffong/ Oruko Local Government Areas) of Akwa Ibom State are presently living with the agony of near total absence of electricity supply and payment of high bills while the rest of the state enjoys improved supply.

On 27th November, 2017, a youths leader in the area, Mr Samuel Duncan took to his facebook wall to lament how Oro people pay for light every month without enjoying the service they pay for. The post states:

“The light situation in Oro is terribly sad. We must have light for at least 15 days in a month before we pay. Stop paying for darkness”

The post elicited several comments from residents of the area who corroborated the harrowing experience of paying bills to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company( PHEDC) without enjoying anything near commensurate power supply.

“Imagine those touts extorting money from people in the name of bills. They seem not to understand the word “bills” which simply means money for something you have used”.One of the Commentators, Mr Effiong Matthew queried.

“What’s the way out of this mess. I’m tired of paying for darkness”. Another commentator, Doris Franco fumed.

Speaking with this Reporter on the phone, a community leader and Abuja based Publisher, Chief Windy Isong lamented the poor power situation in Oro Nation. According to him, power supply is a very rare occurrence in the area even when residents pay exorbitant bills to the Distribution Company. He frowned at a situation where poor people were made to pay for a service they rarely enjoy. He added that the refusal of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company( PHEDC) to supply prepaid metres to consumers in line with the directive of the federal government has created room for the company to impose arbitrary and fraudulent charges on the people in the face of non existent or annoyingly poor service.

He explained that staying in his house in Oron town for one month exerted heavily on his purse as a result of high expenditure on fuel in addition to bills paid to PHEDC for light that is rarely enjoyed. He said it was cruel of the company to expect people to spend so much on fuel and pay such bills to them at the same time. He warned PHEDC to desist from defrauding the people while calling on government to take urgent steps to address the pathetic situation. He opined that PHEDC should stop extorting money from the people if it cannot supply commensurate amount of power to their homes, offices and shops.

While adding his voice to this knotty issue on Mr Duncan’s facebook wall, Mr E-ssenz Sambaz Samuel made an attempt to proffer solution thus:

“The light/billing issue in Oro is a matter of concern but then the truth be told. The solution is staring us at the face but nobody is concerned about it. Somebody should please tell our leaders to bring a 132 KV Transmission Station to Oron and your light situation is buried for life. Even if PHEDC wills out 24 hrs supply to Oron, one way or the other, the supply will be suspended and disrupted along the line (Eket- Oron Road) due to unhealthy lengthy 33 KV Line…” “Let’s stand up and fight for dedicated 132 Transmission Station in Oro” He concluded.

In fact, most of the facebook commentators advocate a protest against PHEDC.

Upon investigation, this Reporter identified two major problems associated with power supply and consumption in Oro Nation as highlighted by Mr Samuel Duncan in his post and corroborated by all the Respondents. First, there’s hardly anything called electricity supply in Oro Nation.

Secondly, despite the marauding darkness, PHEDC still heartlessly charges the deprived consumers probably higher than those who enjoy a fairly steady and predictable supply in other parts of the State.

Further investigations reveal that the entire Oro area is fed by the Transmission Station located in Eket. Sadly, it is the longest 33 KVA network in Akwa Ibom State and may be Nigeria. This unusually long transmission line spans Eket, Nsit Ubium, Esit Eket, Mbo, Urueoffong/ Oruko, Okobo and Udung Uko Local Government Government Areas. Since the transmission in Eket has not been expanded to accommodate the loads in the afore-mentioned areas coupled with the unhealthy length of the line, network would always trip on “Earth Fault at closure”. It’s so bad that the entire Oro Nation is allocated a paltry 5 hours power supply daily. And many times, residents neither experience nor expect power supply for days and even weeks.

According to a reliable and competent source who corroborated Mr E-ssenz Sambaz Samuel’s submission, the poor power situation in Oro Nation cannot be solved unless government builds a 132/33 KVA Transmission Station in Oron town with 2×15 MVA Injection Substations in each of Okobo, Urueoffong/ Oruko, Mbo and Udung Uko Local Government Areas while the existing 1×7.5 MVA substation in Oron town should be upgraded to at least 2×7.5 MVA.

INVOLVEMENT OF THE AKWA IBOM STATE GOVERNMENT.
Our source said the government of Deacon Udom Emmanuel goofed by building a transmission station in Ekparakwa ostensibly to feed the envisaged industries in Onna and Mkpat Enin Local Government Areas while the whole of the Oro area is completely neglected. He opined that all the Governor needed to do was to build a dedicated 33 KVA feeder from the Eket substation to Onna while a new substation built in Oron would have relieved the one in Eket which would then be available to feed Onna and Mkpat Enin.

GOVERNMENT’S POWER PROJECTS AND IBAKA DEEP SEAPORT.
Our source added that nothing confirms the unwillingness of the Udom Emmanuel administration to undertake the proposed Ibaka Deep Seaport project like its skewed power and road projects. On power, he stated that there was no way the Governor would be building a transmission station in far away Ekparakwa while Mbo or Oron is left bare if at all there was any plan to build a Seaport and Industrial City or even site any reasonable industrial concern in the area in the foreseeable future. He noted that the seaport/industrial city project cannot even be contemplated without a transmission station in Oron or Mbo Local Government Area.

THE WAY FORWARD.
Since the problem is largely that of transmission which is within the purview of the federal government, the onus is on our federal legislators to take up the issue with the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing. They owe the people this duty. If nobody at that level talks about such a weighty and economically important issue, solution may not be in sight. Our people will continue to grope in darkness while poverty resulting from failing or struggling businesses reign supreme.

Moreso, since there can be no industrialisation without adequate power supply, the Akwa Ibom State Government shouldn’t wait for the federal government if Oro Nation has any place in its much publicized industrialisation agenda,unless the seaport and industrial city projects are mere gimmicks as many believe. Afterall, the same state government is building a transmission station in Ekparakwa. “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”.

While the issue of transmission is being sorted out by relevant authorities, there’s need for PHEDC to desist from fraudulent and arbitrary billing of already cheated consumers. People shouldn’t be made to pay for what they don’t enjoy. The Company should make the prepaid metres available to every consumer in line with the directive of government or suspend further billing until that is done.

Oro Nation deserves power supply like the rest of the state. Is it a coincidence that we trail behind other parts of the state in politics,road infrastructure, number and quality of schools, economic activities(despite huge potentials), number of state enabled rich men and now power supply?

By Omen Bassey.

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