From Jefferson Ibiwale, Benin
Civil society groups led residents of Edo State staged a peaceful walk Monday to protest the collection of N750 from electricity consumers by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BDISCO.
They alleged that the sum demanded monthly by the distribution company, which is a fixed charge whether or not they consumed electricity, was extortionary and illegal.
Several hundreds of people including traders, landords, tenants, students and lawmakers joined in the march to the State House of Assembly and the King square, grounding activities in the city’s centre.
Coordinator of the group, Kaduna Eboigbodin, said rhe charges were exploitative and should be stopped, vowing to make the protest a daily affair until their demand is met.
Another leader of the protest, Olu Martins, a clergyman, said among other illegal charges, some of the protesters paid for prepaid meters but have not received them and that in spite of the levies, power is not available to consumers.
The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Uyigue Igbe, while addressing the protesters, said he had met with the BDISCO in December 2013 to discuss how power will be improved across the state and urged citizens of the state to exercise patience.
He assured them that the Assembly would swing into action regarding their complaints and ensure that the issues raised are addressed.
But reacting to the planned protest last weekend, the managing director and chief executive of BDISCO, Funke Osibodu, said the N750 fixed charge represents the capacity charge on customers for power supplied by power generating and transmission firms to the distribution firm.
She said it is not a Benin DISCO issue adding, “it has been on before now, it is not new; it used to be N500 and was increased to N750.”
Osibodu added that the charge will be increased to N1, 500 by middle of the year.