It was a rainy Wednesday morning when Paul, a 37-year-old welder in Makurdi, Benue State, had just resumed work at his workshop only to be greeted by the staff of the Jos Electricity Distribution Company Plc (JED) who had come to disconnect his power connection without prior notice.
Paul Agana, who had paid 5000 Naira from the energy charge for the month, said he pleaded passionately with the JED’s staff but all was abortive.
“Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it has been difficult to operate maximally. On that fateful morning they came to disconnect my electricity, even though I had paid some amount before then,” Agana said.
“They argued that the money was not enough so we ran into an argument in my shop, they later disconnected the electricity and left me with no option than to close down my business.”
Paul lamented that there has never been due process in regards to disconnection and that the last activity of the JED staff every month was sharing of bills after which they come for disconnection. Unfortunately, every time they troop into the neighborhood to disconnect electricity, there has never been a prior notice as demanded by law.
Section five of the regulations on Connection and Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services mandates the electricity distribution companies to formally notify a customer their intention to disconnect his electricity.
The only instance the distribution companies can disconnect electricity without prior notice is where the consumers are connected to the power source illegally or if such connection is hazardous to the system.
“We are unambiguous in our directives that the distribution companies should observe laid down procedures in disconnecting electricity customers,” said Dr. Anthony Akah.
“This directive which is in line with our subsisting regulation does not negate the ongoing disconnection of chronic electricity debtors by electricity distribution companies.”
Mr. John Agber, 48, a public servant, was away when JED staff went home and disconnected his electricity. He revealed that he was not given a bill for August before they came for disconnection which caused total blackout in his home every night.
One evening, aided by the darkness, some thieves raided his house and stole his home theater 32-inch television. During the raid, he said he was away in the hospital tendering to his sick wife and his aged mother was the only one at home.
“When I interacted with the marketing manager of JED he told me their marketers always look for money so they decide to disconnect anytime anyone defaults,” Agber said.
The importance of electricity in a developing nation such as Nigeria cuts across different sectors, but the illegal disconnection activities of the staff of JED have affected everyone, even the students who depend on the public power supply to charge their phones, laptops and reading rechargeable lamps.
Ayebe David 24, a 300-level student of Mass Communication at Benue State University revealed that staying off campus has been challenging, especially due to the disconnection of power in his hostel without prior notice.
“They had never issued a notification for disconnection. All they did was to come for disconnection activities in my residence,” said David. “Though we failed to pay as at when due, a formal notification was never issued to us for disconnection.”