By Mabamije Balogun/Apumami Erhuvwu
There was gridlock at the Ughelli axis of the East/West Road as protesters from Agbarha-Otor community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State barricaded the road over alleged neglect by the management of Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC that has put the community in total blackout for over two years.
The placards and leaves carrying protesters with inscriptions, ‘Our children are suffering’, ‘Delta state government, we need your immediate intervention’, ‘DESOPADEC please don’t forget that we need light’, ‘It is outright wickedness for all to keep mute’, ‘Agbarha-Otor has the largest Oil Manifold in Africa producing oil but we don’t have light’, alleged that BEDC has intentionally kept the community in darkness for the past two years.
Speaking to newsmen, the Coordinator, Concerned Indigenes of Agbarha-Otor, Mr Emmanuel Aregbor said, “For over two years now, BEDC has put the entire community in total darkness and we are appealing to the government to urgently come to the aid of the community because economic activities have crumbled in the area.
“Agbarha-Otor has the largest Oil Manifold in West Africa that produces thousands barrel of oil on a daily basis that feed the nation but it is very surprising that the community did not have light for over 26 months now.” Aregbor said.
According to Aregbor, the leadership of the community has made several appeals to BEDC to restore light but the company has refused us light for no just cause, hence this peaceful protest to draw the attention of the necessary authorities.
Also speaking, an indigene of Agbarha-Otor named Lucky Oborayiruvbe said that, “What is happening to our people in Agbarha-Otor is nothing but pure wickedness. If Agbarha-Otor could have 40 Oil wells that produce over 11,000 barrels of oil on daily basis and with the dollar rate, the community is contributing over N9b to the federal purse daily. What stops the community from getting light?
“Agbarha has the biggest oil manifold in West Africa which everybody can attest to, we have people representing us at State and National House of Assembly and nobody is looking into our condition, during election periods they came and promised us that they will give us light but immediately they were voted in, they forget their campaign promises.
“The 13 percent derivation given to states by the federal government is as a result of what our producing communities produce and Agbarha-Otor is among the communities. In the community we pay the light bill as when due but when the 33kva we had got damaged; the company would tell us to replace it with our money or we should call on the government to replace it for us.”
Two women, Mrs Rebecca Udi and Mrs Eda who led the women protest disclosed that economic activities in the community is nothing to write home about because BEDC has decided to put them in total darkness, vowing not stop the protest unless light is restored to the community.
Earlier, the duo of Mr Henry Esosuota and Mrs Ejovwoke condemn the attitude of management of BEDC for keeping deaf ears to their cries, adding that they spent over four-eight thousand naira on weekly basis to run their business.
However, the protest turned violence when a policewoman who attempted to teargas the protesters, was reportedly attacked by the angry protesters.
However, efforts to speak with the spokesperson of the BEDC in the area for official reaction proved abortive as her phone was said to be switched off.
In a related development, residents of Afiesere community also in Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state have condemned the Bulk Billing System introduced by BEDC where a prepaid meter is attached to all the transformers in the community.
According to them, it was wicked on the part of BEDC to insist on the Bulk Billing System instead of providing prepaid meter for individuals, stressing that it was difficult to access individual consumption and collection of the light bills.
They appealed to the state government to prevail on BEDC to as a matter of urgency provide prepaid meter for individuals living in the community to avoid disruption of law and order in the community.
It could be recalled that Afiesere community, a major oil producing community in the country has been in darkness for the past three years