By Cyril Ogar
Angwan Sarki, a community in the heart of Orozo – an outskirt of Abuja – is in the pouch of darkness. The community which lacks every shade of “living ease” mocks the vulgarity and opulence of the federal capital territory (FCT). A visible irritation – the road within the forlorn place – is snaky, jagged and “troublesome”.
Despite being within the orbit of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), the place is anything but municipal. Orozo shares an umbilical cord with Jikwoyi and Karshi – places where civil servants, who earn a meager income, are sentenced to buy property. Our reporter took a trip to Angwan Sarki following complaints by residents who have endured nights – for three months – without electricity. Although, there is no serious commercial activity in the community – the place holds thousands of people – whose power supply has been cut off by the sheer machination of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC).
The offence of the residents is their refusal to continue to bear the burden of charges from the estimated billing plan, which is an indiscriminate billing system for unmetered electricity consumers who usually pay more for what they consume or not consume.
According to a 2016 metering statistics released by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), 2.9 million verified electricity consumers out of six million do not have meters – a far cry from reality. There are 700,000 verified electricity consumers in the FCT, Nasarawa, Niger, and Kogi – a figure given to TheCable by AEDC. A large mass of this number is unmetered.
The estimated billing methodology has been criticised by Nigerians, but despite promises of making meters available to electricity consumers, DisCos have maintained the status quo because it benefits them.
Musa Adogo, village head of Orozo, nestles in red-cotton chair and flanked by guests at his palace. He is giddy when I broached the subject of my “intrusion” with him. He believes it is a way to reach the authorities and to eventually “light up” Angwan Sarki again. He explains that some officials of AEDC came to the community one day (in April) and cut off its power source for failing to pay electricity charges, which he said were high and indiscriminate.
“We know some residents owe electricity charges, that was why we had a meeting with (AEDC) officials and we asked residents to pay at least 30 percent of their bills so they could have power. But this agreement was not honoured. After three weeks they (AEDC) came to cut off the power system. They bring bills for electricity we did not consume. How is this done? There is no light in Angwan Sarki for three months, but if you go to other parts of Orozo there is light. The people are saying they do not want high bills for electricity they did not consume anymore.
“They promised us meters but we have not seen any. I believe metering this community will solve this problem. Though some residents have meters, they are now in blackout because AEDC cut them off as well.
“The allegation that officials of (AEDC) were beaten by residents is false. That has never happened. One person has not been arrested. I have asked them to produce those officials that were beaten, but they have not done so.”
Adog added he was a metered electricity consumer, but that he has been forced to endure nights without power for three months.
Hanson Akanemo, a civil servant and president of Angwan Sarki landlords, says electricity has been a throttling problem since he moved into the community.
“I came into this community 10 years ago. And the issue we have been having is that of power. Some people are bent on sabotaging the effort of the government. We the residents have been paying for darkness,” he says.
“The problem here is that power officials (AEDC) come here and cut off the ‘light’, and expect us to pay. That has been the problem. You have seen the injustice in this community. You are a voice to us. We are in darkness. We are not asking for too much.”
Shedrach Yusuf, a resident, told our reporter who says he has been paying his bills, even though they are high. He says the problem is that there is usually no electricity.
“I do not have meter. I am under the estimated billing plan, and I pay N8,000 every month. What appliances do I have? TV, fan and bulbs,” he says.
“I pay my bills, but the problem is that there is no ‘light’. I would like to have a prepaid meter. We have been having meetings with them (AEDC) and they promised to give us meters, but that has not happened. They (AEDC) say we should pay N45,000 each.”
Nelson Adeola, another resident, says the electricity problem in the community started since AEDC took responsibility of power distribution in the FCT.