By Thompson ABISOLA
No fewer than 444 communities, spread across the 18 Local Government Areas of Edo are without electricity, Mr Yekini Idaiye, the State Commissioner for Energy and Water Resources says.
Idaye made the disclosure in Benin on Saturday. He said from the figure, 157 communities were yet to be connected to the national grid.
The commissioner explained that about 32 of the communities were disconnected by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), while 145 communities had faulty transformers.
Idaiye, in addition, said another 110 communities required network rehabilitation.
While expressing the government commitment to ensure every communities in the state is electrified, he stated that Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode and Ovia North East council areas, as the worst hit.
“Indeed, the government is very much worried with this development and has taken a position by setting up “Ward Development Committees” whose mandate is to identify the problem being faced by the communities.
“The committee which is made up of 10 persons per ward also has the mandate of identifying the priority needs of a particular community or ward.
Idaiye said members of the ward committees were drawn from the traditional and religious leaders as well as politicians.
“As you may have rightly guessed, electricity which happens to be one of the priority needs, is been accorded a priority by the state government,” he said.
Idaiye noted that the challenges are age-long and regretted that the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), have failed to be alive to its responsibility in ensuring an effective power supply.
According to him, the BEDC is not helping matter, it is their statutory responsibility to provide electricity and they are not meeting up with this responsibility.
“We have met severally on this issue, yet they are not forthcoming, he said.
In a swift reaction, the BEDC denied ever disconnecting any community in the state and expressed doubt that over 440 communities were without electricity in Edo State.
The Company’s Chief State Head, Mr Fidelis Obishai, said issues of decaying infrastructure are age-long and was inherited by the utility company.
He stated that the BEDC which had since taken over the asset and liability of the defunct PHCN in November 2013, had carried out, and still carrying out, network rehabilitation as well as changed no fewer than 150 transformers in Edo alone.
“To start with, I do not quite agree with the number of communities, the question is, how many communities do you have in Edo that you will have such a figure without electricity?
“On this issue of disconnecting some communities and those with faulty transformers, we do not just go about disconnecting people or communities, rather, they naturally disconnect themselves.
“BEDC is a business entity and a situation where you are owing and you refuse to pay, when you have issue and you come to us we ask you to pay and if you still refuse, we don’t attend to such problems.
“Look at the case of Okpella, where they are refusing to pay and still beating up our staff. What we did was that we simply withdrew our services by not attending to faults from such area, and not disconnection as alleged.
“Since we took over the utility, BEDC has invested a lot to improve on the infrastructure we met on ground, it is an ongoing thing.” he stated.