Exclusive: Ikeja Electricity chock consumers, imposes new levies on pre-paid meter users
By Kazeem Abiola
Many pre-paid users are groaning under new unexplained levies imposed on electricity pre-paid users in the Lagos area, investigations by our correspondents have revealed.
According to findings, thousands of pre-paid meter users are finding it difficult to recharge their meters due to the dubious levies imposed on them by the management of Ikeja Electricity Ltd.
“I obtained pre-paid meter six years ago. For the past one month, I have not been able to recharge my meter. I went to their offices to complain. I was told I had outstanding bill to the tune of N60,000. I was told unless I pay the outstanding, I would not be able to recharge,” Mr Solomon Amaechi who lives at Ikeja told our correspondent this weekend. He said he obtained the meter after paying N100,000 without receipts to Ikeja Electricity officials and that since then he had been using the meter by recharging every month until the new bill was introduced. He said recently, he could not recharge as the front officer at one of their offices told him he was indebted to the tune of N60,000.
According to Mohammed Onalo, who lives at Ketu area of Lagos, he received his prepaid meter 15 months ago and has been reloading monthly until last week.
“I wanted to recharge. I was told I could not, that I was owing N80,000. The funny thing was that I left in anger. I went back three days later. I was told I was indebted to the tune of N25,000. I went there again the second day, I was told my debt was N46,000. From that experience, I knew it was all a fraudulent plot to defraud many people in their domain,”Onalo said.
He told our correspondent that he met many people at the offices of Ikeja Electricity with the same problem. “There was a heavily pregnant woman who stood there begging them for more than three hours. They told her she had a debt of N40,000 on her meter. She has been using the same meter for five years. She could not explain how Ikeja Electricity came about the debt. The company also could not explain. She has no generator at home. She needs electricity for her fan, because of heat, but they told her she had to pay the debt. The woman also had lost her job and had no money”, Onalo said
At the Ikeja office of the company, our correspondent spoke to more than ten clients complaining of the same problem. One of the people interviewed said she ran a private hospital and had obtained the pre-paid meter four years ago after being asked to pay N100,000. She said suddenly, she could not recharge and was told of a certain debt to the tune of N150,000.
“I run a life-saving institution. I perform operation here. I need to be on electricity 24 hours. I cannot run generator for 24 hours. Apart from the cost, the noise is not good for some of my patients. I have been visiting here for one week. I don’t know where they got the debt from. Nobody wants to explain. They just want me to pay the N150,000 before I can recharge,” the medical doctor told our correspondent. She said when people complain about bad governance, it is not only about the policies of the government alone but more importantly the actions and policies of socio-economic institutions that have public impact and how the government responds in terms of defending the rights of the people.
“The company appears to see a country where they can do anything and get away with it. This is impunity of the highest order and a deliberate ploy to instigate the people against the government of the day,” she said adding that electricity users in Ikeja are suffering under the yoke of ‘incompetence and a criminal enterprise called Ikeja Electricity.”
Some of the people who spoke to our correspondent said they were informed by competent sources that the fraud has the backing of top management of the company. “What they do is that one of the departments look at the accounts of those who re-charge their meters frequently. They simply impose the bills suspecting that many of them could not do without electricity and would be compelled to pay the levy”, a source said.
The source said, ‘This is a real problem. Nobody to help Nigerians. Many are already complying and the company is raking huge funds from this fraudulent practice.’ Comrade Akintude Alo, a member of the Civil Liberties Organisation, (CLO) said the organization has received thousands of complaints about the company. He said the Civil Liberties Organisation, (CLO) is working with other human rights organisations to launch local and global campaigns against the Ikeja Electricity adding that the network of civil rights movements, through intensive campaigns, can compel the Federal Government to revoke their license or to embark on mass action against the company. “If the Federal Government cannot sack Ikeja Electricity, the Nigerian masses should be able to sack them through mass action,” he said.Apart from the new levies, investigations by our correspondent revealed that the company has hiked fees for consumers without pre-paid metres. One source said some officials working with electricity concerns are found of removing spare parts of transformers while they go back to residents to raise money for the purchase of the parts. In some instances, residents have been blackmailed to buy transformers which cost some N5m. The funds are not returned and the property becomes assets of the electricity company.
Our correspondent made efforts to speak to the management which was rebuffed. Calls made to the official Customer Service lines were not answered.