The youths in the late hours of Monday shutdown a power station belonging to the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), leading to electricity blackout in Port Harcourt and environs. They were protesting alleged inability of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) to provide them with steady electricity and TCN’s refusal to employ youths from the host communities.
The youths, in their numbers, forced the TCN staff to leave their office premises and barricaded the power station in Afam, Oyibo Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers.
Chisom Ngbali, the Chairman, Caretaker Committee of Oyibo Local Government Council, who led the protest, confirmed the incident to newsmen in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
He said that the youth took the action after the host communities were allegedly disconnected from the power grid following their failure to pay electricity bills.
“We went there (power station) and left the premises immediately after giving them instructions that if they don’t restore electricity to us; there won’t be electricity anywhere.
“PHED says they will not give host communities electricity until they make payment for electricity used which is not part of the agreement we have with the Federal Government.
“Host communities have been thrown into darkness for five days and counting and electricity supply is the only thing that we are benefiting from TCN’s presence in our communities.
“We had earlier given them the condition that if we must pay for electricity; TCN should employ our people and give us contracts as stated in the local content law,’’ he said.
Ngbali claimed that host communities had an agreement with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2006; and which granted host communities 20 years window of non-payment for electricity.
He said the 20 years period would expire in 2026, adding that the disconnection of electric supply to the area was illegal. Ngbali claimed that no indigene of the communities was under the employ of TCN in spite of the company operating in the area for many years.
“We cannot be in the midst of plenty and yet nothing is coming to our people. This is our land, and all the adverse effect on the environment is on us,’’ he said.
Mr John Onyi, the spokesman for PHED said that the protesters’ action disrupted power supply to Port Harcourt and environs.
He said that PHED depended on transmission from TCN to enable it to distribute electricity to customers in the state.
Onyi condemned the protest and challenged host communities to produce the written agreement it had with the Federal Government which absolved them from paying for electricity.
“We recall that on two different occasions in 2016, youths from Oyibo LGA carried out similar action, and to which, if unabated will continue to throw Port Harcourt city into unnecessary darkness.
“PHED condemns the actions of the youth and call on law enforcement agencies and Rivers Government to intervene and put a final stop to this frequent disruption of electricity distribution to customers,’’ he said.