Weeks after a parley between the Ondo State Government and the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), there is palpable concern in the Ondo South Senatorial district that the promise extracted from the company for the reconnection of Ode-Aye by the end of December 2017 may not be realized.
Following prolonged darkness, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, had directed the Special Adviser on Public Utilities, Engr. Tunji Ariyomo, to liaise with the distribution company to ensure that the people of Ondo South are reconnected.
This was after series of meetings between the communities and BEDC, as well as intervention by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), failed to yield positive fruits.
In November, BEDC at a meeting with top state officials, which was attended by members of the press, gave firm assurance through its Chief State Head for Ondo and Ektii States, Mrs. Olakunbi Labiyi that the company would ensure that Ode-Aye is reconnected in December so that the people could celebrate Christmas with electricity.
She assured that this gesture was regardless of the status of the payment dispute between the company and the communities.
Labiyi further noted that this was a show of goodwill on behalf of the company and to ensure that the people see it as a socially responsible as well as committed to the service of the communities.
On extension of the benevolence to Okitipupa, the major load centre in the Southern senatorial district, Labiyi sought the assistance of the state government stating that there were greater distribution constrains in Okitipupa.
Buoyed by the positive response, the Special Adviser and management members of the Ondo State Electricity Board (OSEB) at the parley guaranteed the Benin Disco team that if it fulfilled its promise on Ode-Aye, they would get government to intervene in extending the rehabilitation works to Okitipupa.
Whereas the government had gone ahead afterward to keep its end of the bargain by commencing preparation for possible government intervention in Ondo South, including making budgetary provisions for special Intervention on power in the district under special sub-head in the 2018 bill presented to the House of Assembly by the Governor, BEDC appears to be totally offsite as far as Ode Aye is concerned.
Mr. Femi Ayejusunle, a native of Irele who attended the parley at the premises of the OSEB, stated that “the attitude of the Disco is shocking. If you give your word, it should be your bond”.
“I was there when their leader (Labiyi) promised that Ode-Aye would have light by December. In fact, she made it sound like early December.
”It was the Special Adviser that said it should be put at the end of December to give the Disco more time. She said it was a goodwill gesture that had nothing to do with the disputed money”, he added.
Princess Abike Bayo-Ilawole, daughter of Olubo of Obe-Nla, one of the monarchs in the affected senatorial district and the current Acting Secretary of the Office of Public Utilities expressed surprise but advised that the people should not jump into any conclusion yet.
”I want us to give Mrs. Labiyi and the rest of the Benin Disco team the benefit of the doubt. I have placed calls to her phone to formally ascertain the progress of work,” she said.
Reacting, Engr. Ariyomo said he was hopeful that the Disco would keep its words even if slightly delayed “challenges are normal but the ultimate goal is that this community and others must be connected to the national grid”.
It would be recalled that in July 2017, BEDC, during the courtesy visit of its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Funke Osibodu, to Governor Akeredolu, promised to restore power supply to six Akoko communities, under Owo Business Unit of the state.
Meanwhile, there are ongoing efforts by the state government to complete a 30MW plant at Ore which can serve the entire southern belt.
Work is also ongoing to partition many communities that are outside the grids into units that can be served by mini electricity grids as well as stand-alone solar systems in some communities in the five local governments of Ilaje, Ese-Odo, Irele, Okitipupa and Odigbo.
Recently, the government began due process for an independent power plant to service the Alagbaka business hub in Akure among other initiatives while the Governor and the Special Adviser have also been interfacing with relevant federal government agencies towards the completion of major national power projects in Ondo State.
First Published in Daily Post