Irate Tailors in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, under the Association of Tailors and Fashion Designers (ATFAD) have staged a protest against what they termed extortionist activities of Aba Power Limited (APL), a subsidiary of Geometric Power.
The tailors lamented that despite the epileptic power supply, APL had recruited the services of some police officers who have been behaving like thugs, going around some tailor clusters, harassing them in the name of collection of electricity bills.
The tailors equally said that APL came with soldiers on Saturday to their business premises, disconnected everybody illegally, scaring customers, shop owners, and apprentices who ran for their dear lives.
One of the disturbed tailors, Ikenna Agu said that the government of Abia State needs to stand and defend Aba Tailors from the extortionist activities of APL before they destroy the entrepreneurship spirit of young people in Aba.
“I’m a youth. We all left our various villages to come to Aba to be useful. We came here with money our parents sold lands to sponsor us and we’ve been very productive in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) creativity in Aba. We’ve been doing well, but APL is trying to drive us out of business and ruin our lives.
“How can my small shop be paying N18,000 monthly when I don’t have up to 24 hours of light in a whole full month? They bring 38 bills in our building which is more than how many we are and when you multiply N18,000 by 38, you’ll see that they’re expecting N684,000 from our small building every month while we still spend money to buy fuel because they don’t even give the light.”
Another tailor, Ugochukwu Iheme said, “APL is making life a living hell for us. We’re demonstrating to expose the fraud inherent. In my business location, we’re 21, but whenever APL brings bills, they usually bring 28 bills making it an extra seven (7) that we don’t understand. Each of the bills has N18,000 as the monthly fee. The APL is forcing us to pay for what we don’t understand.”
Ebere Okoro told New Telegraph “My problem is even that the amount they’re demanding in the name of bill is not commensurate with the power supply. The billing system here is outrageous.
“No part of Nigeria will accept what APL is doing in Aba because they’re killing businesses and the Abia State government seems not to care about the protests that many residents have been doing since last year. We pay more, they serve us less. I don’t understand.”
Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of APL, Engineer Blessing Ogbe debunked the allegations and stressed that the tailors cluster is on the feeder that has most of the commercial activities.
Ogbe said that APL ensures that the feeder that serves the tailors is on between the hours of none to six daily. He said that they do not bill the tailors on an estimate as they ensure that the NERC capping order is applied and urged them to bring the bill to contest the capping of that month.
He accused the tailors of trying to cut corners, stressing that he has seen where tailors that are up to 30 in a place will want to pay a bill of three tailors.
Ogbe said they are always open to dialogue as efforts are in top gear to ensure an improved power supply in Aba.
Reacting, the Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) Aba unit, Prof Charles Chinekezi said that when he learned that APL is using soldiers and police for revenue drive, he felt embarrassed as a similar report came out last year.
“To hear that SME operators in Aba are being harassed by soldiers and police officers who accompanied APL officials for revenue, forcing people to pay bills they didn’t consume has become the new embarrassment in Abia.
“And it’s now important that we hear from the military high command like the Chief of Army Staff, GOC 82 Division Enugu, Commander in charge of Ohafia Military Barracks, the Inspector General of Police, the AIG in charge of Zone-9 Umuahia and Commissioner of Police in Abia State and some other authorities on why they should release soldier and police to carry out this humiliation for APL?
“If APL is generating electricity and distributing it to the people honestly, accordingly, and fairly do they need soldiers and police for revenue drive? Again, why is APL engaging in revenue drive in this era of high technology when a prepaid meter will solve the problem?
“Cooperate organization is like the GSM companies, do they have any need to go on revenue drive when they know that whoever does not recharge cannot make calls or use their data? This is what APL should do and save us from all these unnecessary embarrassments.
“Because APL has fraudulently refused to meter Aba homes and offices, their field workers prevented the management of the company from approving mass metering so that they’ll keep collecting the money from the streets and put it into their pockets and watch the company that employed them ruin into crisis in a few years.
“Now, the board and the management of the company think they can use such ill-advised aggression on the Aba people? That’s not possible.”
He demanded to know why APL should use the number of people in a building to demand how much a building should pay instead of distributing meters. He stressed that the claim that feeders are constantly switched on does not mean that people have lights in their houses.
Abia State Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Dr Chimezie Ukaegbu said that he is not aware of the protest and complaint of the tailors.
He however promised that whenever he gets the report, the government will act on it to ascertain the details of the matter. He said that Abia would tolerate the extortion of its residents.
“An extortion is illegal as long it is truly extortion. But another thing is for us to know if it is really extortion.
“It may be legitimate, but a legitimate thing could be done wrongly. We have to check if it’s extortion or a legitimate fee. The timing and how it was done. One thing is very certain we’re always on the side of the traders and our citizens.
“We’re all out to alleviate their pains. We don’t want to increase their burden. We also have to understand that the DisCo is in business and wants to make a profit.
“But I always tell them, that though you’re in business to make profit, you must not maximize the profit. Make it in a way that it’ll be suitable and moderate for all. And that is why we’ll step in.”
– New telegraph