Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

A Community’s Struggle Against Ikeja Electric Over Power Cut and Crazy Bill

A Community’s Struggle Against Ikeja Electric Over Power Cut and Crazy Bill

“We will fight on despite Police Threat to Arrest us” Funmi Jolade, Agege, Lagos

In Adikatu, a street in the Oko Oba Community of Agege Lagos, residents are campaigning against frequent power cuts and crazy bill. Since privatization of the power sector on November 1st 2013, access to electricity has further worsened with many communities without power for weeks on end. Despite this, the private electricity companies never fail to distribute inflated bills (popularly called “crazy bills”) at the end of the month. If you do not pay on time, they simply climb the pole and disconnect the wire connecting your home.

However recently, residents of Adikatu decided not to take this any longer. On 27 and again on 28 June 2016, they mobilized and stopped officials of Ikeja Electric (Orile Agege Undertaking) from disconnecting their homes. So forceful was the community’s action that officers of the Abattoir police Station upon whom the company relied had to beat a retreat and instead invited the community residents to a parley. At the end of the parley, Socialist Democracy (SD) caught up with Funmi Jolade, the treasurer of the Community Care Association (CCA) and a leading figure in the community struggle.

SD: What can you tell us about the struggle that broke out in your community?

FJ: Oko Oba has been marginalized from light distribution. This has been our experience since 2013. We wrote letters to Ikeja Electric but even though they promised to rectify the fault, they never did. The community is on low-shedding, this means light supply is infrequent; sometimes an hour or less in a day. At times, we could have light for a day followed by four days of darkness. Late last year, the feeder connecting the community was removed and we had no light for about 15 to 17 days. The entire community of Oko Oba and Orile rose up in mass protest then. This is the background to the community’s actions on June 27 and 28. On 27 June, officials of Ikeja Electric from the Orile Agege Undertaking came to our street to disconnect light. The community said “No”. The opposition of the community was informed by the fact that they were being asked to pay even though the company was not supplying light regularly. This in essence means paying for darkness. This is aside the fact that the bills were inflated and contains the 45 percent increment in tariff introduced in February in violation of a court order.

Seeing the opposition, they left. At about 11am on 28 June, they came back with the intention to carry out disconnections. I was apparently the main target since I led the mass to stop them the previous day. They came directly to my house, they cut my wire and were about to cart it away. At this point, the community gathered and said “No”. They insisted they must re-connect my wire. During the exchanges which lasted for about three hours, the operation manager refused to re-connect the wire. At this point, the company officials called the police who came in four patrol vans and 2 cars filled with armed police men who came with the intention to arrest and take me away. But again the community said “No”. Seeing the resolve of the people, the company had no choice but to reconnect my wire. Now the police changed tactics and invited the residents to a meeting with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at Abattoir police station.

On getting to the meeting, the DPO CSP Tunde Sunmonu, after listening to both sides after receiving a call from someone from the head office of Ikeja Electric, decided to take the side of the company. To quote him, he said “Ikeja Electric should go and disconnect the light and I want to see the bastards that will stop them. I will arrest you and detain you if you stop them from doing their duties. Quote me anywhere”.

SD: How has the community reacted to this threat?

FJ: This police threat will not deter us. Also the Undertaking Manager has also been sending threats to us claiming her husband is a police officer at the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Panti. The community will not back down; we will fight on despite the intimidation. Already on that day while the police were trying to arrest me, I had packed a small bag containing toothbrush and other things I will need in detention. We are ready.

SD: So what happens next in the struggle?

FJ: We want to write a petition to the marketing manager of Ikeja Electric and the DPO. We will also continue to organize mass meetings and call other actions to keep the struggle on.

SD: What are your thoughts on privatisation of the power sector?

FJ: I believe that privatization is one of the major problems of electricity in Nigeria. How can you privatise everything we have to some few individuals and expect things to work? This is why we are saying no to privatization. Electricity should be government business.