Estimated electricity bills: Aba Tailors protest alleged extortion

“How can I be paying N18,000 monthly in my small shop, when I don’t have up to 24 hours light in a month?

Estimated electricity bills: aba tailors protest alleged extortionTailors in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia, on Wednesday, staged a protest against alleged extortion by Aba Power Limited (APL), a subsidiary of Geometric Power.

The protesters alleged that in spite of the epileptic power supply from APL, the company was trying to run them out of business with estimated bills.

A former Chairman of the Association of Tailors and Fashion Designers in the state, Mr Onyebuchi Nwigwe, said that they were not happy with the activities of APL which, he said, were affecting  their trade.

Another tailor, Ikenna Agu, said that they were pained because the company was using policemen and soldiers to harass and intimidate them to pay.

He said that the company came with soldiers on Saturday to their business premises, disconnected their lines without prior warning and also beat up some of them, including some customers.

Agu appealed to the State Government to urgently intervene and call the company to order.

According to him, what is painful about the issue is that APL gives us bills that are more than the number of shops we have in a block.

“How can I be paying N18,000 monthly in my small shop, when I don’t have up to 24 hours light in a month?

“They bring 38 bills in our own building which does not have 38 shops,” he said.

Also, Ugochukwu Iheme, another tailor said that “APL is making life miserable for them” and that the demonstration was meant to expose the fraud in the company.

Ebere Okoro also said the problem was that the bill was not commensurate with the energy they supply.

Okoro urged the government to step into the matter and stop APL from continuing to extort them.

The Chief Commercial Officer of APL, Mr Blessing Ogbe, debunked the allegations, saying that the tailors’ clusters were placed on the busiest electricity feeder.

Ogbe said that the company ensured that the feeder serves between 12pm and 6pm daily, adding that it was not true that they were placed on estimated billing.

He further said that APL ensured  that the National Electricuty Regulatory Commission capping order was applied.

He challenged the tailors to bring the bill to cross-check the capping of that month.

He accused them of trying to cut corners, saying that he was aware that there could be up to 30 persons in a shop but they would want to pay the bill for three tailors.

He also said that APL is always open to dialogue, adding that efforts were in top gear to ensure improved power supply in the city.

When contacted, the Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Dr Chimezie Okegwu, said that he was not aware of the protest and complaint by the tailors.

Okegwu, however, promised that the State Government would investigate the alleged extortion, when a formal report had been received by the ministry.

The commissioner promised that government would not tolerate the extortion of business concerns and residents in general.

“Any extortion is illegal as long as 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 also be done wrongly.

“We have to check if it is extortion or a legitimate fee, the timing and how it was done.

“One thing is very certain, that we are always on the side of the traders and our citizens.

“We are all out to alleviate their pains rather then increase their burden.

“We also have to understand that the DisCo is in business to make profit but I always tell them that they must not maximise that profit.

“Make it in a way that it will be suitable and moderate for all and that is why we will step in,” Okegwu  said.