Civil society groups in Edo State on Thursday marched to the state House of Assembly to protest against a bill presently before the House which if passed into law would criminalize electricity theft. The activists, who were all dressed in black and brandished placards with various inscriptions, expressed their anger against the lawmakers by pelting the Chief Anthony Enahoro Complex with fresh tomatoes and oranges.
The Electricity Theft Offence Bill provides for a special court to try electricity consumers under the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) who bypass and engage in illegal connection. The protesters, who turned out massively, were led by Omobude Agho as they marched through major streets of Benin City before heading to Government House. They could, however, not get beyond the gate as it was shut. None of the principal officers of the House also came out to hear the grievances of the angry protesters.
Chanting solidarity songs, the protesters vowed to resist the bill which Omobude described as anti-people and advised the governor not to sign it into law.
A visibly outraged Omobude insisted that “the issue of estimated billings, poor services and provision of pre-paid metres must be addressed before any other issue,” adding that Edo people should not be seen to be doing the bidding of BEDC. In his words, “this bill is anti-people and must be rejected. BEDC is out to exploit Edo people and must be resisted.”
The civil society organizations had since last year been constantly protesting poor services by the BEDC such that they called for the removal of the managing director, Funke Osibodu. The state governor also had cause to walk her out of his office last year for allegedly dispensing darkness to his people instead of light