Electricity consumers in
Akwa Ibom State have accused the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) of fraudulently extorting unsuspecting consumers without corresponding power supply.
The consumers said the power company has completely neglected their responsibilities to members of the public, and made circulation of outrageous bills the most regular and visible aspect of their services to the people.
Speaking with our correspondent in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, a resident of Anwa Nsa Street, Uyo, Mr. Idongesit Ekpenyong, expressed disappointment that such alleged fraudulent activities could be allowed to go unabated in the state.
Ekpenyong alleged that the entire PHED team in Akwa Ibom has displayed high sense of irresponsibility and fraud against members of the public by forcefully and constantly placing charges for services not rendered.
He said the policy of estimated billing system was the company’s calculated plan to maximise profit at the expense of the public, as any appropriate billing system would have revealed the true state of services rendered.
Citing his street’s experience, for instance, the consumer expressed disappointment that after one year of total blackout due to faulty transformer, PHED, after installation of a new transformer, facilitated by one of the residents, sent in bills covering the one year period of the total blackout.
His words: “Imagine a situation where you had no light in your area, not even a flash for one full year, and for this reason, there was absolutely no point bringing in any bill, but after one year, one of the residents of the area facilitated installation of a new transformer, and two weeks after the new transformer was installed, they brought in bills covering the entire period of total blackout.
“So ridiculous it was that some flats were receiving bills of N150,000, and single rooms N50,000 to N70,000.
“As though such daylight robbery was not enough, PHED team came after a month to disconnect cables from virtually every building because no one agreed to succumb to that high level of fraud.
“Some of us had to go to their office to complain about the one full year of blackout, and the illegality of the bills, and they advised us to apply, which we did. Till this moment, our bills are still coming with the backlog of charges for power not supplied,” he added.
Ekpenyong, therefore, called on the Akwa Ibom State Government to call PHED to order, and desist from extorting members of the public for services not rendered.
Another consumer and resident of Akpan Ukpo, of Esuene Street, Mr Isaiah Udofia, criticised PHED for defiling every sense of responsibility and duty owed members of the public with its intolerable activities.
According to Udofia, the company has adopted a strategy of supplying electricity to most streets in Uyo just within 48 hours to enable its team conclude the distribution of bills.
He said: “If you are resident in Uyo, observe these people closely, you would notice that they usually bring light two days to the 15th day of every month, within which they usually circulate bills, and the moment they are done with that, the light cut off till same time next month.
“In addition to poor electricity power, the bills have also become so high that one is left to wonder if power bill is the only thing one should be paying with his monthly income. While some apartments are receiving bills of between N8,000 and N12,000 every month, single bedrooms are charged as high as N5,000 every month. I honestly do not understand what these people are up to Udofia said.”
This followed a notice of motion brought before the House by member representing Ibesikpo Asutan State Constituency, Mr. Aniekan Uko, during one of its plenary sessions.
The motion was titled: “The unwholesome and alleged fraudulent charges on electricity consumers in Akwa Ibom State by PHED”.
Uko frowned at a situation where electricity consumers, particularly in rural communities, were made to pay accumulated tariff even when they never consumed or had power supply within the period.
He prayed the House to urge the management of PHED to be responsible for the repairs, replacement and purchase of broken down electricity equipment as stipulated by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
“A situation where electricity consumers, including unmetered houses and communities neither enjoy quality electricity supply nor see light for months due to prolonged breakdown of electricity equipment like the transformer but made to replace, repair or buy the transformer is far from being transparent”, he said
Lawmakers who spoke on the matter, including Leader of the House and member representing Oruk Anam State Constituency, Udo Kierian Akpan, and member representing Mbo, Samuel Ufuo, stressed the need for the House to interface with the management of the PHED and other institutions, especially affected by the situation.
This, they submitted would help them come up with a lasting solution to the lingering problem.
The Speaker, Hon Onofiok Luke, after listening to the submissions, urged the House Committee on Rural Development and Public Utilities as well as the Committee on Commerce, Industry and Tourism, to harmonize the two motions and submit report to the House within two weeks.
Efforts to reach the state Public Affairs Manager of PHED, Mr John Onyi, proved abortive as he neither picked his calls nor replied text messages sent to his phone.
Foreign Exchange Inflow Falls To $4.97bn
Foreign exchange inflow into the economy fell by 59.8 per cent in April according to figures obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) monthly report on ‘Foreign exchange flows through the economy’.
Part of the report read, ‘Aggregate foreign exchange inflow into the economy declined sharply, reflecting tepid global economic recovery, which undermined foreign trade and capital flows across countries, despite the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
“Foreign exchange inflow through the economy dropped by 59.8 per cent to $4.97bn in April 2021.
“The decrease was attributed, largely, to a sharp decline in autonomous inflow, particularly invisible purchases and official non-oil receipts, which declined by 63.1 per cent and 75.2 per cent, to $2.95bn and $0.81bn, respectively, in April 2021.”
According to the report, a breakdown of activities showed that foreign exchange inflow through the CBN was $1.66bn in April 2021, a decrease of 55.8 per cent below the $3.76bn in March 2021.
It added that inflow through autonomous sources, at $3.31bn in April 2021, was 61.6 per cent below the level in March 2021.
The CBN also said that aggregate foreign exchange outflow through the economy fell by 13.7 per cent in April 2021.
Aggregate foreign exchange outflow through the economy fell by 13.7 per cent to $2.74bn, below the $3.18bn in the preceding month.
Outflow through the CBN declined by 10.4 per cent to $2.58bn, compared with the $2.88bn in the preceding month, due largely to the bank’s policy on foreign exchange market.
It added that outflow through autonomous sources, at $0.16bn, decreased by 46.0 per cent in April 2021, compared with March 2021.
Overall, it said, the country recorded a lower net inflow of $2.23bn in April 2021, compared with a net inflow of $9.19bn in the preceding month.
NNPC Denies Funding 2019 Elections With Oil Traders’ Bribes
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has reacted to an allegation that fees that trading firms paid agents to win oil contracts from the corporation might have raised funds for the country’s past two elections.
Nigeria’s past two general elections held in 2015 and 2019.
The contest for the presidential seat was mainly between ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, while it was between Buhari and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in 2019.
Buhari was declared winner in the two elections.
Citing lawsuits in London and New York, Bloomberg had reported last Friday that an ex-BP Plc oil trader alleged that cargo allocations by the NNPC could have contributed to preparations for general elections in 2019.
The report said a former Glencore Plc employee in July admitted paying a middleman $300,000 to secure a crude shipment from the NNPC, understanding the money would be spent on the nationwide election that took place four years earlier.
The NNPC, through its Direct Sale of Crude Oil and Direct Purchase of Petroleum Product scheme, awards contracts that allow companies, including international trading houses and indigenous firms, to lift crude oil in return for the delivery and supply of petroleum products. The contracts are usually for one year.
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Mr Garba-Deen Muhammad, has, however, refuted the allegation.
“[It’s] not true, and I think that is obvious if you read the story with an open mind,” he said via a text message to a national daily.
Jonathan Zarembok, who left BP’s West Africa desk last year, was quoted as saying in the suit that he suspected that fees paid by the United Kingdom energy giant to obtain NNPC contracts would go toward the 2019 elections.
He filed an employment claim against BP, alleging that he was fired for raising concerns about the large sums being transferred to intermediaries to win business in Nigeria.
Zarembok was quoted as saying in a witness statement made public this month that emails sent in 2017 by a BP executive in Nigeria were a “clear red flag” and implied “there would be pressure to pay bribes”.
According to Bloomberg, the emails discussed how preparations for elections would get underway in 2018.
“We understand what that means,” the executive wrote.
He said the company then wired $900,000 in fees to a local agent after securing two oil cargoes from NNPC.
“BP is defending in full and denies all allegations made by the claimant,” Bloomberg quoted the company as saying in a statement.
It said BP declined further comment while Zarembok’s case at a London employment tribunal continues.
The report noted that similar details emerged two months ago, when Anthony Stimler, who left Glencore in 2019, pleaded guilty to corruption and money-laundering charges.
It said Stimler was notified in September 2014 that “Foreign Official 1” was asking all NNPC clients to pay an advance on each cargo “in connection with a then-upcoming political election,” according to US court filings.
He then had Glencore wire $300,000 to an intermediary company, which prosecutors said was used “to pay bribes to Nigerian officials.”
US prosecutors outlined how Stimler and others paid bribes worth millions of dollars in several countries, including to NNPC officials, between 2007 and 2018, according to the report.
VAT War: PNG Backs Southern Govs -Says It’s Part Of Restructuring
The Convener of Pro-Nigeria, Mr. Lai Omotola, has broken silence on the Value Added Tax (VAT) war currently going on between the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and five southern states.
The five southern states include Rivers, Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, and Akwa-Ibom states.
From the time a Federal High Court in Portharcourt gave a ruling that state governments, and not the FIRS, have the constitutional power to collect VAT, the Rivers State and Lagos State had quickly passed bills authorising the states to collect VAT.
Reacting to the development, Omotola, in a statement, said that PNG was in full support of states collecting VAT.
“We in PNG support the development and the subsequent stand by Lagos State and Rivers State in creating a law to enable their states to collect VAT. Others who have joined in the bid are states like Ogun, Ekiti and Akwa-Ibom states.
“This is a welcome development because we feel that it is lawful and it is in sync with the intention of our founding fathers that every state should be collecting VAT.
“It will also show fiscal restructuring towards economic development and at the end, Nigeria as a country will be better for it”, PNG posited.
The group also condemned the reception given by President Muhammadu Buhari to the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode at the Presidential Villa following the defection of the latter to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), recently.
According to Omotola, the President should show reason why Nigeria should still believe in his fight against corruption and believe him as the upholder of basic morals on the account of his red carpet reception to Femi-FaniKayode at the Presidential Villa.
“Our concern is that this same man is currently having a battle with the Nigerian state via the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on corruption charges.
“Although the law states that one is innocent until proven guilty, it is morally unjust for a President to receive with a red carpet and stand beside a person against whom the EFCC has established a case, stating unequivocally that he had defrauded Nigeria; and the same matter is still in court; therefore, to now see him being honoured by the President has thrown hope for this country into the wind”, the statement added.
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