- Spat with state agency deepens
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
Inter-corporate relationship of client-service provider between the state government-owned water company, Cross River Water Board Limited (CRSWBL), and Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc (PHED) has gone deeply awry, with the power distribution company cutting off electricity supply to the state water company following its inability to defray N177.73 million outstanding debts to the power distribution firm.
The water company is now crying blue murder against the power outfit; while the latter flays the former’s media prosecution. According to PHED, the water company is the guilty party, and needed not to shout.
The power cut by the service provider is the second since January 20 this year. This time PHED flipped off the power lines on 21 August, leaving CRSWBL with no option than to go to town with shrill cries of unfair treatment by the power firm. Both companies are now engaged in verbal attacks, as their spat has deepened.
Since the power cut, CRSWBL says it has been spending at least N150 million monthly on diesel generators to power its water treatment and supply plants.
But PHED said it cannot fathom the rationale for CRSWBL refusing a payment plan to defray its outstanding N177 million debt to it (PHED) yet it is spending above N150 million as claimed on diesel. PHED said the payment plan will not only ease CRSWBL’s cashflow, but also present an opportunity to enjoy longer hours of power availability on the said feeder.
PHED, whose franchise area includes: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, and Rivers states, said it hardly ever engages its customers in a media war, not to mention government agencies considering the level of patronage it has enjoyed and is still enjoying from the governments of the four states in ensuring that power supply is sustained for the good people of the states.
According to John Onyi, manager corporatecommunications for PHED, the Cross River Water Board is among the premium customers that had been receiving a minimum of 20 hours of power supply daily; feeding from PHED’s ‘Water Board feeder,’ named after the water corporation. With the introduction of the recently reviewed electricity tariff, the water company is grouped in the Band A category.
Onyi said the Cross River Water Board Limited, with headquarters on Mariam Road, Calabar, the state capital, had since inception of PHED been a maximum demand customer; and as such, is placed on premium service. He said till date, the water board has an outstanding debt of N177, 730,978.52.
The PHED spokesman said, on 24 January 2020, the agency was disconnected for non-adherence to payment plan as agreed in series of meetings held with its management. He said the above action attracted media outrage orchestrated by the agency aimed at currying public sympathy. Hence, a meeting was held arising from its outcry, and a temporary reconnection was effected thereafter.
PHED also accused the state water company of engaging its Calabar headquarters in meter bypass; a diversion of load from the meter which is inimical to the survival of electricity in Nigeria. Subsequently, a penalty fee for the loss of revenue was presented to the agency with a payment plan.
The power distribution company further accused CRSWBL of reneging on the payment plan, despite repeated calls and visitations, which forced the power firm to disconnect the state water board in August.