PHCN Scams Residents Into Buying New Transformer
Chinyere is a cold room operator in Coker Estate, Shasha area of Lagos.
She sells frozen fish, turkey and chicken in kilograms. She is one of the victims of poor electricity supply experienced in the estate.
Her business is currently being threatened by the transformer 'saga'. Chinyere presently spends more than her daily profit powering her generator overnight to preserve her goods.
Bayo is the CEO of a barbing salon in the estate. He takes his business seriously, his customers respect his policy of pay before service. He spends an average of N,2000 every day on fuel to power his generator.
This is a lot more than he used to spend when the power situation in the estate was a bit better. He said he didn’t use to spend more than 1,000 Naira daily before the power situation degenerated.
Coker Estate with over 200 buildings mainly for residential and commercial purposes, was thrown into blackout 6 months ago after the transformer blew up.
The faulty transformer according to one of the landlords on the estate, Gbenga Coker was installed almost 15 years ago and as the number of buildings in the estate increased, the capacity of the transformer reduced.
Mr Coker said the transformer was faulty for several months before it finally packed up in September 2016.
Coker Estate, Shasha Lagos (Credit: Tony Smart)
Money 'Wasted' on New transformer?
The residents of the estate under aegis of Coker Estate Landlords and Residents Association (CELRA) reported the matter to the Ikeja Electric firm which took the transformer away for repairs.
Chairman of the association, Harry Godwin said after the power firm informed them that ‘age is what is affecting the transformer’, the residents decided to purchase a new transformer with each building contributing as much as 25,000 Naira.
He said after acquiring the new transformer worth over 3 million Naira, Ikeja Electric failed to install it, citing outstanding bills of over 20 million Naira owed by the residents as the reason.
The power firm is insisting that unless the debts are settled, the new transformer would not be installed.
“About N3m was spent to buy the transformer and its accessories, adding that all electricity installations were done through residents’ contributions.
“The power firm is insisting that unless the debts are settled, the new transformer would not be installed,” he said.
After getting frustrated by the inability of the power officials to solve the power problem, the aggrieved residents staged a protest on January 3 2017.
They expressed their grievances towards Ikeja Electric for taking the old transformer without refurbishing it and also its non-refusal to also install the new one. Few days after the protest, the old transformer was returned.
The estate according to some of residents now experiences a ‘4 by 3 power supply’ (i.e. 4 hours of power supply in 3 days.
The Uninstalled Transformer at Coker Estate (Credit Tony Smart)
The purchase of transformer by the residents is in sharp contrast to the directive of the federal government.
The Minister of Works, Power, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had in 2016 told electricity distribution companies (Discos) to stop the prevalent and unfair practice of making their customers procure and install electricity transformers for their use, saying it is the responsibility of the Discos.
The government said such practice has contributed to the loss of confidence in the country’s electricity market by consumers who are mostly forced by Discos servicing their networks to pay for transformers.
The spokesperson for Ikeja Electric, Felix Ofulue, said connecting the new transformer to the grid requires some expenses, which could only be sourced from payments made by consumers.
He said, “We get a lot of requests from communities to energise transformers. We are addressing them one after another. There are processes to follow, part of which is ensuring that the transformer conforms to standard. Secondly, energising transformers require some capital investments.
“The money to purchase the items needed has to come from the money we make from collection. That is why we appeal to customers most times to pay their bills. We are not getting any fund from anywhere other than from the collection of bills.”
A resident, Kunle Makinde, however, observed that the refurbished transformers could pack up if the company failed to energise the new one on time. He urged the company to provide prepaid meters for them to end estimated billing.