Darkness in Afikpo as politicians hijack power supply

After staying in darkness for nearly two years, Afikpo indigenes were happy when Ebonyi state Governor, Engr.
David Nweze Umahi, promised on March 8, to restore power supply to the city within two weeks.
However, four months later, the city is still in darkness: with many residents claiming that the governor and other prominent politicians of Afikpo extraction hijacked the power supply for purely selfish reasons.
PAUL OKAH reports the genesis and present situation.
About Afikpo city Afikpo is the second developed city in Ebonyi state after Abakaliki, the state capital.
With a population of 313, 683, according to the 2006 census, it is divided into Afikpo North and Afikpo South local government areas and has produced prominent politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs, academicians, scholars, among others.
However, the city has been in darkness for the past two years, despite the effort made by concerned individuals.
Genesis of the power problems Blueprint Weekend investigations revealed that power supply in Afikpo, like many other states across the federation, started becoming epileptic in 2013, when the federal government divided PHCN into separate companies called Local Electric Distribution Companies.
Emeka Offor bought the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) for the South-east.
Residents claim that power supply in Afikpo is sabotaged by the EEDC and in a manner that is strongly not devoid of politics, and have been crying out to be rescued from the despicable andexploitative activities of EEDC and politicians in Afikpo.
Maria to the rescue Blueprint Weekend investigations further revealed that, before venturing into politics, Maria Ude Nwachi achieved local popularity as a lady who could go extra miles to solve the problems of Afikpopeople; as she mingled with the locals.
She allegedly paid a huge, but unspecified amount of money to EEDC to maintain steady power supply in Afikpo, which became relatively steady with her constant funding.
Consequently, people shouted ‘Maria’ (as opposed to NEPA) whenever the epileptic power supply was restored.
As a result of this popularity, when she expressed interest to represent Afikpo North-east constituency in the Ebonyi state House of Assembly (EBHA), with her unheralded Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA), she defeated the incumbent Eloy O.
Eloy of the PDP in the February 2015 elections.
Protest against EEDC, Maria’s victimisation On Monday, August 17, 2015, angered by the total blackout of nearly a year, Afikpo people staged a protest against the EEDC, which was allegedly masterminded by Maria Ude Nwachi, just two months of being sworn in as a lawmaker.
During the protest that, public institutions; including banks and markets were shut down; as three vehicles elonging to EEDC were allegedly destroyed, while staffers of the company were sacked by the irate youths.
Some prominent politicians were allegedly prevented from entering or exiting the town and a gang-up against Maria and Afikpo people was in the offing.
Consequently, many politicians of Ebonyi state extraction allegedly instigated her one-month suspension from the Ebonyi state House of Assembly and the cancellation of her Miss Afikpo beauty pageant on August 28, by the governor, on the allegation that she wanted to lure young girls into prostitution and drugs.
It was gathered that following the cancellation of the beauty pageant, armed policemen were detailed to mount surveillance at the Maria Island Resort, her private residence, and the battle line was drawn between the state government and the embattled lawmaker.
Temporary truce Nevertheless, following the protest, the governor promised Afikpo indigenes that power supply would be restored and Maria’s suspension in EBHA was rescinded a few weeks later.
Many back and forth meetings between Maria, EEDC, state government and members of EBHA resulted in the power supply being restored before the yuletide of 2015.
The state government, Maria and Kingsley Ikoro Ogbonnia, member representing Afikpo North West Constituency in EBHA, all claimed responsibility for the restoration of power supply.
However, based on her humane antecedent, Maria was still given the credit by Afikpo indigenes, which allegedly led to redoubled gang up against her by other politicians in the state.
Battle of the titans From December 2015, Blueprint Weekend learnt that while Maria was allegedly paying the EEDC to maintain steady power supply, other politicians were paying the same EEDC to ensure that there was a total blackout.
Many of them allegedly believed that Maria’s popularity was as a result of power supply, and swore to cripple this acclaimed popularity by paying EEDC officials and armed robbers to make sure that all the cables supplying electricity to Afikpo were stolen, “so that Afikpo people will remain in darkness and Maria’s popularity will dwindle,” an anonymous EEDC official said.
Residents cry out The power-play came to a head in the middle of 2016, when the power supply became epileptic and then failed altogether.
Our investigation revealed that since November 2016, Afikpo city has been in darkness, with artisans, traders, business owners and residents claiming that they spend more than they earn in buying fuel for their generators; in order to render services.
Speaking with our correspondent on the power situation, a resident and Publisher of Conscience Newspapers, Mr.
Charles Otu, said Umahi was prioritising road construction, instead of focusing on resolving the power supply issues.
He said members of Dave Umahi for Second Tenure (DUFSET), a group agitating for the governor to continue in office beyond 2019, will be disappointed because the lack of power supply in Afikpo will be their nemesis.
“Afikpo has lost over N3 billion in businesses in the past five years, due to lack of power supply, and some people cannot be bold enough to challenge their so-called quintessential leaders to stop his political promises and take pragmatic action to save them.” ETAN intervention Blueprint Weekend also gathered that the President of Ebonyi Transparency & Accountability Network (ETAN), Mr.
Eze Igwe, had organised a town hall meeting of all the political representatives of Afikpo people, with the theme: “Representative Governance and Accountability”.
Those invited to the town hall meeting slated for December 29, 2017, in Ebonyi Hotels, Afikpo, included: Senator Sonny Ogbuoji; Senator representing Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone, Idu Igariwey; member representing Afikpo North/South Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, Linus Okorie; the member representing Ohaukwu Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, Kingsley Ikoro; member, representing Afikpo North West Constituency in EBHA, Maria Ude Nwachi; member, representing Afikpo North East constituency in EBHA, as well as other notable personalities and indigenes.
However, the meeting was postponed indefinitely, because many of the invited guests and indigenes gave one reason or the other not to honour the invitation.
According to the Igwe, members of the group simply addressed invited journalists on the development in the state.He said that the power supply situation in Afikpo was top on the agenda of what was supposed to be discussed in the rescheduled meeting.
Umahi’s failed promise It was further learnt that, during a reception of the state governor by Afikpo people on March 8, 2018, the governor assured them that power supply would be restored within two weeks.
However, the two-week time-frame he promised elapsed on March 22, and the people are still in darkness and even agitating for another protest.
Maria speaks When Blueprint Weekend contacted Maria Ude Nwachi, the lawmaker said she “is trying” her best to make sure that the power supply “is restored as soon as possible.” “I am trying my best to make sure that the issues involving the power supply are solved.
I love my people and it pains me that they are suffering because of something they know nothing about.
As you know, I was recently made the ICT Manager of the Conference of Nigeria Female Parliamentarians (CONPEPA), when we visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa on May 25, 2018.
That’s to show you that we are moving in the right direction.
When it comes to matters concerning Afikpo people, I will not rest, because their burden is my burden,” she said.
EEDC reacts When Blueprint Weekend visited the EEDC office at Okpara Avenue, Enugu, the Head of Operations, Engr.
Ekwekwu, said the company is in talks with representatives of the affected communities.
“The matter will be resolved as soon as possible,” he said.
Umahi gives fresh hope In a letter titled “Energisation of Nigercem to Afikpo 33KV line with all associated T-offs” dated May 23, 2018, addressed to the Acting Managing Director of EEDC, the Ebonyi state government, through the Commissioner for Power and Energy, Emma Uguru, claimed to have written to the Chairman of EEDC, Chief Emeka Offor, on April 6, 2018, to solicit for ways to end the blackout.
Again, on July 9, 2018, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi, Eric Kelechi Igwe, visited Afikpo city and told residents that the light had been fixed and would be commissioned once the governor returned from a trip to Abuja.
However, all efforts to make Idu Igariwey, Sonny Ogbuoji and Kingsley Ikoro to react to the situation proved abortive, as they did not reply to the several phone calls and text messages put through to their phones once the subject matter was mentioned.

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