Traders at the UTC market in Area 10, Abuja, have staged a peaceful protest to the headquarters of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) over incessant power outage in the market.
The traders numbering more than 100, besieged the headquarters of AEDC and demanded for the provision of prepaid metres for the 470 shops in the market.
The traders also accused AEDC officials, Garki branch of constant power outages in the market and outrageous bills emanating from the one Maximum Demand Meter (MD) installed in the market.
According to the traders, the MD meter that serves the 470 shops was programmed to exploit the traders through outrageous billing.
The protesters, who were carrying placards with different inscriptions which read; “AEDC give each shop prepaid metre, we are tired of MD metre.
“We are tired of constant power outages, the bill is high, “give us our meters’’, among other inscriptions vented their anger through a song: “all we are saying, give us metres.’’
The traders said the persistent power outages without a corresponding reduction in electricity bill were worrisome and inhuman.
The Vice-Chairmanof UTC Traders Association, Mr Adewale Lawal, said the traders had repeatedly made calls for provision of individual metres for the shops and for improved electricity supply to the market.
He said AEDC had refused to respond to the demand of the traders.
“About two years ago, we owed them about N8 million and by God’s grace we have paid some of the money and the balance left is about N2 million.
“Since that time, we have been appealing to them to give us individual prepaid metres so we can bear the cost of electricity usage individually, but AEDC refused.
“Last year, we wrote a letter to their Managing Director and we had several meetings with him, and he approved that we should be provided with prepaid metres but their office in Garki refused to give us metres.
“Currently, the bill they are giving us is too much, we requested for prepaid meters for each shop, we are ready to buy meters, so that we can regulate what we use if there is no light.
“Our protest is for AEDC to give us meters for individual shops, so that we can monitor what we consume.
“We normally open our shops by 7:30 a.m and close by 6 p.m., but they normally bring the light by 5:30 p.m when we are about leaving the shop,” he said.
He decried that at the end of the month they were given outrageous bill when most of the times they did not have power supply for up to two weeks.
“The bill they are bringing is very high, at times N3.8 million, the present bill is N4.2 million for one month for the entire market.
“We have 472 shops in the UTC complex and some shops do not have electricity. We are calling on AEDC to provide each shop with prepaid metres and we are ready to buy,’’ he added.
Addressing the protesters, the Director, Corporate Service sof AEDC, Mr Abimbola Odubiyi said “we know that we have not met your expectations concerning metering, but on the issue of meter what we have now is the MAP scheme and you will get your metres when you pay.
“I need the list of all those who have their money now, let us have your names and we will direct you to where you can go and pay to the account of the metre providers and you get the metre,’’he said.
Odubiyi, who was not allowed to speak further as a result of the reverberations from songs by the protesters left for his office.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) gathered that some officials of the market association were called inside AEDC’s office for a meeting.
AEDC had recently inaugurated the sale and installation of 900,000 meters in its coverage areas under the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) programme of the Federal Government. (NAN)