The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) says it requires N40Bn to complete the aggressive metering of its customers said to be about 500,000 households. This is as the restiveness within the 1,500 workforce seems to linger.

The new managing director, Henry Ajagbawa PhD, who disclosed the cost of the metering project in a press conference in Port Harcourt last week said management has decided to take the project in bits in a strategy called ‘cell-by-cell’.

Ajagbawa who resumed in February 2020, was escorted to the briefing by his second in command, the chief financial officer (CFO), Chinwe Nnorom, as well as Solomon Okopi and the GM, General Services, Otuko Ama.

The CEO said the downside of the dream to meter all customers is massive meter bypass and tampering.

He cited the case of Woji town in the Garden City with over 95 per cent prepaid meter roll out, but regretted that almost all meters are bypassed or tampered with.

Ajagbawa said the company had embarked on full-scale restructuring starting from the inside. “We have changed operating structures to be market-ready. We have arranged the system into 64 feeders with 64 managers. We are now more on ground.’

He mentioned challenged in the energy value chain but said his style is to respond on how to deal with, not dwell on, the problems. “Pot Harcourt is the pivotal point. So, we are revamping the infrastructure to put our facilities such as the Rumuolumini facility into action. We have 60MVA that are not evacuated. In 30 days, it would be ready. Some 48 megawatts capacity is coming. We are working day and night on this.”

Soon to smile

For now, he stated, too many areas are overloaded, but Port Harcourt will soon smile. De-loading exercise is going on. “This is time to work, not to talk. Results will talk for us. IVR system has installed to boost calls and responses.”

He sued for support, saying metering is the matter. “We need the support of the community. The buyer is the target. We thus carry out valuation through metering. But, there are issues in places that have been metered. For instance, in Woji in Port Harcourt, we collect only N50 for every N1 we supply. This is due to massive tampering, bypass, and vandalism, making up energy theft.

“The danger is that we (Discos) pay for power supplied to us to distribute. The only thing we know is that you as the consumer should pay. We plead that the FG should criminalise energy theft. Arrests do not work.”

He conceded to internal corruption. “There are cases of compromise involving some ex-staff. All corrupt staff are being sacked. We have become more responsive. There is problem on the value chain. We are on the Rumuolumini-Rumuosi project to boost power supply in Port Harcourt.’

Labour issues

Ajagbawa expressed shock over claims that mass sack was on the table. “We have not signed any sack letters. We are not downsizing. I am utterly shocked to hear about such a plan in PHED. I wonder why this rumour is going on when we did not even said we want to retrench.

“But we have rules in this place. We have rules approved by the Board. So, cases of infraction come and the affected person is tried but the Disciplinary Committee decides. The CEO is not a member of that committee but he signs the sack letter and implements it.

“We have 1,500 workers and only one person (Paulinus) was tried and found liable. Yes, we terminated his appointment. We have policies and processes. We are not monkeys. The process even continues to court level, if anyone does not accept the verdict of the management, not to launch press war. It is not to use methods full of vituperations. We will not join issues with anybody.”

Discipline is key, he said and denied any tensions in the relations with the states in the mandate states. “In our franchise area, we are lucky to have a good relationship with the stakeholders. There is no issue with the Rivers State government. Whatever matter that took place was sorted out quickly and we are working together very well.”

Answering further questions, the CEO denied owing any salaries despite N1bn loss in April due to shutdown.

The rumour of mass sack apart, other issues, however, include absence of negotiated condition of service, absence of promotions in over six years, etc. The conditions of agreement expected to be signed did not hold as workers told newsmen they found padded items not negotiated. It was thus shifted to June 23.

A source in the union leadership said: “Our union has also proposed June 23rd as the new date for signing, hoping that the joint committee would have finished their work before then. The general secretary has also directed me to inform our members to exercise patience. PHED must do the right thing. We can never hurriedly sign our members into slavery.”.

 

Source: Business Day

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