Two middle-aged men identified as Chinedu Anama and Uche Okpara, have been arrested for assaulting officials of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC (EEDC) while carrying out their legitimate duties.
The suspects were arrested by a combined team of the Nigerian Police and the community’s vigilance group in Ozalla Awada in Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State on Friday, August 27.
The Head, Corporate Communications, EEDC, Emeka Ezeh, who confirmed the incident said the officials were carrying out monitoring of disconnected customers at Ozalla Awada on Wednesday 25th August, 2021, when they discovered an illegal connection at No. 13 Onyekwere Street, Ozalla Obosi, a building with 12 flats, all installed with prepaid meters.
Ezeh, who condemned the act said assault of its officials has been one of the major challenges the organisation is facing.
Ezeh said that the tenants in the building tampered with their prepaid meters, which led to disconnection of the house by the EEDC surveillance team some months ago.
The occupants, instead of visiting EEDC office to resolve the issue, resorted to illegally reconnecting themselves and were enjoying electricity supply before the monitoring team working in that area discovered the illegal connection and disconnected them according.
He also said the team had already left the building to another location when some tenants from the disconnected building accosted them and launched an attack on four of them, leaving one of them, Ugochukwu Chukwunyerem, with severe cuts on his head. The victim was immediately rushed to the hospital for medical attention.
Eze said in the process, two mobile phones belonging to the EEDC officials got lost, while one was damaged. The vehicle used by the team was not spared, as the carrier, door and front bumper were also destroyed.
“It is baffling that a customer will engage in meter bypass, illegal connection, or any form of energy theft, and when apprehended, would resist disconnection (which is usually the first step in investigating such case), and even go as far as inflicting bodily harm on people carrying out their legitimate function”, Ezeh said.
“The management of EEDC frowns at these actions and will not hesitate in ensuring that the law takes its course. We value our staff, and are concerned about their safety, especially when they are carrying out their lawful duties, and we are ever ready to protect them and prosecute anyone or group that assaults them,” he said.
Ezeh also recounted that in August 2019, two officials of EEDC were assaulted at Umunya, under its Ogidi District, while in March this year, one of its officials was attacked by a customer at Umudike, under its Umuahia District Abia state, inflicting a serious machete cut on his hand.
Ezeh said the activities of energy thieves was negatively affecting the revenue of the company and has led to a spiral effect on other aspects of its operations.
He described it as worrisome that some customers who have been metered would resort to meter bypass, an indication that they never had the intention of paying their energy bills.
Ezeh confirmed that the culprits have been handed over to the Police for further investigation and possible prosecution, and expressed optimism that the Management of EEDC will follow through on the matter and ensure they face the full wrath of the law.
“There is no justification for the kind of assault meted on our staff by these suspects, and we hope that this will serve as a deterrent to others.” he added.