July 11, 2024

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How residents’ association allegedly connive with EKEDP, police to swindle residents

12 min read
Akin Olayemi
Located in the Ebute Metta (west) of Lagos Mainland Local Government of Lagos state, Otumara is a shanty community of over 500, 000 inhabitants.
In spite of its nearness to modernity and its sitting in the heart of Lagos, dwellers in Otumara community are denied access to basic amenities of life.
They are confronted daily with challenges of poor sanitary condition and poor drainage systems, absence of potable water and good access roads, inadequate toilet facilities as residents defecate in the open, absence of Senior Secondary school blocks as the community has one Junior Secondary School, insecurity and lack of constant electricity which is allegedly being used by members of the community electricity committee to swindle residents.
Due to the poor financial and economic status of Otumara residents, residents default in the payment of electricity consumption bills and this affected electricity supply to the community.
After many years of living in total blackout, elders in the community resolve to end the electricity crisis by drawing perceived trustworthy members of the community to form electricity committee that would liaise  with the electricity Distribution Company, design debt repayment plans and restore electricity to the community.
According to a long term resident of the community and Chairman, LGA, Lagos Mainland Local Government, Prince Abiodun Fagba, the three Community Development Associations established a nine-member electricity committee to achieve the set objectives.
He stated that in 2014 the electricity committee headed by Mr Ohunyon Prior and eight other members met with representatives of Eko Electricity Distribution PLC at the community playground and signed a memorandum of understanding on the payment of the accumulated debt of N7million allegedly owed by the community.
Bit by bit and on month by month basis,he said members of the community’s electricity committee shared the accumulated bills to residents until it was cleared off and the community heave a relief from collective debt which emanated from electricity consumption.
But the committee had other concealed motives hidden in their hearts. While the entire community commends them for a job well done, they saw a lifetime business opportunity in earning a living from electricity bills collection on behalf of members of the community.
This ill-conceived agenda, Fagba alleged fraudulently gave birth to the incorporation of the electricity committee that was innocently established to be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission as Otumara Residents Welfare Association as a business entity in 2016.
The big electricity fraud
Meanwhile to residents, it was business as usual as they wholeheartedly continue with the monthly payment of electricity bills.
Fagba disclosed to Nigerian Tribune that the EKEDP served monthly electricity bills of N400, 000.00 on the two electricity transformers which he said was facilitated to the community by him.
He stated that ORWA generates monthly the sum of N3million from electricity bill collection from residents and pays N200, 000.00 on each of the transformers to the electricity Distribution Company and share the balance of N2.6million monthly among themselves.
He narrated the plights of the community, “This was the trend until we cleared all outstanding debts. But what broke the camel’s back was that when we thought we had settled backlog and we expected that individual monthly bill would be reduced, this was not the case. It keeps increasing with about a building comprising eight rooms being served at least N10, 000 per month.
And members of the electricity committee assumed the status of EKEDP personnel. They wielded authority recklessly. They serve electricity bills on residents with a notice of three days to either pay or risk disconnection.
The funniest part of this is that they issue their own receipts to residents after payment. In fact they have successfully created a huge business out of the electricity crisis to enrich themselves.
They are tin god that dealt with anybody that challenges their authority.  We are now at their mercy as they determine who gets electricity supply and who gets disconnected. Every month they rake in over N3million from electricity tariff collection and they pay just N400, 000 to the distribution company on the two transformers that supply the community. You will be amazed with the kind of luxurious lifestyle they live in a community that is heavily populated by paupers and low income earners.
As a politician, I was in charge of community affairs in Lagos Mainland Local Government under the administration of erstwhile council Chairman, Hon. Bashir Bolarinwa.
It therefore came to me as surprise to see that the electricity committee that was constituted to tackle the electricity challenges metamorphosed into ORWA which is used to defraud the community.
When the activities of the committee became unbearable, the CDAs reported them to the Iponri Police Station but the police were compromised. Rather than arrest the erring members of the electricity committee, they locked up those that came to lodge complaints.”
 
I was disconnected for two years for refusing to pay N3, 500- Eromosele 
For two years, Chief Eromosele, a resident was cut-off electricity supply to his room for his refusal to pay N3, 500 monthly charges.
According to him, he neither has a fan nor television set. He claimed he has only a bulb in his one room apartment.
He said, “We are arriving at a point now. At the meeting we had with the two Baales, we have concluded that we want accountability. We want the self-imposed Otumara Residents Welfare Association to stop acting the role of the EKEDC. They served outrageous bills on us and disconnect us from the electricity at will.
The tariff on the two transformers that served the community is N400, 000 but what they generate from residents is far above N3, 000,000.00 monthly. What are they doing with the money? We don’t know. There is a purpose for the creation of the electricity committee which they fraudulent transformed into a registered business entity to serve their personal interests.
There is no development in our community yet they are raking millions out of us. They have totally disappointed us. And we are calling on them to give account of the amount they have earned so far and how it was spent.
I am the only person living in my apartment. I don’t have a fan neither do I have television nor fridge but they served me N3, 500 every month for using a bulb.
They cut-off my light for disagreeing with them and refusing to pay the exorbitant rate that was served on me. And I have been thrown in total darkness since two years now.”
I pay as low as N10, 000-Njoku
Otumara, according to one of the property-owners in the community, Chief Monday Njoku has a little over 400 houses. Owners of these houses he said never see the monthly bill from the EKEDP but are subjected to tortuous lifestyle.
It is either you pay the required amount on the bill or you face disconnection or get the beating of your life.
But what role did Eko Electricity Distribution PLC played in the whole saga, Njoku explained, “The high monthly electricity tariff was served on us by the ORWA without showing to us the exact amount the EKEDP brought to the community.
We know they were not in it alone; they did it in connivance with the electricity Distribution Company and the police because since the committee took charge of electricity bill collection, connection and disconnection, officials of the EKEDP had stopped visiting the community.
They work hand in hand.
There was a time the electricity committee told us we owed the EKEDP N7million and they told each house to pay N14, 000 per month which we did. This was in 2016.
We were told that as soon as we cleared the N7million debt that the monthly charges would be reduced. But since then we have been paying as low as above N10, 000.
On my eight rooms, I am forced to pay huge bill every month which they generated on their own and distribute to landlords. We don’t see the bill. They have turned it into a business venture where they earn their living.
There bills are in two categories. The first category is a house with less than six rooms which attracts N5000 while the second category covers a house with ten rooms and above which pays above N10, 000 monthly.
What they told us at the beginning is not what they are doing now. They have grown beyond the control of the CDAs and community heads. They are not accountable to anybody. They have formed a government controlling electricity and security affairs in the community as they feel.
They also attack physically anybody that has any contrary opinion to their opinion because they believe you are becoming confrontational. They have turned electricity situation in Otumara community in a personal business.
Everybody lives in fear. Some residents have threatened to protest but we heard the electricity committee said the protest would be resisted and it would turn into a blood shed.
One of the two community heads was attacked for calling them to account while they threatened to kill the other community head for reporting them to the police. I am appealing to the Inspector General of Police to intervene because Iponri police station has been bribed.”
The Otumara Residents Welfare Association, Nigerian Tribune gathered was incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2016 with eleven appointed trustees including Ohunyon Prior, Agbede Ogundele Buraimoh, Hyagnt Ojiogu, Akintimehin Israel, Ikegun Okoronkwo, Ogwudire Kenneth, Arowojolu John, Abass Ishola and Afeez Olonisakin.
It was also gathered that two transformers supplied electricity to the community on the two different accounts with the numbers: 02/11/90/0515-01 and 02/11/90/0444-01, account one and two respectively.
And on these two accounts, a lump sum was owed which had since been cleared by members of the community but not without allegations of fraud and lack of accountability which prompted landlords and residents to write a petition to the two traditional heads against members of the electricity committee.
My life is under threat-High chief Kalejaiye
Subsequent to this petition, the two community heads, High chief Kehinde Kalejaiye and High chief Arowojolu in a letter jointly signed in March 2019 wrote to the Board of Trustees of Otumara Residents Welfare Association calling them to account for the collected.
The letter read in part, “The entire community and the landlords have lodged a complaint about the anomaly and the lack of accountability of the Otumara Residents Welfare Association.
The confidence level of the people of Otumara on the activities of the association has dropped and of those at the helm of affairs of the association.
Hence, the two heads, CDAs and the landlords hereby summon the Board of Trustees of the association to appear on Wednesday March 6, 2019 at Arowojolu’s Palace for proper inquiry into the allegations.”
But before the appointed date, High chief Arowojolu was attacked by unknown gun men and High chief Kalejaiye was threatened with death.
In a petition dated March 9, 2020 and addressed to the office of the Inspector General of Police, Zone 11, Onikan, Lagos, through his attorney, High chief Kalejaiye alleged threat to his life.
Kalejaiye said, “ORWA fraudulently saddled themselves with the responsibility of managing and collecting electricity bills consumed by Otumara residents which they inflated and disconnected at will.
Seeing this injustice, I demand for accountability and possibly have a glance at the original bill that was served by EKEDP but they refused and conspire among themselves to unleash terror and threaten to kill me for daring to confront them.
I have lodged a complaint at Iponri Police station but they were biased and compromised as the officer in charge aided the culprits. Since the beginning of our inquiries, we have been experiencing attack on those that spearhead the campaign.
High chief Arowojolu was shot at but he was fortunate the bullet did not penetrate his body. I am appealing to the police to intervene to prevent a breakdown of law and order. Residents are groaning under high electricity tariff regime not from the EKEDP but from fellow residents who feed on the entire community.
I have received several complaints from Otumara residents on how they are being exploited by members of the community residents’ welfare association.
It is now being used in connivance with the Eko Electricity Distribution Company and the Iponri police station to extort and swindle residents and businesses in Otumara community.
Between 2010 and 2014, Otumara community was in total blackout. The community had issues with electricity supply due to non-payment of energy bills by some residents.
While the two CDAs constituted electricity committee made up of residents drawn from among the community with the mandate to liaise with EKEDC on steps to be taken to ensure individuals owing paid their debts and electricity was restored.
With the desire to tackle the electricity challenges, Ohunyon Prior, Friday Arowojolu, Patrick Agekameh and some others offered themselves to help the community overcome these challenges. This was how they formed the electricity and security committees.
But unfortunately to the residents, the appointment of the abovementioned people were our greatest undoing as they went and registered themselves with the CAC as a business unit and signed a memorandum of understanding with the EKEDC in connivance with the Iponri police state to defraud Otumara residents.
They do this in conjunction with officials of the EKEDP because none of us have the privilege to see the electricity bills. Officials from the EKEDP have stopped coming to the community to demand for bills or disconnect. This shows that they are also in the picture.
My life is under threat and I am calling on the police to call on these people to save us from their endless persecutions.”
ORWA spend electricity funds on parties -CDA
Abass Ishola, Chairman, Otumara community CDA alleged that members of ORWA operate like cult defrauding residents while pretending to serve them.
He said, “What happened is that they are our people and we appointed them into the electricity committe. But at a point they started misbehaving and not giving us feedback regarding the welfare of the community.
For instance, the two community heads in Otumara community are also not aware about how they operate.
They operate like a cult defrauding residents and pretending to be serving them. When the community heads summoned them to give account of their stewardship, they ignored their call and picked quarrel with them.
They have assumed the position of Eko Electricity Distribution PLC. They served bill with three days payment notice failure which they disconnect your electricity.
We have over 500,000 residents in Otumara community but the welfare association brings varying amount between N8, 000 and N14, 000 monthly to each house whereas NERC instructed us not to pay beyond N1800 without prepaid metres.
How did they arrive at the monthly billing? We don’t know and when our community heads summoned them to give account of the amount collected, they did not show up.
They are feeding fat on the sweat of other residents. People are complaining. The three community development associations and the two community heads are worried about the exploitations and fraud being perpetrated by these people. We had it on good authority that whenever anyone of them have anything to celebrate, they allot to themselves N200, 000 depending on the position the person hold in the association.”
Allegations is under investigation- DPO Iponri police station
When Nigerian Tribune contacted the DPO of Iponri police station for clarifications on the allegation and to explain the role of his station in the electricity saga, DPO Tajudeen Ogunlaja through a text message said, I heard about the electricity crisis but the matter is under investigation at the AIG zone 11 office in Onikan please.”
There is no conspiracy of fraud between us and residents-EKEDP
Responding to the allegation of fraud and connivance against personnel of EKEDP, Deputy Director of the Distribution Company, Godwin Idemudia said there was no conspiracy of fraud between the company and any resident of the community.
According to her, the company entered into an understanding with representatives of the community to recover the debt owed by residents who refuse to pay for the energy consumed.
She said, “The community have been paying on two accounts that are bulk metred. They went into an MoU with the company since 2017. It was signed by EKEDC management and the community’s representatives.
Meanwhile, there is no conspiracy between the Distribution Company and Residents as alleged. We have never had issues with the community except for some of them who for reasons best known to them refuse to pay for energy consumed.
This issue is being addressed by relevant authorities to bring the matter to an amicable and satisfactory conclusion.”
Efforts made to get one of the trustees of the controversial ORWA to speak on the allegations proved abortive as Mr Prior Ohunyon did not respond to calls put across to his telephone lines.

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