For Olajide Ayorinde, a worker with the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company attached to the Imo unit in Abeokuta, Ogun State, he would not forget in a hurry Thursday, April 23; day residents of Isale Igbein/Grammar School area of Abeokuta attacked him for distributing electricity bills during lockdown.
The state, including Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has been on lockdown ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the lockdown would be relaxed on Monday.
Olajide was made a scapegoat for a bottled anger of the residents against the power distribution firm.
That Thursday, Olajide wouldn’t have embarked on the assignment of distributing electricity bills to the customers if he was aware that troubled lurked around for him in the neighbourhood.
The incident was disturbing as he was not only beaten, but also stabbed in the eye with a broken bottle by the irate residents.
Coincidentally, the area is adjacent to the Government House, Oke-Igbein and close to Sapon, a popular market in Abeokuta.
The area is known as Isale-Igbein/Grammar School and share boundary with Isabo, Igbore, Oke-Igbein, Imo and Sapon.
Currently, some parts of the state are in the grip of robbers hiding under the lockdown to perpetrate evil. There had been complaints from residents in that regard. To lessen the lockdown effects on Nigerians, the Federal Government proposed free electricity for two months but it had yet to see the light of the day.
As many residents were indoors attending to their personal issues, Olajide emerged with bulky electricity bills and started distributing them to the dwellers, warning them of a looming disconnection if the bills weren’t paid early.
He was allegedly pelted with stones while some furious residents pursued him with bottles and stabbed him in his left eye.
When our correspondent visited the area, it was observed that the electricity company had disconnected the area from power supply.
It was learnt that officials of the IBEDC enlisted the services of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad while disconnecting the area from electricity after the attack on Olajide.
Speaking with our correspondent, some of the residents lamented that both the IBEDC and its workers annoyed them.
One of them, Mrs Olanike Adeyemi, said everybody was angry with the situation of things in the country which led to the beating of the IBEDC official.
Adeyemi said, “We appeal to the government to assist us to solve the electricity issue because it is useful to us especially during lockdown. But since they have removed the cutout, we are unable to sleep at night because of the heat.’’
Another inhabitant of the area, Kolade Ajayi, said the beating of the employee was caused by the information they got that the Federal Government promised free electricity for two months (March and April) during the lockdown.
He said “What we heard was that we will not pay electricity for two months. We did not collect any bill last month (March). The man was not a worker with the IBEDC. He is someone that always comes to the area drunk. He had been arrested before when he went to a house using prepaid meter and asked the occupant to pay for electricity or his line would be disconnected.
“That action annoyed the owner of the house annoyed and got him arrested. That guy has been a problem in our community. He has turned himself to a god. Government cannot lock us down at home and still not give us electricity.”
For Adekoya Abisoye, both the IBEDC official and his attackers were at fault.
He stated, “We are not disputing the fact that he is an IBEDC official. But those that came with him were not IBEDC workers. Everyone is angry and you can’t expect them to just give you money in this period like they used to do before. Moreso, we heard he has gone to some houses where they gave him money before moving to where he was beaten.”
Some of them also complained about the disconnection of power supply to the area after the worker was beaten.
Abisoye said, “It is those who beat the worker that should be disconnected from power supply. They should not visit the sins of others on us. We use prepaid meters. We have no business with the issue. The most annoying part is that when they want to remove the cutout, they brought SARS men with them. We are not animals. They should not treat us like one. The government should intervene.”
Another dweller in the area, Mrs Bose Bayewu, said the beating of the IBEDC official was a mistake, adding that he came at a wrong time when everyone was angry.
She said, “For about five days before the incident, we did not have electricity. We just heard that some youths in the community fought with an IBEDC official distributing electricity bills.”
Narrating his ordeal, Olajide said he was in the area to distribute electricity bills to the residents who were at home due to the lockdown when he was attacked.
He said, “I was busy distributing electricity bills to houses around Isale-Igbein and Grammar School area of Abeokuta when I was attacked by some people who asked me to stop. Before I could explain anything to them, they started throwing stones at me. I was badly beaten for discharging my duty. Even when my boss arrived at the scene to rescue me with the van she brought, a guy came and hit me in my left eye. I was later rescued by my boss who reported the attack at the Ibara Police Station after which I was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.’’
Olajide explained that he had been an electricity worker for 10 years.
He said, “I was an employee before I resigned. They later called me back. Now, I’m two years old with the IBEDC as a customer relations officer. I am attached to Abeokuta, Ogun State. I work in the Imo office, Abeokuta at service hub. I work as a marketer. Wherever I go, I distribute bills and collect money. Customers can pay to a customer relation officer or to the nearest office.
“On Thursday, April 23, I was assigned to distribute bills in the area. On getting there, I started distributing the bills from house-to-house as I often do. I also tried to explain to them when they challenged me on the claim that government promised to pay for the two months they were at home during the lockdown. They told me they would not pay any money to the IBEDC.
“Some people started throwing stones, saying I should stop distributing the bills. I later kept the bills inside my pocket and made attempts to leave. There is no place in the area that I could hide. In the process, I called my boss to come to my rescue there. Fortunately, she came with a Hilux van. I was inside the vehicle when all of a sudden someone rushed to me with a bottle and stabbed me in my left eye.”
Asked where he sat at the back of the Hilux which exposed him to attack, Olajide said he was asked to sit there with other colleagues that came to rescue.
He said, “Thereafter, I was rushed to the state hospital for treatment and police came to the area to arrest my attackers. About six of my colleagues came to rescue me. People are angry with the current situation in the country.”
He accused the company of being insensitive by asking customer relations officers to distribute bills to customers without security.
Olajide noted, “If my eyes have gone now, will they be able to provide another one for me? It is a disgrace to my personality for the residents to make a scapegoat of me for distributing bills. I am glad that some people who were at the scene where I was injured could attest to what happened. If they weren’t there, some of my attackers would have said I fought them or I didn’t speak to them politely.
“They said I was a thief. It’s ridiculous to the IBEDC. The company didn’t treat me well. I was not admitted to a hospital for proper treatment. They only gave me drugs and injection and asked me to go home. When my parents came yesterday, they cried. We went to two hospitals which rejected me. I went to another hospital and called my boss to talk to the doctor but it was to no avail. I had to call a doctor friend that came to give me drips (intravenous fluid) at home.
“My boss paid for treatment at the state hospital and collected the receipt. But I am the one paying for other treatments now. The company asked me to gather the treatment receipts that they will pay.’’
He expressed regret that those who attacked him were known to him, adding that the community leaders also condemned the attack on him.
“I don’t take a bribe from anyone. They know me for that in that community.’’ Saturday PUNCH gathered that Olajide was fondly called ‘honourable’ by the community residents because he had once contested chairmanship of the Abeokuta Local Council Development Area and assembly seat on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria.
He added, “I want to see the outcome of the matter. I want to know if the firm is going to court or not. If nothing happens, I will take it up personally because the attack is a disgrace to my personality. What if I was killed on the spot, what would have happened to my family?”
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the IBEDC, Ayodeji Bada, confirmed the incident.
Bada also said there was nothing like free ‘two months’ electricity paid for by the Federal Government to the electricity distribution firms on behalf of the customers.
He said, “There is no free electricity. It is a proposal. There is nothing like two months free electricity. It’s a proposal which the government has not signed into law, so, it is not binding on any Disco.”
Bada also warned of the consequence of refusing to pay for electricity used by the customers, adding that doing such would deny them stable power supply this month.
He said, “The supply everybody is enjoying now, they might likely not enjoy it this month if we are unable to pay generation and transmission firms for what they supplied to us. Then, indirectly they will not give us another one because the generation is from a privately-owned firm.
“We are just a collector for both transmission and generation station. So, if we don’t have the resources, it is a bad business and supply is not guaranteed this month for our customers.”
On why the company disconnected electricity from the area, the PRO said,” We need to pull off supply from that side for safety reasons and not because of the crisis and once that is resolved, supply will be restored back to the axis.”
Bada said, “The management is going to take that up. He knows what to do. He only needs to collect receipts for everything and we will pay all the medical expenses.”
He stated that Olajide had to distribute the bills because some customers were already asking for them. “We have no choice but to produce the bills and give to them. Everybody knows the situation in the country but it’s wrong to express their anger on our member of staff as they did. It is wrong; He was carrying out an official duty. We are appealing that whatever the complaint might be, they should report to the management who will take it up.’’
Source: Saturday PUNCH