By Inyali Peter, Calabar
The traditional ruler and Head of Ikot Anwatim community in Cross River State, Ntufam Patrick Bassey Offiong has been accused of illegally collecting electricity tariff from his community to the tune of three million naira (N3m).
In a petition addressed to the management of Porthacourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED), demanding urgent investigation of the monarch, aggrieved residents accused him and his cronies of collecting ten thousand naira (N10,000) each from the over three hundred compounds in the community amounting to about N3m.
The petitioners explained that the money was initially meant for the purchase of transformers for the community but was illegally diverted to "a cabal" led by the traditional ruler.
The petition which was signed by leader of the aggrieved residents, Mr. Dede Uwa dated August 12, 2016 with the caption "
Complained Against Illicit and Illegal Cabal Obtaining Money From Our Community Ikot Anwatim Acting as Though They Are Staff of PHED" appealed to relevant authorities to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to book.
According to the petition, "Our ordeal at Ikot Anwatim community started two years ago when our transformer broke down. Our traditional ruler, Ntufam Patrick Bassey and his cohorts asked us to pay ten thousand naira levy per compound to enable him procure a new brand transformer and money was collected for three hundred compounds existing in the community.
"Instead of the traditional ruler purchasing a new brand transformer as he had said earlier, he went ahead only to bring an old refurbished and fake transformer which packed up after a few days of installation.
"We were subsequently asked to pay another twelve thousand again by the traditional ruler to enable him buy another transformer since the refurbished ones that was procured by the cabal got packed up but till now the money has been diverted to his personal pocket".
While accusing PHED of conniving with the traditional ruler to extort money from the people, the group added that the traditional ruler has mobilized boys who go about disconnecting electricity from compounds who fail to corporate unabated.
"How could he installed a transformer he initially told the people that had spoiled beyond repairs? They move around with a ladder disconnecting the light from houses of consumers boasting that PHED had given them authority to disconnect people and imposed a reconnection fee of ten thousand naira per compound”, the group leader added in an interview.
Uwa called on the State Commissioner of Police to protect his life stressing that he is now facing serious threat for daring to speak the truth even as he charged PHED to reconnect his light and that of other members of his community whose houses were disconnected on the orders of the traditional ruler.
He said that, "We want the monies collected from us as fines to be refunded and those whose houses were disconnected be reconnected. We are not in slave camp and management of PHED quickly intervene into the matter if they have no hand in the matter.
"Our grouse is that these people are not staff of PHED so why should they disconnect us, they do not have the power to climb the electricity pole to disconnect consumers in the area".
Reacting to the allegations ,the traditional ruler Ntufam Offiong who spoke in company of the village Youth Leader Bassey Itah denied all the allegations levelled against them stressing that the aggrieved residents led by Dede Uwa were unserious human beings who had never wished the community well.
He said that "I repaired the old transformer to boost the new one that had lower capacity to supply light in the area. And not everybody paid the money and to show that they are not serious people, we don't even have up to three hundred compounds in this community".
Also reacting on the issue, the Head of PHED in Cross River, Mr. George Chinwo debunked every allegation levelled against management of PHED and urged the warring factions in the area to stop blackmailing the company.
"We do not generate electricity, we buy gas and for us to recoup our money, bills must be paid because bills payment is sacrosanct. PHED had no connection with whatever that is happening with collection of money in Ikot Anwatim Community".
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