By Kokoette Inyangidim

A State High Court in Ughelli, Delta State, has declared as “wrongful” and “illegal,” the issuance of ‘very high and exorbitant’ estimated electricity bills to residents of Ughelli town by the tBenin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC).

The court judgment was delivered on March 8.

The judge, J. Edun, declared that such action by the BEDC was contrary to the provisions of the law.

The claimants, Emmanuel Jewo and five others, had asked the court to declare among others that by virtue of the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005, the defendant (BEDC) was not legally empowered to issue and serve “very high, unreasonable and exorbitant” estimated electricity bills on them and other customers in Ughelli town and environ.

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They prayed the court to declare such actions by the BEDC as “wrongful, unlawful, illegal and contrary to the provisions of the law.”

They also asked the court to declare that the defendant (BEDC) has the burden to issue pre-paid meters to its customers in the community for the purpose of adequate determination of energy consumption.

The claimants further asked the court to compel BEDC to carry out mass metering, repair or replace faulty and obsolete meters within the town and a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from disconnecting them on account of non-payment of estimated bills.

The plaintiffs had also prayed the court to direct the defendant to issue them with a pre-paid meter within one week of the judgement, review all estimated bills issued and served to them and capped their electricity bills at N2,000 monthly, until they are provided with a pre-paid meter by the defendant.

Mr Edun, in his ruling, granted some of the claimants’ prayers.

He declared as illegal and contrary to the provisions of the law the issuance of “very high, unreasonable, and exorbitant” electricity bills on the claimants and other customers in the community.

The court directed the defendant to issue the claimants with a pre-paid meter within one month and capped the monthly electricity bills for residents of Ughelli and environ at N8,000 until prepared meters are provided.

Mr Edun restrained the defendant from disconnecting the electricity of any of the residents of Ughelli Town without strict compliance to the law and monthly cap of N8,000 for estimated electricity billing.

Apart from Mr Jewo, other claimants in the case are Joseph Ogedegbe, Sunny Asanuvwie, E. Ayo-Okhiria (for themselves and on behalf of the Ughelli Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association) and Patience Taghwo, Jonathan Ubogun (For themselves and on behalf of numerous interested residents of Ughelli town and environ)