Akure— TRAVELLERS on the ever-busy Benin-Ore-Lagos Expressway were, yesterday, trapped for over five hours, as youths locked down the road while protesting 10 years of total blackout in the south senatorial area of Ondo State.
Vehicular and commercial activities on the expressway were completely paralysed, while the protest lasted.
The southern senatorial area of the state consists of six local governments: Odigbo, Irele, Okitipupa, Ilaje, Ese-Odo and Ile-Oluji.
Before yesterday’s protest, the youths had issued an ultimatum, but it was ignored by the government.
The aggrieved youths, on the platform of United Action Democracy, UAD, trooped out as early as 7a.m. to barricade all routes to the Benin-Ore-Lagos Road and halted all forms of vehicular movements on the expressway.
The protesters displayed placards with inscriptions such as “Restore Light Back to Ondo South,” “Revoke BEDC Licence,” “10 Years Darkness Wetin We Do ?” “ODSG Has Failed Us,” “This Total Blackout Has Crumbled Our Business,” “Ajayi is a Wicked Man.”
According to them, the blackout had made jobless youths in the areas to take to crime, accusing the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC, of “plunging the communities into total darkness.”
Spokesperson of the protesters, Kunle Ajayi, said the youths decided to “shut down the busy expressway after dialogue with the government had failed to restore electricity to the area.
According to him, “the power outage has further paralysed major business activities in the southern areas of the state, mostly for those who need electricity to power their trades.
“The problem of the non-payment of electricity bill, which had been the excuse of the electricity company, should not be visited on consumers who had been consistent with the payment of their bills.
“In fact, the current government in Ondo State under Governor Rotimi Akeredolu used this epileptic power supply for its campaign and nothing has been done till today. Our demand is that we want the licence of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, BEDC, to be immediately revoked by the Federal Government.”
It is FG’s duty—Ondo govt
Reacting on behalf of the state government, Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Segun Ajiboye, said BEDC was on the exclusive list of the Federal Government.
Ajiboye said when Governor Akeredolu assumed office, he met with the management of BEDC on the total blackout in the southern senatorial area of the state, and agreed on certain things.
While insisting the government had fulfilled its side of the commitment, he said the electricity company was yet to fulfill its own
Ajiboye added that “the Federal Government and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDCC, gave a transmission line from Omotosho to Ode-Erinje, both in Okitipupa council area of the state, and has so far paid the contractor N600 million.”
Similarly, llaje council chairman Fayowole Aworetan, said previous administration failed to tackle the challenge of total blackout.
He noted that the present administration of Governor Akeredolu had made concerted effort to ameliorate the sufferings by ensuring that the transmission line from Omotosho steps down at Erije.
While saying that peaceful protest was good for democracy, the chairman pointed out that blocking the expressway by the youths was “childish.”
Contacted, the Public Relations Officer of BEDC in charge of Ondo/Ekiti Kayode Brown, said: “We need to know where the protesting youths are from; we are not going to react to any protest by faceless youths.”