Welcome to another Legislative Day in the Abia State House of Assembly.
The Speaker, Rt Hon Engr Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji led Principal Officers into the Hallowed Chambers.
Rt Hon Ifeanyi Uchendu, Deputy Speaker and Member representing Ohafia South State Constituency led the opening prayer.
The Abia State House of Assembly commenced plenary after the adoption of Votes and Proceedings of Monday, 28th June, 2021.
In a motion moved by the Majority Leader and seconded by the Minority Leader, the House dissolved into quasi plenary to interact with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company officials (EEDC) summoned by the House.
The Abia State House of Assembly welcomed the management of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC).
Recall that the company had earlier been summoned by the House to appear before it in Plenary today.
Mr Ozoezeh Onyebuchi, the Network Manager of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company appeared alongside other top officials of the company.
Mr Emeka Odoemelam, a Senior Staff of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), was also in plenary.
The Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, welcomed them to the hallowed chambers.
The Speaker reminded Members the reason why the EEDC officials were summoned saying it was because of the incessant complaints of citizens concerning the activities of the electricity company in Abia. The Speaker further said Abians are bitterly complaining about lack of prepaid metres and the ever increasing sums from estimated bills charged Abians which he described as totally unacceptable to the 7th Abia State House of Assembly.
The Abia Number One Lawmaker then asked Mr Ozoezeh to tell Abians what his company as a business concern is doing to tackle the numerous complaints emanating as a result of EEDC operations.
In response, Mr Ozoezeh said the company has installed over a thousand distribution substations at the cost of over N350,000,000. 00 (Three Hundred and Fifty Million Naira Only) in the last one year alone, and that installation of the substations was for the company to checkmate estimated billings. He also said EEDC has installed 16,000 meters at the cost of over N800,000,000.00 (Eight Hundred Million Naira Only) in Abia State.
He added that the company has procured 3,000 meters that are currently being programmed and that their target is to meter all the customers in the State in due course.
But the Speaker was not impressed. “You just told us what was installed, even with your explanations, that is still not clear. Between the last time we met and today, what has happened? What is new? Are there Metres for continued installation to the people? And how many customers do you have in Abia State? the Speaker asked.
Mr Ozoezeh Onyebuchi said the company has 150,000 active customers in the State and that the available 3,000 metres are to be installed as part of progress in metreing the people.
The Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Uchendu, asked why a large part of his immediate constituency of Ohafia South has been in total blackout for months now?
Mr Ozoezeh said Ohafia as the third largest commercial city in the State cannot be overlooked. He said the issue of Ohafia was not solely the fault of EEDC, rather, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) should be held responsible for that.
He further said the greatest challenge his company is experiencing in Ohafia Local Government Area was attacks from hoodlums because the company outfield engineers have been attacked and held hostage countless times while on duty in the area.
Hon Mandela Egwuronu Obasi, Member representing Ohafia North State Constituency on his part, asked why the EEDC is indirectly extorting Abians through high billings, demanding to know if the metres claimed to be primed for distribution in the State are for commercial or residential use because the company seems to channel their claws on commercial entities for extortion.
Mr Ozoezeh said the meters are standardized and that the commercial metres are billed from source. He said the procured metres are for homes.
Rt Hon Chikwendu Kalu, Member representing Isiala Ngwa South State Constituency, asked the Network Manager if the available 3,000 Metres were from the Federal Government or from EEDC.
Mr Ozoezeh said the metres are from the Federal Government but that it is a kind of loan which the company will pay for later. He also said that metreing has been going on in Umuahia but that it is at minimal. He informed that the company planned to storm the State with the metres later this month.
Not happy with the EEDC official’s explanations and figures bandied as number of customers they have in the State, the Speaker said, “You are saying you have 53,000 customers in Umuahia, far more than you have in Aba; you can’t tell us you have less customers in Aba than Umuahia. I think you got your records wrong”,
Hon Ginger Onwusibe, Member representing Isiala Ngwa North State Constituency asked the EEDC official the plan of the company in metreing rural areas which he said should be captured in the ongoing metreing program.
Secondly, Hon Ginger wondered why someone would be expected to pay a huge amount of money for energizing a transformer even after donating it to a community but which eventualy becomes the property of EEDC. “Why can’t your company appreciate such huge kind gestures, applaud the donor, energize the transformer then take whole possession of it”, he wondered.
In response, Mr Ozoezeh said the company has installed over a thousand distribution substation metres in the State, and that “as a matter of fact, in Umuahia District, we have metred over 80% of all all our transformers and we are also working with some rural areas even though most of them complain of high bills but we are working with them to bring down their consumption rate and energy management.
“About donations, we appreciate our Honourable Members here especially the Speaker because he has donated and installed countless number of transformers in his constituency and beyond. These donations depend on the need for the transformers”.
Turning to the Staff of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, the regulatory agency overseeing EEDC, Mr Emeka Odoemelam, Hon Emeka Okoroafor, Member representing Isuikwuato State Constituency, asked him if the EEDC was following the capping order as reached in an agreement sometime past.
Mr Odoemelam started by thanking the Speaker and the Honourable Members for the invite, saying it’s out of the huge respect the Commission has for the Abia State House of Assembly that made them send him all the way from Abuja to the State “to be a part of this important conversation”. He said he would take back to the commission anything the regulatory body was not aware of but revealed in the course of the interaction and follow such up conclusively.
He also added that the commission sends their utmost regards and commended the House for doing a great job.
“Since the last few years, this is the first time the commission is standing on the floor of any House of Assembly to listen to their service providers explain to the people what they are doing,” Mr Odoemelam said.
He explained that the order on capping was released in 2020 and that it states that certain amount of kilowatts should be given to customers. He said their service providers have not really complied to the directives but due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the agency was limited to traveling but that in the last few months, the commission has been going round the country trying to get information from customers to determine whether the service providers were fully in compliance with that order. He further said the result of that tour by the commission has not been so pleasant because they have seen some level of deviations from the regulations but that the commission doesn’t just take action on the service providers without having sufficient watertight information on their infractions, hence, the reason it seems they are not fast in wielding the big stick.
“Last week, we were in Umuahia to take customers complaints and to look at estimates. Once we are done with our field works, we get the level of non-compliance, and necessary sanctions are placed on the Distribution Company.
“I am from Umuahia myself and I can tell you for free that even in my house the approved capping is not followed, but the commission, like I stated earlier, will follow up this logically and where we find them astray, we sanction them accordingly”, he said.
Mr Odoemelam said the Commission was also in Enugu three weeks ago and saw EEDC taking delivery of 18,000 meters from the 40,000 allocated to the region. At that point, the Speaker quickly asked Mr Odoemelam why Abia State was given just 3,000 meters for the commencement of the distribution exercise instead of 3,600 going by the number of five states in the region.
Mr Odoemelam replied that all the available meters are not residential meters.
Mr Speaker then told the NERC official that Abia State was being marginalized because, if not, Aba should be the largest commercial city in the Eastern region only after Onitsha, and based on that, even more industrial meters should go to Abia State more than any other in the southeast region.
Mr Odoemelam said he would take the Speaker’s observation as a feedback to the Commission. He also said he would tell the commission that the way the meters were being distributed was not fair on Abia State
Mr Odoemelam said a situation where the Honourable Members in carrying out their social responsibilities donate transformers and are still charged extra money by EEDC Is unacceptable. “It is our duty to ensure that customers are not exploited.
Mr Odoemelam then announced to the amazement of the House that there is a provision in the commission’s regulations which states that once you are contributing any asset to any Distribution Company, that such donation should not be entirely free. He advised the House to always engage the distribution company anytime they want to donate transformers because there should be some compensation for a donor which is a standard practice.
“As you donate, you should demand because it is your right to be compensated on the asset you are donating and that is what the Law says”, Mr Odoemelam concluded.
NOTICE OF MOTION
H.A.M. 16: Motion for the urgent intervention and immediate reconstruction of some roads in Aba South State Constituency.
The sponsor of the Motion, Hon Obinna Ichita, Member representing Aba South State Constituency, explained to the House the urgent intervention needed on the dilapidated roads in his immediate constituency.
He said one of the core responsibilities of every government was the provision of infrastructure, “Roads open up and stimulate economic activities which bring about economic growth, development and enhancement of the well-being of the people; good roads also provide the people access to healthcare, education, jobs and markets which are crucial in the fight against poverty,” he said.
Continuing, the Lawmaker said the dilapidated state of some major roads in his constituency which include Port-Harcourt, Omuma and Obohia among others hamper economic activities in the said areas which result in the impoverishment of his constituents who are already grappling with the harsh economic situation currently bedeviling the entire nation.
Hon Ichita further said the urgent intervention of the State Government on some of the roads in his constituency will not only alleviate the sufferings of his constituents but also bring succor to a multitude of them.
He therefore prayed the Honourable House to resolve as follows:
1. That the House, while commending the Governor for the roads already reconstructed in Aba, should implore him to order the contractors handling Port-Harcourt, Omuma and Obohia Roads back to site without further delay.
2. That the House do mandate the Ministry of Works to liaise with Office of the Member representing Aba South State Constituency to identify and commence the immediate reconstruction of at least 3 kilometers road along the Uratta axis of Aba South Constituency.
3. That the House do urge its compliance committee to ensure that resolution as contained in the motion are strictly implemented by the State Government.
The Speaker asked the Honourable Members to go through the motion as presented by Hon Obinna Ichita so the Motion could be conclusively discussed on another Legislative Day.
ORDER OF THE DAY
1. H.A.B. 36: The Abia State Watershed Management Agency Bill, 2020
A Bill for a Law to provide for the Establishment, Operations and Functions of the Abia State Watershed Management Agency sponsored by the Majority Leader.
2. Presentation of the Report of the House Committee on Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs on the petition titled “Report of Irregularities During the Supposed Plebiscite for the Ezeship of Ibeku Ngwa Amaise Autonomous Community, a Call for Cancellation and Demand for a Fresh Plebiscite.
3. Presentation of the Report of House Committee on Public Accounts, Anti-Corruption and Due Process on the petition titled “Embezzlement of Funds Earmarked for the Establishment of the Abia State Micro Finance Bank by the State Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The above items in the Order of the Day were deferred to be considered on another Legislative Day.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
In a Motion moved by the Majority Leader and seconded by the Minority Leader, the House dissolved into the Committee of the Whole to continue with the consideration of the following :
H.A.B. 39: A Bill for a Law to Establish Guidelines for the Management of Funds of the Abia State House of Assembly.
H.A.B. 40: A Bill for a Law to Establish the Abia State Accounts Allocation Committee (ABSAAC).
However, due to some items needing further clarification to allow Members make more informed and robust contribution, the Bill was temporarily stepped down and will be reconsidered on another Legislative Day.
H.A.B. 42: A Bill for a Law to Establish Guidelines for the Management of the Funds of Abia State Judiciary.
After consideration of the Bills in the Committee of the Whole, and in a Motion moved by the Majority Leader, Hon Solomon Akpulonu and seconded by the Minority Leader, Hon Chijioke Chukwu, the House reverted back to full plenary.
In a Motion moved by the Majority Leader and seconded by the Minority Leader, the Order paper was amended to accomodate the Third Reading of H.A.B: 39 and H.A.B. 42.
Reporting what transpired at the Committee of the Whole, the Speaker said, “At this point, having crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s, we can comfortably delete the word “Bill” and insert the word “Law” in its place”.
“These Laws can be cited as the Abia State House of Assembly Funds Management Law; and the Abia State Judiciary Funds Management Law and will come into force this day 5th Day of July, 2021 ” the Speaker said.
Subsequently H.A.B. 39 and H.A.B.42 were passed into Law.
Hon Solomon Akpulonu, Majority Leader of the House, moved that Plenary be adjourned to another Legislative Day.
The Minority Leader seconded the motion.
Plenary was therefore adjourned to Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 by 10am.
Courtesy: Media Unit, Office of the Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly.