* Governor Udom Emmanuel
Residents of Ikot Ekwere community in Itam clan of Itu local government area of Akwa Ibom State are currently contributing N5,000 per household for the installation of a “new” 33Kv transformer released recently for use by Etteidung Sunday Matthew, the Village Head.
A large section of the community had been in darkness since September, 2017, due to transformer fault, and today (Wednesday) makes the third day in the third week after the village council asked residents to make the payment.
Etteidung Matthew told Propeller Newspaper, last week, that the money was demanded from residents to enable the village council buy new electrical insulators, cables and pay for the services of those who will be hired to do step up voltage level from 11kv capacity of old transformer to the new 33Kv capacity.
He said Mr Soni Ayang, a former Akwa Ibom commissioner who hails from the neighbouring Ikot Ebom-Itam community facilitated the collection of the old transformer from the government, while the new facility was earlier acquired in 2004, through the help of Linus Asuquo, another Itam man who was commissioner for science and technology during the administration of former Governor Victor Attah.
Etteidung Matthew said he had safely kept the new 33Kv transformer in his compound since 2004, but had to release it for use after all entreaties to get help from the government failed
Etteidung Matthew has served as Village Head of Ikot Ekwere for 27 years. He spoke in vernacular: “I had pleaded a former commissioner, Engr. Linus Asuquo, to help us get transformer from the government in 2004, and he facilitated it. But we didn’t use it because it was a 33kv transformer, while the one in use at the time was an 11kv.
“When the 11kv we were using got bad last year, we started looking for a replacement. But since we couldn’t get it, I had to release the 33kv which had been in my care all along. I had kept it safe, I didn’t sell it.
“The monies we’re collecting from our residents, both indigenes and settlers, are to be used to changed electrical insulators and cables as well as payment for those who will help us step up the voltage level from 11kv to 33kv.
“We had to devise this means to help ourselves since we can’t get help elsewhere. We’ve stayed in total darkness for long, we’re tired of remaining like ancient people in modern times”.
Some Ikot Ekwere Residents interviewed said they are not new to incessant power outages and poorly supplied electricity services in the community which are sometimes heavily paid for but scarcely provided.
They said the current development is the second time in four years that they would bear the burden whenever repairs or replacement of damaged transformer facilities are required.
In May 2015, residents of Ikot Ekwere had cried out over the lack of access roads and appalling road network in the community, but help did not located the people. The agrarian community is just about ten minutes away from the Ibom Specialist Hospital, the popular health facility built by the administration of former Governor Godswill Akpabio.
The member representing Itu state constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr Idongesit Ituen, whose clan Ikot Ekwere belongs, could not be reached as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, the hundreds of power transformers that used to be scattered at the premises of the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs were found no more when this reporter visited the ministry on Wednesday.
Upon enquiry, it was gathered that the transformers have been distributed to communities through the Ministry of Rural Development and the Office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Power.
Efforts to get words from these officers were unsuccessful on Wednesday.
At the head business office of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED), the company in charge of electricity distribution in the state, the Customer Service Manager was not on seat when Propeller Newspaper visited the office located along Edet Akpan Avenue in Uyo.
But a customer service personnel, a lady, who would not want to be named because she was not authorised to speak for the company, told this reporter that it is entirely the responsibility of PHED to purchase, install and repair transformers and other electric facilities without demanding for money from customers.
“We’ve never asked our customers to contribute money to install damaged transformers or electricity cables. It is our responsibility to replace transformers and effect repairs when they develop faults. We don’t charge customers to do anything for them”, she declared, but did not say whether or not the Ikot Ekwere situation had been brought to the notice of the company.