Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Many residents of Umuahia, the Abia State capital, have recounted their ordeals over power outage due to faulty electricity transformers in the city.
Findings revealed that most of the transformers in the city are aging and overloaded, thereby resulting to frequent breakdown.
Residents of the affected streets lamented that despite living in the capital city, some of them have been grappling in darkness for months.
The affected residents expressed fury that despite several complaints, and protests in some cases, the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, has failed to improve.
They also expressed grief that the State Government under the previous administration, had left them to their fate.
Some of the affected households are located around Uwalaka by Enugu Road, up to Orieugba axis; Amuzukwu by BAWAS Drive; Agbama Housing Estate, Umueze, among others.
Over 120 households in Uwalaka Street by Enugu Road alone have been in darkness for nearly two months since their transformer located at Enugu Road by Uwalaka junction packed up.
Eye witnesses said that but for providence, some residents would have been electrocuted when the transformer suddenly blew up and the supply line began to spark with fire.
They said many gadgets and electrical appliances in homes were destroyed as a result of the spark while in some other homes, residents scampered for safety before the situation was brought under control.
According to some residents, similar incident had occured in the area about five years ago when some people told our Correspondent that they nearly got roasted but for God’s intervention.
According to Mrs Onyinyechi, a resident of the area, the same transformer suddenly produced “a scary sound around 11 pm,” resulting to power surge and burning of the electric cable on the poles.
“Many residents were trapped in their compounds that night and were screaming as some burning cables snapped and crossed the entrance to their gates producing scary electrocuting lights,” she recounted.
“When eventually there was power outage that night, and the situation brought under control, we stayed in darkness for over two years as EEDC failed to repair or replace the faulty transformer,” she added.
“It took the intervention of Senator Theodore Orji to replace the faulty transformer after we wrote a letter to him but the new transformer he donated is the one having all this problems now probably because of overload,” the source added.
She pleaded with the Abia State Government to step into the challenge of epileptic and non-availability of power supply in the state capital.
According to her “many residents of Umuahia don’t enjoy public power supply, and the few that do pay exorbitant bills.”
“It’s not justifiable for an average household to pay as high as N20,000 as estimated bill per month,” she argued.
Another resident, who simply identified himself as Anecheronye, expressed frustration over the sad development, lamenting that life has been too burdensome to the affected households.
“The worst is that we keep warming our food all the time as there is no electricity to power the refrigerators. This is adding to our stress in this era of fuel subsidy removal. Life is getting expensive and uninspiring for a lot of folks here,” he agonised.
The story is the same in other affected streets and areas including Amuzukwu community where the locals were said to be preparing for a showdown with the EEDC last week before their transformer which had broken down for close to three weeks was repaired.
The transformer located adjacent Amuzukwu Secondary School, is said to be too old and carrying excess load.
Meanwhile, a staff of EEDC who pleaded not to be mentioned told our Correspondent that Umuahia “does not have enough transformers and the few ones available are overloaded,” hence the frequency of their collapse.
The staff cited an instance of one zone in the city that currently has about 50 transformers but requires up to 65 for efficient service delivery.
According to him a brand-new German-made 500KVA transformer costs about N9 million.
When contacted, EEDC Spokesman, Emeka Eze, admitted that some of the transformers were not in good shape but said that they were working assiduously to fix them.
He said that finance had been the major challenge of the power distribution firm but expressed optimism that things would get better in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, residents have appealed to Gov. Alex Otti to wade in and declare a state of emergency on the power sector particularly in Aba and Umuahia.
A concerned resident, Deacon Sunday Chimezie, a retired civil servant, pleaded with the Governor to as a matter of priority, acquire and distribute more transformers to Umuahia and Aba.
He said it was a big error for residents of the metropolis to grapple in darkness.
The Septuagenarian said that upgrading the functional transformers in both cities had become more imperative following the hike in fuel prices which has made petrol as alternate source of power unaffordable for many households.
He also appealed to National Assembly members to include transformers in their constituency projects.
He begged Otti to thoroughly investigate the power challenge in Umuahia and come up with a lasting solution.