It appears the impasse between the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and aggrieved customers and by extension residents in Yilo and Lower Manya Krobo municipalities of the Eastern region is far from over.
This follows a fresh attack on the Public Utility Regulation Commission (PURC) by two pressure groups- KlomaHengme (KH) and KlomaGbi (KG) in a joint statement issued on Tuesday to set the records straight on some issues emanating from the impasse between the ECG and its customers in the Yilo and Lower Manya Krobo municipalities.
According to the two pressure groups, the loud silence of the Public Utility Regulation Commission (PURC) on the seven-day power outages in the two municipalities is unfortunate and leaves much to be desired.
They explained that PURC’s posture and loud silence seem to suggest that it has sanctioned the punitive actions taken by the Electricity Company of Ghana and cares less about what happens to consumers in the enclave.
“One would have thought that as the regulator of the sector, PURC will remain neutral at all times or be perceived as such and continue to play its mediation role to help bring finality to the impasse”, the statement stressed.
“Notwithstanding the issues raised, KlomaHengme and Kloma Gbi would like to take this opportunity to give thumbs up to ECG for heeding the calls and those of all other stakeholders to restore power to customers in the area.
“The leadership and members of KlomaGbi and KlomaHengme would like to assure ECG of their usual and continued cooperation and support as we all work together to bring finality to this impasse”, the joint statement said.
The statement also indicated the stance of the two groups on the recent demonstration staged by the United Krobo Foundation (UKF) that led to the relocation of ECG’s district office from Somanya to Juapong and the subsequent power outage in the two municipalities for seven days.
“It is worth noting that KlomaGbi, KlomaHengme, United Krobo Foundation (UKF) and all other advocacy groups or networks playing a role in the resolution of this impasse are autonomous”.
The statement continued that Electricity Company of Ghana in its stakeholder engagements only engaged these groups jointly and under the umbrella of Youth Groups for purposes of convenience.
The two groups completely disassociated themselves from any threats issued on the lives of ECG staff by the UKF before, during and after the demonstration staged on 22nd November 2021.
The following are excerpts of the statement issued by the two groups;
Apart from the fact that this action was avoidable, we are also of the view that it has the potential of needlessly shifting public and national attention from the real (outstanding) issues underlying the impasse”, the statement added.
“We disagree with the unilateral declaration made by the UKF that ECG’s customers in the Yilo and Lower Manya Krobo Municipalities would no longer work with the company and the issuance of a 21-day ultimatum to ECG to pack out from the area.”
Standing by the earlier position of the traditional leaders in the area, the statement hinted that “just like the two Konors and their Traditional Councils have already publicly stated that the demand by UKF does not exactly represent the views of residents in the two municipalities”.
THE REAL ISSUES
Before the recent demonstration staged by the UKF, the various advocacy and heritage groups in the two municipalities took some collective decisions on the real issues aimed at solving the recurrent impasse.
These positions were arrived at after a series of stakeholder meetings and engagements between these groups first in April 2018 and recently between June and October 2021.
“As part of recent stakeholder engagements between ECG and stakeholders in the two municipalities, many have expressed concerns about the wrong timing of the introduction of prepaid meters – and the apprehension that the meters will be used to recoup the outstanding disputed ‘debt’.
“We made the point that whilst we welcome the policy to roll out the prepaid metering system in the Krobo enclave, we hold the view, based on the concerns raised by many of our members and a cross-section of the citizenry, that introducing it at this material time when issues and perceptions of wrong bills are still rife will affect the acceptability of this new technology.
“We suggested that considering the peculiar nature of the impasse, people were most likely to read various meanings into the exercise, including some perceiving it as a form of ‘punishment’.
“We proposed that ECG temporarily suspend the roll out of the meters and rather focus on first addressing all outstanding issues to create a soft-landing spot for the implementation of the project.
“While we partly welcome ECG’s proposal to ring-fence bills from 2014 to 2017, we also proposed the following two options: (i) that the disputed accumulated bills be ‘absorbed’ as bad debt or (ii) that the disputed accumulated bills up to July 2021 be ‘ring-fenced- to clean the slate for a fresh start.
“We were of the conviction that this arrangement could soften the grounds and get customers back to paying ways.The facts remain that between 2018 and today, (during which ECG either failed to serve bills or had difficulty doing so), many tenants changed homes and the difficulty landlords will face in getting these tenants who have moved out to pay such old bills could derail efforts geared toward finding a solution to the challenge at hand.
In our estimation, these proposals are practical ones that will get people back to paying their bills and solving the problem once and for all. This is more like saying we can and have to make some sacrifices now, to safeguard the future!
Having distanced ourselves from threats issued, and the unreasonable demands made by UKF and re-directed attention to the real (outstanding) issues, it is important at this juncture to also mention that there are some issues we take a strong exception to including certain decisions, utterances, and reportage ECG continues to take and churn out into the public domain.