Court jails electricity distribution staff for unlawful disconnection

A Magistrate’s Court sitting in Lokoja, Kogi State, has sentenced a staff of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Mr. James Olayemi, to six months imprisonment with an option of Fine N50, 000 for unlawful disconnection of electricity supply to a customer’s house in Lokoja.

The Chief Magistrate, Mr. Tanko Muhammed, also ordered the reconnection of electricity supply to the compound of Mr. Osawota with immediate effect.

The complainant, Mr. Osawota, who is a retired staff of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), dragged Olayemi, the marketing officer and the regional manager, Mr. Lamidi Obadaki, to court over the damages done to his property and unlawful disconnection of electricity supply to his house even after he had paid N370, 000 for February bill.

The duo had allegedly committed offences contrary to Regulations 5 and 11 of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission Connection And Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services 2007 and punishable under Section 94 of electric power sector reform (EPSR) Act 2005.

The Prosecution Counsel, Mr. O.C. King, who was represented by Mr. Emeje Aruwa, the private prosecution brought pursuant to sections 86, 87, 88, 107 (a), (e), 108(1) (c), 111, 112 and 113 of the Kogi State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2017, by Osanwuta.

According to the prosecution, the defendants, on March 10, 2020, along with others still at large, did “maliciously and unlawfully disconnected electricity supply to electricity metre with Account number 715718350 supplying electricity to the building being occupied by the complainant No 1, NIWA Quarters, Lokoja, Kogi State.

The first information report (FIR) read in part: “That you and others now at large on the 10th March, 2020 within the Magisterial District of this court, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony.

“To wit: Unlawful disconnection of electricity supply and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 97 of the Penal Code, Laws of Kogi State.

Aruwa also submitted that the duo did conspire to carry out a disconnection of electricity supply to the premises of the complainant in spite of the fact that he did not default in payment of his bills and described the act as unlawful.

He urged the court to take cognisance of Regulation 10(8) of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, Connection and Disconnection Procedures of Electricity Services, 2007.

However, the Counsel to the Defendants, Mr. C.P. Ocheja, urged the court to determine whether they prosecution had made out a prima facie case against the defendants to warrant the court compelling them to enter their defence.

Ocheja urged the court to strike out the case over presumed inability of the prosecution to establish a prima facie case against the defendants to link them with the alleged offences.

In his judgement , the chief magistrate absolved the Regional Manager AEDC, Mr. Lamidi Obadaki, who is the second defendant in this case of any complicity on two counts charges of criminal conspiracy and unlawful disconnection of supply was therefore discharged and acquitted , stressing that from evidence before him there was no link between him and the criminal activities of the first defendant.

Mohammed explained that the first defendant, James Olayemi, has been sentenced for running contrary to Sections 5 and 11Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission Connection And Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services 2007 and punishable under Section 94 of electric power sector reform (EPSR) Act 2005.

He said that the provision of Section 5 stated that the electricity consumers are given maximum of 10 days for payment of electricity bill and 3months before disconnection could made after AEDC must formerly written to inform the customers of the impending disconnection.

“In view of evidence before me, the complainant has not been given such opportunity; therefore the first defendant is guilty as charged. I hereby, sentence him to six months imprisonment and an option of fine of N50, 000,” Mohammed stressed.

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