On February 17 2017, it was reported by the tabloids that residents of Gowon Estate (the “Estate”) located in Idimu, Lagos State disrupted the operations at the Ikeja Electric Plc (“Ikeja Electric”), Akowonjo Business Unit over a three (3) week blackout allegedly occasioned by the indebtedness of a military quarters situated in the Estate.
The members of the Estate, in barricading the offices of the Akowonjo office of Ikeja Electric asserted that the Estate had been disconnected from the feeder by Ikeja Electric and thrown into darkness as a result of Ikeja Electric’s inability to collect outstanding electricity bills from the military quarters. It is unclear how this dispute was resolved between the parties.
Fast forward to June 2019, it was reported that Ikeja Electric had disconnected and cut off power supply to seven streets in the Estate in protest against the alleged manhandling of one of its officials by a customer. Additionally, it was reported that apart from disconnecting the affected streets from the 33KVA high-tension line, Ikeja Electric also shut down the transformer.
The actions of the Ikeja Electric in disconnecting the seven (7) streets within the Estate have created widespread outcry as to the rights of a distribution utility to unilaterally disconnect a community from the distribution network. The purpose of this article is to outline the provisions of Nigerian electricity laws vis-à-vis the actions of Ikeja Electric as well as proffer suggested solutions to the larger issues relating to the acts of violence meted out staff of power utility companies. It proceeds to consider the propriety or otherwise of the action of Ikeja Electric in disconnecting all those affected and its general implication on the Nigerian power sector
B. RIGHT OF A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY TO DISCONNECT A COMMUNITY FROM ITS DISTRIBUTION NETWORK
According to members of the Estate, Ikeja Electric officials had a problem with a particular building which was initially used as a hotel but later converted to residential premises. The reports indicate that the owner of the building in question was upset that Ikeja Electric was still billing the building as if it was still being used as a hotel as opposed to a residential unit. The owner is purported to have assaulted an official of Ikeja Electric and this was what prompted Ikeja Electric to disconnect the seven (7) streets within the Estate. This then raises the pertinent question as to the legal basis for a distribution utility to disconnect a community from its distribution network plunging the community into perpetual darkness.