Two major youth groups in the Krobo area in the Eastern Region have made fresh demands to the Electricity Company of Ghana, 24 hours after the power distributor restored power to the Yilo and Lower Manya Krobo Municipalities after seven days of power cut over an impasse.
A joint statement issued Tuesday, December 14, 2021, by the groups -Kloma Hengme (KH) and Kloma Gbi (KG) stated that, while they partly welcome ECG’s proposal to ring-fence accumulated bills of customers in the area from 2014 to 2017, it also counterproposes to ECG that the disputed accumulated bills be ‘absorbed’ as bad debt or be ring-fenced up to July 2021 “to clean the slate for a fresh start”.
This, the groups believe would help to make headway on the impasse.
The groups explained that ” 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 estimations, 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”.
The two groups were also described as wrong timing for the introduction of prepaid meters 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 rollout of the meters and rather focus on first addressing all outstanding issues to create a soft-landing spot for the implementation of the project” the State said.
Kloma Hengme and Kloma Gbi groups also want the Police to investigate the killing and maiming of their compatriots in 2019 to protest against overbilling by ECG.
Meanwhile, the two groups have dissociated themselves from threats to ECG staff and proposition of free power supply by the United Krobo Foundation which it acknowledges as part of three groups that were fronting for the impasse with ECG to be resolved.
Below is the full statement issued by the groups.
IMPASSE BETWEEN THE ELECTRICITY COMPANY OF GHANA (ECG) AND THE AGGRIEVED CUSTOMERS IN ECG’S KROBO DISTRICT – JOINT POSITION STATEMENT OF KLOMA HENGME AND KLOMA GBI ON THE STAND-OFF AND FALL OUT
Tuesday 14th December, 2021, Odumase-Krobo: Kloma Hengme (KH) and Kloma Gbi (KG) hereby issue this joint statement to set the records straight on some issues emanating from the impasse between the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and its customers in the Yilo and Lower Manya Krobo municipalities.
The statement also states our stance 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 Kloma Gbi, Kloma Hengme, United Krobo Foundation (UKF) and all other advocacy groups or networks playing a role in the resolution of this impasse are autonomous. The Electricity Company of Ghana in its stakeholder engagements only engaged these groups jointly and under the umbrella of Youth Groups for purposes of convenience.
We wish to state the following:
POINT OF DIVERGENCE WITH THE UNITED KROBO FOUNDATION:
Kloma Hengme and Kloma Gbi completely disassociate ourselves from any threats issued on the lives of ECG staff by the UKF before, during and after the demonstration staged on 22nd November 2021.
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.
We are nonetheless encouraged by the visit of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Dr. George Akuffo Dampare, to Odumase-Krobo and Somanya and the assurances that the Ghana Police Service will provide the needed security to ECG’s staff as well as enforce law and order in the area.
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. Just like the two Konors and their Traditional Councils have already publicly stated, this demand by UKF does not exactly represent the views of residents in the two municipalities.
Besides, it has the potency of truncating ongoing diplomatic efforts to find a sustainable solution to the impasse. We are fully aware that ECG is the legally mandated body that distributes electricity in the Southern part of Ghana and regardless of existing challenges, we are of a firm belief that further engagements could help address the outstanding issues.
Having given the above disclaimers, we would like to redirect attention to the real issues underpinning the never-ending impasse, and some suggestions we have jointly tabled during recent stakeholder engagement with ECG, which we still stand by:
THE REAL ISSUES:
Before the recent demonstration staged by the United Krobo Foundation (UKF), the various advocacy and heritage groups in the two municipalities namely Kloma Gbi, Kloma Hengme and United Krobo Foundation took some collective decisions on the real issues aimed at bringing a solution to the recurrent impasse. These positions were arrived at after series of stakeholder meetings and engagements between these groups first in April 2018, and recently between June and October 2021.
That, ECG must closely work with the Ghana Police Service, and drive the crusade to institute a full-scale investigation into the incident that led to the shooting and gruesome killing of Thomas Partey, and the maiming of several others who, until the unfortunate incident, were bread winners of their families.
And as part of this exercise, steps must be taken to ensure that justice is duly served the numerous victims of the shooting incident as has been done in other parts of the country. This, if not done, could become a major setback in finding a lasting solution to the impasse.
It is rather unfortunate and unacceptable that since May 2019 that the shooting incident occurred, there has been no word from the police or government and its allied agencies despite the numerous petitions that were served them. We continue to stand by our joint calls for justice to be served in this matter and we humbly call on the new IGP to take this up.
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 welcomed 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 estimations, 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 continue to take and churn out into the public domain.
DELIBERATE ATTEMPTS TO MALIGN KG and KH:
We take a strong exception to ECG’s deliberate attempt to lump all youth groups in the two municipalities together and thereby create the impression that all of us are jointly inciting the public when indeed it was very clear from UKF’s press statement and its letter to the Energy Minister that the demonstration was single-handedly organised by the group.
This singular action by ECG has caused so much injury to our public image as responsible entities and reduced us in the estimation of right-thinking members of society. We therefore take serious exception to this action of ECG and call on its leadership to show circumspection in its public utterances and in the generation of literature the company continues to spill into the public sphere.
PUNISHING FAITHFUL CUSTOMERS FOR THE WRONGS OF A FEW:
During the many ECG stakeholders’ meeting we attended, officials of the company formally made us aware that about 25% of the company’s customers in the Krobo district are paying their bills faithfully and are not owing ECG.
It is therefore unfortunate for the company to lump all customers together and punish these faithful customers even when the Traditional authorities and Security Councils of the two Municipalities, Lower Manya Krobo and Yilo Krobo, have assured them of maximum security and safety.
This action of ECG has the tendency to discourage these faithful customers from continuing to pay their bills conscientiously. ECG should have thought through this before plunging the entire Krobo area into total darkness for one week. We strongly object to the ‘punishing’ of customers, especially faithful ECG customers in the area for the indiscretion of a few.
CONTINUOUS CLOSURE OF SOMANYA AND NEW ODUMASE-KROBO OFFICES:
The continuous closure of the Somanya office and revenue collection points in the two municipalities, as well as the delay in inaugurating the Odumase-Krobo office, will serve as a disincentive for the payment of bills as customers (including the faithful ones) now have to endure the drudgery of travelling all the way to Juapong in the North Tongu District just to pay their bills.
At such a time when the main goal of ECG is to get customers back to paying their bills, measures that will bring customer service closer to the doorstep of the people should rather be pursued. Punitive measures, like those that have currently been deployed by ECG, will rather prove counterproductive in the long run.
MISINFORMATION AND INCONSISTENCIES:
We take a strong exception to the deliberate misinformation / inconsistencies in ECG’s public pronouncements that residents are illegally interfering with the company’s network. In one instance, the company says two transformers were damaged because customers were engaging unqualified electricians to switch lines from one transformer or phase to another. Then in another, it says residents have deliberately burnt down three transformers and some installations in protest.
THE LOUD SILENCE OF PURC:
The silence of the Public Utility Regulation Commission (PURC) on the seven-day power outage in the two municipalities is rather unfortunate. 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 this impasse.
Notwithstanding the issues raised supra, Kloma Hengme and Kloma Gbi would like to take this opportunity to give thumbs up to ECG for heeding our calls and those of all other stakeholders to restore power to customers in the area. The leadership and members of Kloma Gbi and Kloma Hengme would like to assure ECG of our usual and continued cooperation and support as we all work together to bring finality to this impasse