A Magistrate Court in Lokoja, Kogi State. acting on the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Connection and Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services 2007 Regulations 5 and 11 of the Section 94 of the electric power sector reform (EPSR) Act 2005, has sentenced a staff of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Company (AEDC), Mr James Olayemi, to six months imprisonment with an option of N50,000 fine for unlawful disconnection of electricity supply to a customer’s house in Lokoja, the state capital.
In a judgement delivered on Thursday by the Chief Magistrate, Tanko Muhammed, the Court sentenced the first defendant, James Olayemi, who is a Marketing officer of AEDC to six months imprisonment, and ordered for the reconnection of electricity supply to the compound of the complainant, Mr. Dennis Osawota, with immediate effect.
Dennis, a retired top Management staff of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), had earlier in the year, dragged Mr James and Lamidi Obadaki, AEDC’s Regional Manager, to the Court for unlawful disconnection of electricity supply to his house even after payment N370,000 for February bill and over the damages done to his property at the period of cutting electricity supply to his residence.
The duo had allegedly committed offences contrary to Regulations 5 and 11 of the Nigeria Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission Connection And Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services 2007, and punishable under Section 94 of the electric power sector reform (EPSR) Act 2005.
The prosecution counsel, O.C. King Esq, who was represented by Emeje Aruwa Esq, diclosed that the private prosecution was brought to the Magistrate by the complainant in 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.
He said, the AEDC officials, had 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 at No 1, NIWA Quarters, Lokoja, Kogi State.
The First Information Report (FIR) reads: “That you and others now at large on March 10, 2020 within the Magisterial District of this court, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit a 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.
According to the prosecution counsel, the AEDC officials conspired to carry out 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, citing Regulation 10(8) of the NERC’s Connection and Disconnection Procedures of Electricity Services, 2007.
C.P. Ocheja Esq., the Counsel to the defendants, however charged the court to determine whether the 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 the 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, Muhammed Tanko, 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. He was thereafter discharged and acquitted, adding that there was no way to link him with the criminal activities of the first defendant.
According to the Magistrate, the first defendant, James Olayemi, was sentenced for acting contrary to Sections 5 and 11 NERC’s regulations under Section 94 of electric power sector reform (EPSR) Act 2005.
The provision of Section 5, in the ruling of the magistrate says, “ the electricity consumers are given a maximum of 10 days for payment of electricity bill and 3months, before disconnection could be made after AEDC, must have formerly written to inform the customers of the impending disconnection.
“The complainant has not be 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,” the Magistrate ruled.