BY EMEKA EJERE
The management of Theodawn Hotels & Suites, Ikeja , has petitioned the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) over what it described as the incrementally outrageous bills the hospitality outfit has been receiving from Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKDC).
A copy of the letter made available to Alabingo.com reveals that the 16-room bed and breakfast guest house received a bill of N430,666.24 for the month of December, 2019, after paying N366, 746.33, N338,998.44 and N316,117.66 in November, October and September of the same year respectively.
In a statement, the Managing Director of the hotel, Mr. Joseph Abohweyere, explained that his organization first paid the sum of N300, 000.00 out of N430, 666. 24 bill for the month of December 2019.
But unable to understand the justification for the humongous bills for an outfit that runs basic 16-room bed and breakfast lodging without a swimming pool or any recreational amenity, the hotel demanded, in writing, that the bill be investigated and reviewed.
Rather than address the matter judiciously, the statement further indicated, IKDC ordered the immediate disconnection of the hotel to the chagrin of its staff and management who said they have always been prompt in the payment of their electricity bills.
Mr. Abohweyere said had he not rushed and paid the balance of N130, 666. 24, the guest house would have been disconnected by IKDC disconnection team that was already on ground to carry out the order.
He recalled that in the protest letter of 10/12/2018, the hotel stressed its request for a prepaid meter but was told by an unnamed manager of IKDC that Theodawn Hotels is a “revenue source.”
According to Abohweyere, the said manager explained that the disco would lose a lot of revenue should it grant the request of prepaid meter and that the marketer in-charge of the area would not be able to meet the monthly targets.
In the protest letter dated January 6, 2020 addressed to the NERC chairman and signed by Mr. Kayode Akinwale, for the owners of the leased property located at No. 29 Oluwaleimu Street, off Amore Street, Ikeja, the hotel said it would not accept the sum of N430,666.24 as electricity bill for the month of December 2019 alone.
Alleging that the meter is either faulty and running at extraordinary speed or has been so programmed, the hotel called on NERC to facilitate the investigation and review of the bills so that excesses from overbilling for the past 6 months will be refunded and a three-phase pre-paid meter provided immediately.
“We, therefore, wish to request that you please use your good offices to demand that the bills be investigated and reviewed; the excesses from overbilling for the past 6 months be refunded and a three-phase pre-paid meter be provided immediately, so we know that we are paying for electricity consumed,” the latter to NERC partly reads
The Accountant-turn hospitality practitioner said his organization decided to seek the intervention of the regulatory body and the media after efforts to get IKDC correct the anomaly proved abortive.
“We wrote a letter on 10/12/2018 to IKEDC and another dated 6/1/2020, protesting these outrageous bills but we are yet to get a response. Instead we have continued to receive ever increasing bills monthly”, Mr. Abohweyere told Alabingo.com.
“We managed to pay the sum of N300, 000 out of the above amount and protested in writing. But rather than look into the matter appropriately, IKDC as a way to punish us for complaining, over what we do not understand, quickly issued a disconnection order against us.
“Had we not rushed to pay the balance of N130, 666. 24, they would have disconnected us.”
In the protest letter of 06/01/2020 addressed to the Managing Director, IKDC, also signed by Mr Kayode Akinwale, and made available to Alabingo.com, the hotel had highlighted that the disco had refused to respond to its protest letter of 10/12/2018 but has instead continued to dish out increasing bills monthly.
The letter reads in part: “We can no longer accept or continue to groan under your exorbitant and ever increasing monthly bills.
“Therefore we vehemently disagree and refuse to accept the sum of N430,412.57, as electricity bill for the month of December 2019 alone. We are neither a bakery nor a production factory.
“We sell lodgings and our Air conditioners or water heaters are only in use when the rooms are occupied. With constant daily power outage, having us run our generator more often than not, there is absolutely no reason for these ever increasing bills.
“Till date, your establishment has refused to respond to our letter of 10/12/2018 protesting these outrageous bills. Instead we have continued to receive ever increasing bills monthly.
“The bill for November N366,746.33; October N338,998.44 and September N316,117.66 just to mention a few. In an economy that is slowly recovering, and a market that suffers from very low patronage, this is outrageous, exploitative and totally unacceptable!
“We therefore ask that this bill be reviewed immediately so we can run our small guest house without overbilling from you amidst poor power supply.
“The way forward for us therefore would be to ask that you investigate and review the bills; refund the excesses from over billing for the past 6 months; provide a three-phase pre-paid metre immediately, so we know that we are paying for electricity consumed.”
When contacted for comments, spokesperson of IKDC, Mr. Felix Ofulue, asked that a copy of the protest letter to IKDC be forwarded to him so he could send same to the right place for appropriate action. That has been done. But whether or not it will change the narrative is yet unknown.
NERC, on its part, said it will take between 15 working days and two months for it to take an official position on the petition.
This is not the first time the management of Theodawn Hotels is publicly lamenting alleged outrageous power billing by IKDC.
In an exclusive interview with this news platform in August 2019, Mr. Abohweyere had maintained that there was no justification for making a hotel, which does not run machines to pay the same rate as manufacturers, who are the heavy consumers of electricity.
He noted that his hotel does not use more than appliances like air-conditioners and water heaters, which he said, are also found in most homes.
Mr. Abohweyere recalled that effort by his organization to get IKDC to review the tariff at a time proved abortive as the company insisted there was nothing it could do about it.
“We’ve been to Ikeja Distribution Company to have discussions with them and they told us there’s nothing they can do about it, that’s the tariff level”, Abohweyere had said.
“I said but we’re not a manufacturing enterprise. If I’m manufacturing things, and I’m running machines, it’s a different thing; they can put me at that level.
“But you cannot put me at that level when I don’t have machines running. What we have are air-conditioners and water heaters and the difference is not even much from what you see in many homes, because most people have ACs and water heaters in their homes.”
He said but for the love and passion for hospitality services, he would have closed the business and returned abroad just like many others that came back from Switzerland with him to invest in Nigeria.
“So it is the love for the service, the passion that is keeping us in the business. We keep trying to survive. You don’t have electricity; you’re burning diesel at a very expensive rate; you have to maintain your generator. It’s an uphill task.
“And I had people that came back with me and they’ve gone back. They could not continue. Several people that came to Nigeria to invest, they lost it all. And instead of continuing, they left. In a nutshell, business in Nigeria, if you’re not that big, is very…very tough.”