By Folasade Folarin
Shop owners at the Area 10 shopping complex, Abuja, popularly known as UTC, on Wednesday, protested against alleged embezzlement of funds by Chairman of the complex, Lanre Ajayi.
Chanting various songs, the protesters alleged that Ajayi embezzled about N10 million meant for payment of power supply, thereby causing disconnection by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) for more than a week.
There was heavy presence of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), which also have a post at the complex.
The police, which helped to enforce law and order, secured Ajayi in a cell at the police post to avoid being lynched by the angry crowd.
The shop owners, who mostly deal in printing of all kinds and also sell printing materials, said the disconnection had caused them to lose a lot of money since power was the mainstay of their business.
They said Ajayi was in charge of collecting the monthly payment and remitting same to AEDC, adding that they were surprised when they were disconnected because they never defaulted in paying their bills.
The protesters said their bills range from N5,000 to N20,000 monthly, depending on the level of electricity consumption.
Mr Peter Mmadu, a shop owner, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the traders had the impression that they did not owe AEDC and even if they did, it would be the current bill.
“Presently, there is a problem and AEDC had to come and disconnect us and in the process of enquiry, we found out that we owe about N10 million.
“We learnt that the chairman signed an agreement with AEDC that we would pay about N4 million within a week.
“If we look at the monthly contributions for electricity here, it runs to about N3 million, so, you begin to wonder how we will realise such money to pay within a week.
“We are law abiding people and we pay our bills when due; we do not play with this because it is the mainstay of our business.’’
Mr Ndubuisi Okoye, former Public Relations Officer/Secretary of the shop owners, said it was disheartening that they elected a chairman who in turn disappointed them.
He, however, said that the police was invited to help in solving the crisis so that the protesters would not take laws into their hands.
“We did not invite the police to arrest Lanre Ajayi; we brought him here so that we can follow due process.
“This is the police station for this complex and we do not want to take laws into our hands.
“Electricity supply to the complex, the main thing here, has been disconnected and we do not know what the chairman did with our money.
“He even made an agreement with AEDC to pay N4 million without consulting the stakeholders of the complex and that is really not good.’’
Another shop owner, Mr Titus Alabi, said an audit had to be carried out to ascertain if there was any issue of criminality in the matter.
Meanwhile, Ajayi could not make any comment as he was whisked away in a police vehicle with escorts to the Divisional Police Headquarters in Garki, Abuja. (NAN)