At daytime, all seems normal in the towns that make up both the Manya Krobo and Yilo Krobo districts of the Eastern Region of Ghana, but when night dawns, even the chirping sounds of birds tell the depth of the rot going on.
The darkness that has enveloped these communities since July 27, 2022, when the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) plunged them into total power blackout has led to foodstuffs going bad, school activities being disrupted and many businesses that depend on the night, suffering greatly.
Much more disturbing is the fact that not even the dead are spared the harshness of this prolonged power outage.
In an interview with JoyNews, a youth activist, Edmund Aboagye, explained that many families have been left in a fix as they have received calls from mortuary operators in the communities to come for the corpses of their relatives.
That is largely so because of the financial strain that the facilities are faced with as they depend on fuel-powered generators to survive.
“I have had about four or five persons who have their family relations of dead bodies at the mortuary call to inform me that the hospitals have called them to come and pick their dead bodies because they have started going bad at the mortuary,” Edmund said.
This is an assertion the Yilo Krobo Municipal Health Director, Irina Offei, corroborates, stating that it could get worse should power not be restored in a few days.
She added that many of the health facilities in the municipality are being forced to cough up amounts ranging from GH¢3,000 to GH¢5,000, just so that they are able to take care of emergency cases and others like keeping blood.
The pinch of the power cut is biting even deeper, but what brought them to this point?
Manya Krobo chiefs lead thousands against prepaid meters, military:
On Friday, July 2, 2022, thousands of residents of Somanya, Odumase-Krobo, Agormanya, Kpongunor, Kpong, and other Krobo communities in the Eastern hit the streets to protest the ongoing deployment of prepaid meters and military men to the area to ensure the installation process.
The soldiers, deployed since June 14, 2022, were there to assist the ECG with the installation of new prepaid meters following months of hostility between residents and the ECG over the payment of electricity bills.
In its justification, the ECG maintained that it is necessary to allow the company install some 3000 meters during the first phase of an exercise that will eventually replace 50,000 prepaid meters in the areas.
Led by some divisional chiefs of the area, the demonstrators, clad in red apparel, wielding placards, and chanting the Nadu songs, demanded an immediate halt in the ongoing exercise and the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from the community.
The 15km walk ended with the presentation of a signed petition by the Divisional Chief of Piengua, Nene Tetteh Zogli III; Nene Bediako Baah Mualla III, Divisional Chief of Dorm; Nene Olepeme Sakinor Nanor I, Chief of Suisi-Okwenya; and John Baah, secretary to the chiefs.
Demands stated in petition signed by the chiefs:
Delivering the petition to the demonstrators, Nene Olepeme Sakinor Nanor I called for the immediate withdrawal of the military men undertaking the installation of the meters, arguing that the presence of the soldiers was intimidating the public.
Accusing the ECG of using the installation of the meters as a ploy to run away from the financial malfeasance in the overbilling saga, the chiefs demanded the setting up of a committee of inquiry to investigate the financial saga in the overbilling and the immediate replacement of prepaid meters with the post-paid meters.
Further, the chiefs called for the cancellation of all accrued debts between 2014 and July 2022 and thereafter resume post-paid billing from the following month after showing evidence of correcting the anomalies in the billing system.
The Divisional Chief of Piengua, Nene Tetteh Zogli III, further threatened that the soldiers will be confronted with the Nadu (war chants) should they be sited anywhere in the community installing the prepaid meters.
He stressed the stance of his people in all of this: “We do not want it today and we do not want it tomorrow.”
He dismissed the position of the ECG that the prepaid metering system is a government policy.
2nd Deputy Speaker directs soldiers to standdown:
The Member of Parliament for Lower Manya Krobo, Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi, raised the concerns on the floor of parliament, seeking the Speaker’s intervention in the matter.
He argued that their presence in the communities was heightening tensions.
Presiding over proceedings on the day, the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Andrew Amoako Asiamah, directed the Minister of Defence to immediately withdraw the uniformed men. them.
This directive was however not adhered to as soldiers were still seen in the area.
ECG boss explains why the use of soldiers, not police:
Samuel Dubik Mahama, the Managing Director of the ECG, has on his part explained that there was a strategic motivation for going for soldiers instead of the police was a technical one.
He also explained, in a JoyNews interview, that the history of bad relationships between the ECG and residents of these communities made the decision a more reliable one for the company.
A little over two weeks since the power was cut, the residents continue to complain bitterly about the unbearable torture they are being faced with.
Will it end any time soon? Time, perhaps, will tell…