Vice principal, seven others arraigned for bypassing power

A vice principal of a secondary school in Benin, Mrs Caroline Akoriegie, and a civil society activist, Mr Joseph Ngbede, were among the eight people that have been arraigned at the Benin Federal High Court on Thursday for allegedly tampering with electric fittings, a crime that is punishable under Section 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M.17 Laws of Nigeria 2004.

The suspects were arrested at the instance of the Benin Electricity Distribution Plc  (BEDC), which had complained of energy through everything bypass and tampering, especially from some members of the civil society who use it as a cover up to avoid payment of electricity bills.

A second count of unlawful disconnection, removal, damage, tampering and interference with electric fittings, meters, or other appliances designed to be used for transforming or converting electricity property of the Benin Electricity Company (BEDC) was also preferred against them.

The charges were contained in charge number FHC/B/6C/2917 dated 16th January, 2016 and were preferred against them by police prosecutor, Ledee N-Ueh of the Edo State CIID.

Mr Joseph Ngbede was docked along with Airiofolo Daniel, Bankole Olalekan, Adeyemi Samuel and Simon Ewaoche, while Mrs Akoriegie was arraigned along with Broderick Okirierie and Igbinoba Osayande.

The trio of Okirierie, Osayande and Akoriegie were alleged to have committed the offence on or before September 2015 and November 2016 at Okhoro area of Benin, while the others committed the same offence on or about November 25, 2016, at 16, Airiofolo Aremie, Oko, area of Benin.

They all pleaded not guilty when the offences were read to them on Thursday and were granted bail in the sum of N1 million and one surety, who must be a civil servant of grade level 12 and above and must own property in the GRA area of Benin.

Trial judge, Hon. Justice J. I. Ajoku, who adjourned the case to March 21 and March 24 for the Ngbede and co and Akoriegie and co warned that the suspects must be brought to court and that she would withdraw their bail condition any day they are not present in court.

Meanwhile, Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO) has called on the federal government to revoke the operating licence of the BEDC Plc, saying the company was not prepared you provide electricity to the people.

The group also accused BEDC Plc of using the Miscellaneous Offences Act 2004 to send no fewer than 200 residents of the state to jail for allegedly tampering with their electrical installations.

The group in a peaceful protest in some parts of Benin on Tuesday accused BEDC of disobeying an order of a competent court of jurisdiction which had in a judgment declared as illegal their increase in electricity tariff.