Evangelist Knocks PHCN’s “Lights” Out in Court

Evangelist

The case we are about to gist you actually happened. We are only paraphrasing it for easy understanding and consumption by our readers. To read the judgment proper, this is the suit no – CA/C/02/2009 EVANGELIST ALFRED AMBE BASSEY V. PHCN & MR. FRIDAY UDOH (SERVICE ENGINEER) PHCN STATION, ORON

Introduction

It is believed by many that it is normal for NEPA/ PHCN/ Distribution Companies (DisCos) to cut off power supply to houses without any explanation and or solution, while still charging for electricity supply. We will see from the case below that there is recourse in court when our rights have been infringed* in this manner.

The Gist of the Matter

Around the 10th of March, 1995, Evangelist Bassey (EB) (the Plaintiff*) was in his house when he discovered that out of all the houses on his street, only his didn’t have light. He could feel his heart drop as his mind started doing “mental gymnastics” trying to figure out the problem.

On getting to the generator/ meter area of his house, he discovered that his meter had burnt. Fearing that nothing will be done if he remains quiet, he quickly reported the incident to the office of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) formerly known as NEPA (the 1st Defendant*) in Oron, Akwa Ibom State.

However, even after he had reported to PHCN, nothing was done and Evangelist Bassey had to continue suffering without electricity but how long can one truly endure without electricity?

To his utter dismay, Evangelist Bassey received an absurd bill from PHCN at the end of the month for electricity that wasn’t supplied to his house. Of course he was confused as to why he was supposedly owing such an amount and quickly sought assistance from a Mr. Friday Udoh (the 2nd Defendant/ Respondent*) on the 2nd of December, 1995, who is a staff of PHCN.

After narrating his woes about the burnt meter and the scary bill, Mr. Friday told Evangelist Bassey not to worry about the bill but advised him to submit the burnt meter to PHCN and also pay money into his official account for the replacement of the burnt meter. Mr. Friday also advised him to go the PHCN office in Uyo to report to them again.

Evangelist Bassey listened attentively and did everything Mr. Friday advised to do and he left his burnt meter with Mr. Friday and PHCN.

Despite all these issues, PHCN was still sending bills to Evangelist Bassey in respect of the burnt meter and as at August, 1999, PHCN claimed Evangelist Bassey was owing the sum of N44,609.03 (Forty-Four Thousand, Six Hundred and Nine Naira, Three Kobo) which will amount to N859,851.20 (Eight Hundred and Fifty-Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty-One Naira, Twenty Kobo) after inflation adjustment calculating from 1999 to beginning of 2024.

What Evangelist Bassey asked of the Trial Court

Seeing as the issue had persisted for months without any solution from PHCN, Evangelist Bassey decided to sue PHCN and Mr. Friday to Court and the matter was brought before the Federal High Court (FHC), Uyo.

At the FHC (the trial court*), he asked the Court to grant him the following requests amongst other requests;

  1. An order directing both PHCN and Mr. Friday Udoh to restore light to the Evangelist Bassey’s residence at No. 26 Eyotong Street, Oron, Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.

What the Trial Court Granted

The trial court in its judgment, stated that PHCN should restore light to EB’s house but this was only to be done after EB and PHCN have reconciled their accounts and decided on the accurate amount that EB is owing PHCN.

Of course EB did not agree to this condition and appealed before the Court of Appeal.

What the Court of Appeal Held

The matter of reconciliation of accounts* was brought before the Court of Appeal and EB’s Counsel argued that this condition placed on PHCN and EB before light can be restored to EB’s house is wrong and EB’S Counsel requested/ prayed that the Court of Appeal cancels/ set aside this condition given by the Trial Court. This request was granted by the Court of Appeal.

Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’Ahs, one of the Justices of the Court of Appeal opined* as follows;

The order for the reconciliation of the Appellant’s (Evangelist Bassey) account with the Respondents (PHCN and Mr. Friday) was thereafter set aside and the Court of Appeal agreed with the cost which the trial court had granted in the sum of N25,000.00 (Twenty-five Thousand Naira) assessed to the Appellants which will amount to N178,686.99 (One Hundred and Seventy-Eight Thousand, Six Hundred and Eighty-Six Naira, Ninety-Nine Kobo) after being adjusted for inflation calculating from 2008 (the year the Trial Court gave its judgment) to beginning of 2024.

Conclusion

Evangelist Bassey’s had followed due process after discovering that his meter was burnt and despite all his efforts to resolve the issue, the PHCN had still not given him light but instead presented him with bills. Anyone would have been frustrated in his situation and instead of accepting to pay a bill such bill, he decided to sue PHCN (based on his Fundamental Human Rights) to court and claim restitution which he got in the sum of N25,000.000 (Twenty-five Thousand Naira) and PHCN was ordered to reconnect his light.

Considering one of the opinions of the Justices of the Court of Appeal, it is likely that a lot of people were tired of being unable to properly determine electricity usage.

Glossary

“Appellant” This is the person who brings an appeal before the Court of Appeal.

“Defendant” This a person, group, body or organization who has been sued in a civil suit by the Plaintiff.

“Infringe” This means the action of breaking the terms of a law, agreement, etc.

“Opined” This means an opinion a person holds and or states.

“Perpetual Injunction” This means permanently restraining a person to do or not to do any act.

“Plaintiff” This is the person, group, body or organization who brings a claim before the Court against the Defendant.

Reconciliation of Accounts” This is an accounting procedure that compares two sets of records to check that the figures are correct and in agreement.

“Respondent” This is a person, group, body or organization who responds to an appeal which has been brought before the Court by the Appellant.

“Trial Court/ Court of First Instance” This is the court where the case/ suit was first brought before.


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