Unmetered electricity consumers cry out in Lagos.

More than three years after they took over operations of the power sector, the distribution companies (Discos), handling retail distribution and marketing of electricity in Nigeria, have not been able to effectively tackle the issue of metering, thereby leaving millions of their consumers at the mercy of estimated billings.

When the nation’s power sector was privatised, many Nigerians had hoped that things would get better, especially with regard to improving power supply and quality of services provided.

But, both the Ikeja Electric Distribution Company (DISCO) and Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) who lament the high cost of foreign exchange, insisted that they are trying their best to ensure every customers within their networks are metered.

Consumers had expected that upon the takeover by the new owners, metering would be one of the issues that will be urgently addressed to restore confidence in the billing system, as this is the only way to determine actual consumption of energy.

The Discos have a five-year agreement post-privatisation agreement with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), to meter their customers. But three years down the line, the Discos seem to be in no hurry to fulfil their part of this agreement, preferring to hound customers with jaw-dropping estimated bills.

For this and many more reasons, some consumers including individuals and corporates prefer to provide electricity for themselves.Dammy Okegbami, a shipping consultant in Apapa, told The Guardian he has never used the public power in the four years he has been running his office, but relied on his generating sets.

He explained: “when I got to this complex four years ago all the occupants of this complex run their various businesses with power generators. Of course Eko Electricity Distribution Company brought us estimated billing that was very outrageous and very difficult for us to pay, so we all decided not to pay them and we were cut off.

“I applied for a pre-paid meter long time ago, the answer I got was that meter was not available. I spend N13,500 monthly to fuel my generator, which does not include the money I spend on the maintenance of the generator. If I had been properly metered I may not be paying this much, but still cheaper than the estimated bill,” he said.

Tunde Ibrahim, a residence of Ilasamaja, a Lagos suburb, told The Guardian he is being frustrated by the high estimated billing he has been subjected to for over two years.

According to him, “I live in a room and parlour and I usually paid less than N2,000 a per month before the prepaid meter I was using with my landlord got spoilt about two years ago. Since the meter got spoilt, we have been placed on estimated billing, the amount they bring keep increasing every month.

“There was a time we complained and they promised to do something about it, although the subsequent bill they brought after the complain was moderate, but the bill that they brought after that one went up again, so we do not know what exactly is wrong with this people,” he lamented.

A consumer, Blessing Okafor, who lives in Itire, another Lagos suburb, said while she is billed between N3,900 and N4,900 monthly for her one room self-contained apartment, her next door neighbour, who is on prepaid metering spends N2,000 monthly, even with more electrical appliances.

Okafor said although she has applied for a prepaid meter since 2013, she is yet to have one installed, as Ikeja Electric insists the meters are not available.

More frustrating, she said, is the fact that switches off all her appliances, when she went to work daily, but and her neighbour’s wife, who is mostly at home with her children and use more power end up paying less, while she paid more.

Another consumer, Mrs Tayo Odutola, complained that she went from paying N2,000 to N7,000/month after her prepaid meter got spoilt in 2014, and she was placed on estimated billing.

She said she has complained to Eko Disco about her ordeal and she was told to disregard what is on the bill and pay at least N3,000 monthly, to avoid being disconnected.

Speaking on the company’s efforts to meter every customer in its network, the Chief Executive Officer Oladele Amoda, said the devaluation of the Naira compared to the dollar has partly contributed to inadequate meters within the Eko Disco’s network.

But he said the Disco had signed an agreement with Mojek International, an indigenous smart meter manufacturing company, for the supply of over 100,000 meters in December.“We also signed another agreement with Huawei Technologies Company Limited, an international company based in this country, to supply the remaining 100,000 pre-paid meters.

“We have started metering consumers under our network with these meters. It is our responsibility to meter all consumers and we are looking at being able to deploy the 200,000 meters before the year runs out. The motive is to eliminate estimation of consumers billing by 2017,” he said.

Amoda said the company had been on a metering programme since 2015, and would have metered all its customers, but for some challenges confronting successful implementation of the scheme.

He listed inflation and increase in foreign exchange rate as challenges the company had to contend with.Also speaking with The Guardian yesterday, spokesman for Ikeja Electric Plc, Felix Ofulue, believed that the scarcity of dollars has increased the price of installing meters in the country.
He claimed the Disco had metered 90 per cent of its customers in the zone, to make the electricity billing based only on energy consumed.

He said the company is doing its best to ensure all its customers are metered, adding that “Recently, the estimated billings of consumers are coming down because more consumers are now under the company’s database.”

Ofulue however noted that: “The reason why it seems many costumers are yet to be metered is because there are a lot of developing areas under our network, which are yet to be reached; it is a gradual thing. We are not going to reach everybody the same day, but will definitely do our best.”

FG to sanction electricity companies that fail to provide meters to customers

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, says it will sanction DISCOs which failed to meter electricity customers in their networks before Feb. 28, 2017.

NERC in a statement on its website and obtained by News Agency Of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja on Wednesday said that sanctioning of the defaulting DISCOs would begin on March 1.

It stated that the envisaged sanction was sequel to the initial directives by NERC and the moratorium period given to DISCOs to meter consumers.

The company said this was in line with its mandate of protecting the rights of customers. It said it had in June 2016 after consultation with the operators, directed DISCOs to conclude metering of all customers before Nov. 30, 2016.

According to NERC, the commission at the expiration of that notice granted three months moratorium which will expire February 28, 2017 to enable the DISCOs effectively execute the metering deployment plan for customers.

It stated that any electricity customer yet to be metered as at February 28, 2017 should report to the commission through any of its Forum Offices in all the states of the federation.

NERC urged customers that had advanced money to the DISCOs through the now wound down Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiatives, CAPMI, to make use of the complaint redress mechanism.

“The Commission is by this notice advising electricity customers not to take laws into their hands by attacking staff of electricity distribution companies.

“They may wish to be guided not to resort to legal proceedings as the first option in seeking redress, but to explore the commission’s redress mechanism to save litigation cost and time.”

Governor El-Rufai to distribute 20,000 free prepaid electricity meters.

Gov. Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State would flag-off the distribution of 20,000 electricity prepaid metres for customers in the state.

This is contained in a statement issued by the company’s Head, Corporate Communication, Mr Abdulazeez Abdullahi, and made available on Monday in Kaduna.

Abdullahi said the metres are part of the 50,000 the Kaduna Electric metres earmarked for distribution in its franchise states of Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi.

“After the successful flag-off of the mass deployment of 50,000 prepaid smart metres in its franchise states at a ceremony in Sokoto in October, Kaduna Electric is set to launch the deployment of the metres in Kaduna state.

“The Kaduna Launch, which is expected to be flagged off by State Governor, Malam Nasiru El-Rufa’I, is scheduled for Wednesday.’’

“The company is expecting the delivery of more metres before year end which shall also be deployed to its teeming customers in Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi, its franchise states,’’ the spokesman said.

He urged customers to embrace the installation of the metres in their homes as it is a better way of accurately reading the amount of energy consumed by them.

According to him, customers will be sure to pay for what they consume.

It will be recalled that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, flagged off the mass metre deployment in October in Sokoto.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the company, Mr Garba Haruna, has assured of the company’s commitment to metering its customers through a five-year metering plan.

Kaduna Electric begins distribution of 50,000 pre-paid meters

The Kaduna Electric on Monday commenced the distribution of prepaid meters to its customers in Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Zamfara State.

The free meters were part of efforts by the company to ensure optimal service delivery.

The Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, and Governor. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State flagged off the distribution in Sokoto.

In his remarks, Fashola said that the new billing system would curb losses to the power firms, due to inability to collect due rates.

The minister also said the metering system would eradicate the problem of paying for unmeasured electricity by customers.

Fashola said: “They will therefore ensure fair billing system as well as enhance regular power supply.”

In his remarks, Tambuwal said the pre-paid meters would curb the menace of the controversial estimated billing of customers.

The governor added that the system would reduce the cost of using power by residents.

Tambuwal said: “The system will empower the customers to control their usage of power,” he said, adding that it would enhance efficiency in power supply.

“We have also purchased 172 transformers at over N600 million to boost power supply across the state.

“The state government’s Independent Power Project will also soon come on stream, in partnership with KAEDCO.”

According to Tambuwal, the government has undertaken various measures to augment power supply to the state.

He disclosed that the government had collaborated with the Nigeria Energy Support Programme to tap the abundant renewable energy sources in the state.

The governor said the focus would be on wind and solar energy, as well as electricity generation from Goronyo dam.

Earlier, the company’s Chairman, Alhaji Yusuf Abubakar, commended the minister for the “optimal” reforms going on in the power sector.

Abubakar also hailed Tambuwal for his “uncommon commitment” to the issue of power in the country.

One thousand motorcycles purchased for the firm’s sales representatives and metering officials in the four states were also inaugurated at the event.