Sam Amadi, NERC Chairman
As electricity supply across the country drops by over 1,000 megawatts in recent weeks, consumers using the old manual meters are being slammed with exorbitant bills, while there are plans to embark on massive disconnection of prepaid customers in some parts of Lagos for failing to “continuously recharge their cards,” THISDAY has gathered.
Investigation has revealed that even though power supply has deteriorated in recent months, the drop in supply has not translated to a decrease in the bills paid by customers in Lagos State.
It was learnt that rather than translating to a reduction in the electricity charges, the worsening power supply situation has resulted in a hike in the electricity tariffs, especially for users of old meters.
THISDAY gathered that many Residential One (R1) customers using the old meters in Lagos are now charged as much as between N10,000 and N15, 000 monthly, even when supply has been epileptic.
In most cases, the meters are not read as the charges are all estimated, contrary to the guidelines of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
A source in one of the Distribution Companies told THISDAY that they would soon embark on massive disconnection of the prepaid customers for failing to recharge their cards in recent times as this was an indication that they might have tampered with the meters to use electricity without paying.
He stated that the fact that many customers were not recharging had fueled concern that they were stealing electricity.
“The prepaid customers are becoming smart. They do not recharge their cards and are still taking power but we will soon disconnect some of them because they must have done something on the meters,” he said.
The Ikeja Distribution Company actually decried the rising incidences of tampering with prepaid meters, and described the culprits as thieves that steal electricity, without paying for the services.
According to statistics by the company, over 6,000 prepaid meters were tampered with, out of about 90,000 prepaid meters that were installed by the company.
The company noted that despite the introduction of such modern technology of prepaid metering to ensure that electricity consumers pay only for what they consume, some unscrupulous customers still connive with local electricians to tamper with the meters.
However, some customers, who lamented the hike in charges, told THISDAY that they could not recharge because there had been no power supply for them to have exhausted their credit.
“How could I have exhausted the N15, 000 I loaded in March when we have no supply? This is pure extortion and if the plan of this government is to make money from electricity, it is too bad,” said one of the customers.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, recently acknowledged a significant drop in power supply, pointing out that there would be more power cuts in the days ahead due to ongoing maintenance of gas facilities across the country.
Nebo said the country lost 1,112 megawatts of electricity in two days due to the shutdown of the Chevron gas plant.