Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (Abuja Disco) has decried the rampant cases of meter bypass by consumers under its network, saying that many customers have circumvented their meters to avoid paying their bills.
According to the company’s Regional Manager, FCT North, which comprises of the Life Camp, Gwarinpa, Katampe, Bwari and Kubwa districts of the city, Mrs. Hauwa Mohammed, these cadre of customers also defy the punitive measures meted to them by Disco.
Mohammed said during a recent sensitisation workshop held for electricity consumers under her region that the Disco had not been able to collect 100 per cent of payments due to it from its estimated consumers.
She explained that just about 83 per cent of bills issued to estimated consumers every month are realised because of their refusal to pay for the electricity they consumed.
“Our losses are about 52 per cent. We generate only 42 per cent of revenue. Because the losses are so high, we are having difficulty investing and maintaining all the infrastructures like transformers repairs,” Mohammed explained.
She added that while Abuja Disco targets to provide functional meters for all the consumers in its franchise area within two years, such instances of meter bypass have added to make its operations quite challenging.
“Meter by-pass is a major challenge to us. Even those that are metered now bypass it. We started penalising them but I think the penalties are not really working to deter them,” she stated.
According to her: “The company is working to see if there will be a legal backing for it so people found culpable can be prosecuted.
“Maybe that can help us in a way. We go to the residents and if we observe they have by-passed meters, we penalise them. It is part of what we are discussing in the forum today, we urge our customers not to by-pass our meters.”
Mohammed explained that while energy theft has remained high in the country, operators in the power sector would be unable to move the sector forward if people continue steal power.
“We cannot get to where we want because we can’t pay for energy delivered to us and we can’t invest more to expand the network,” added Mohammed.
Just as some of the customers at the meeting complained of unfair estimated billing, Mohammed explained that they were unaware of the new tariff which the government has approved, hence their complaints.
“Most of their complaints is because of the new tariff. Most of them that came to us now understand that the tariff has risen by 45 per cent which will affect the bill.
“For the estimated bills that we do, it is the amount of energy delivered to an area because each area or axis have meters that we read, so it has to be shared among the customers,” she stated.
She also said that: “Although people say they have been over billed but the company has not overbilled anyone because we have not been able to collect more than 83 per cent of the bills.
“When they come around, we address it; if they deserve an adjustment, then it will be done by taking a reading of their place.”