Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Tuesday said that it is uncomfortable with the fact that about 2.9 million households in Nigeria, who are yet to be metered by the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos), are being unfairly billed.
NERC said the refusal of Discos to provide electricity meters to their customers was a criminal act, adding they were ripping off consumers and that it would not accept it.
The acting head of NERC, Dr. Anthony Akah, stated at a meeting with the 11 Discos in Abuja that the commission was uncomfortable with the development, as well as possible manipulation of data on total numbers of meters installed by the Discos across their network.
Akah stated that despite the commission’s introduction of an alternative meter funding scheme to enable the Discos close up the metering gap, they still failed to provide for consumer who have paid meters in their networks.
He noted that NERC was about to wind down the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI) initiative since most of the Discos have performed badly within it.
Akah said the commission would now go all out to protect electricity consumers in the country from the poor practices of the Discos in providing them with meters.
“In line with the policy trust of the Ministry of Power, we will work on progressive wind down of the CAPMI scheme. As NERC, we are going beyond our regulatory landscape because you have not embraced the scheme as it should.
“People are complaining of being unfairly billed, they are not questioning the tariff as much as the fact that there is no noticeable improvement in supply. We believe we have done what is closest to reflective tariff. We are being challenged, now there is no going back on our protection of the consumers, we are stepping up our enforcement,” said Akah.
He further said: “It is grossly unfair if I want estimated billing stopped and you don’t provide meters for me. We are working on a massive monitoring; we will ask for names of people who have paid but yet to be metered.”
Meanwhile, data contained in a NERC’s presentation to the operators on the level of metering in the sector showed that out of 6,159,775 consumers only 3,206,599 have been provided with meters, leaving a metering gap of 2,955,176.
A breakdown of the status Disco-by-Disco indicated that Abuja Disco with 635, 980 customers has metered only 421,812; Benin Disco with 762, 974 customers metered 520,702; Eko Disco metered 232, 908 customers that make up 407, 285 in its base; while Enugu Disco has 737,423 customers with 220,088 of them provided with meters.
Ibadan Disco which has the largest customer base of 1,247,187 has about 535,927 metered; Ikeja Disco has 667,931 customers but only 453,575 of them are metered; Jos Disco with a customer base of 329,858, has only 168,644 customers metered; Kaduna Disco has 351,359 customers with 219,201 provided with meters; and Kano Disco which covers the densely populated Kano State, Katsina State and Jigawa State has only 399,708 customers with 148,576 of them metered.
The Port Harcourt Disco has a customer base of 368,311 with 219,914 metered, while Yola with the least customer base of 256,759, has just 65,252 metered.
NERC also disclosed that in the CAPMI scheme, of the 403,255 meters procured since 2013, customers financed (through CAPMI) the installation of 251,531 meters which is about 100,000 higher than what the Discos have procured as at March 2016.