Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (Abuja Disco) has said that it plans to spend about $200 million to procure and install electricity meters in homes and offices of its customers, who still do not have meters.
The Managing Director of the Disco, Mr. Neil Croucher, disclosed this when he hosted officials of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), who paid him a courtesy visit at his office in Abuja.
Croucher said in a statement by the spokesperson of the Disco, Mr. Ahmed Shekarau that the sum was however expected to be spent over a five-year period when it would have completed its mass metering program.
The mass metering programme, he explained would commence this year, and it is expected to close out the existing metering gap in the Disco’s network.
Abuja Disco from a recent metering report of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has 635, 980 customers out of which it has metered only 421,812 of them leaving it with a balance of 214,168.
Croucher however told the NUEE officials who included its new president, Martins Uzoegwu and General Secretary, Joe Ajaero that ensuring that Nigeria’s power sector becomes productive requires wisdom, innovation, flexibility, as well as respect for stakeholders’ perspectives.
Meanwhile, the Disco has also alleged that some of its metered customers are now circumventing their meters to consume electricity supplied to them free of charge.
Its Regional Manager, FCT North, which comprises the Life Camp, Gwarinpa, Katampe, Bwari and Kubwa districts of the city, Mrs. Hauwa Mohammed, said these cadre of customers also defy the punitive measures meted to them by the Disco.
Mohammed said during a recent sensitisation workshop, which her region held for electricity consumers under it that the Disco has also not being 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 her estimated consumers every month are realised because of their often 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 hopes to provide functional meters for all the consumers in its franchise area within two years, such instances of meter by-pass 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.”