Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Senators wednesday expressed worry over what they called the unjustified high electricity bills imposed on consumers by distribution companies, aided by the deliberate refusal to provide adequate meters to users.
The development followed a motion sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) who lamented that the inability to effectively meter consumers has left the customers at the mercy of Discos, through estimated billings.
He added that the privatisation process which saw the sale of power assets has been unable to ensure to the positive transformation of the sector.
â€œThe customer had expected upon take-over by the new owners, that metering would be one of the issues that will be urgently addressed to restore confidence in the industry, as this is the only way to determine actual consumption, instead the Discos came with astronomical monthly increase in the name of cost reflective tariff;â€
â€œObserves that a two or three bedroom apartment receives a monthly bill of N25,000 to N40,000 respectively, this will no doubt impact negatively on our fight against corruption as a man on N18,000 monthly minimum wage with electricity bill of N25, 000 monthly, will do anything possible to settle his electricity bills,â€ Melaye added.
The senator added that the regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), has done little or nothing to protect consumers from the DisCos.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Bukar Mustapha (Katsina North) said the major problem is the inefficiency in the system, which is yet to be addressed.
â€œNigeria has an installed capacity of 12,522 megawatts of power. We have non-availability of 5,300. We have non-operational capacity of 3,180; meaning that the amount that is actually available is just over 4,000 megawatts out of 12,500,â€ he said.
â€œWe have transmission loss of 228, we have distribution loss of 447 megawatts. At the end of the day, only 3,800megawatts reaches the consumer. And we have commercial loss of more than 36 per cent. So, what is actually being paid for out of the over 3,000 megawatts is only 1,800 megawatts,â€ Bukar added.
He noted that unless the inefficiencies within the value chain are addressed for efficient generation, distribution and billing system, the problems would continue to linger.
Bukar noted that the value chain is weakest with the DisCos who collect the electricity bills, as it is impossible to determine the exact amount of monies collected, since meters are not installed.
â€œOn Monday, we visited a meter testing facility, because each meter has to be tested. But there is no capacity to test the millions of meters in Nigeria. The discos are supposed to provide the meters, they do not have the money and technical capacity to provide these meters. So it means we have to revisit this as urgently as possible,â€ he added.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa East) noted that the power assets were privatised on the premised that the companies would charge cost reflective tariffs, and make the sector profitable.
â€œThose who privatised the sector did not imagine the naira will be devalued from N160 to N500. Those who invested in the business thought it was like a company where they will make a lot of money. I believe they only had enough money to pay the federal government and make the initial investment, they did not have the capacity to run a power sector company in a modern economy,â€ he said.
â€œThey also allude that the federal government will subsidise it. Now, they brought a bill of N1 trilion, they are not saying the federal government again. They say we owe them a trillion naira. This is a serious problem. The way the privatisation process took place, the difficulties we have. There is no solution in sight. They donâ€™t have the money to buy the meters. They are technically bankrupt,â€ Bruce added.
The Senator noted that unless the entire privatization process is revisited, estimated billings of consumers would continue.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe however noted that the relevant committee of the Senate is almost ready to present its report on the matter.
He suggested that the debate be suspended pending the submission and consideration of the recommendations of the reports.
Based on Abaribeâ€™s position, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who presided over plenary, ruled that the debate be suspended pending the submission of the committeeâ€™s report.