THUMBS DOWN: Discos’ Failure to Pay for Power Sold to Them

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It emerged last week that only four of the 11 electricity Distribution companies (Discos) made part payments for electricity sold to them by the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) in January.

The latest market report on the monthly remittances by the Discos showed that Kaduna; Ikeja; Kano; Port Harcourt; Benin; Eko and Ibadan Discos did not remit a dime to the NBET in January.

Similarly, a report by the NBET in December showed that Ikeja; Kano and Kaduna also failed to remit any money to the NBET for the December cycle.

According to the latest report, only Abuja; Enugu; Jos and Yola paid parts of their monthly bills to the NBET in January. The report noted that Enugu Disco remitted about 29.24 per cent of its invoice; Abuja Disco did just 18.60 per cent; while Jos Discos paid a paltry 9.09 per cent. Yola Disco which is currently managed by the federal government paid 15.06 per cent of its invoice.

The report indicated that in January, an average of 2,445.06 megawatts hour (MWh) of electricity was received by the Discos every day representing 92.93 per cent of the total electricity that the generation companies (Gencos) produced daily.

It explained that this amounted to an invoice of N44.85 billion which was sent to the Discos, and out of which only N6.08 billion was received by the NBET from the January invoice. NEBT said this represented just 13.58 per cent of the invoice.

NBET explained that in fact, the Discos’ payments for the January invoice amounted to N2.70 billion, but that it got a N3.37 billion payment from them as late payment for December invoice, which brought the total payment it got from the Discos to N6.08 billion in January.

Following the huge debt owed the Gencos by the Discos, the power generating companies had last year threatened to bypass the Discos and supply power directly to certain class of customers.

Industry experts opined that the financial distress facing the power sector arose from the recalcitrant financial attitudes of the Discos, who fail to meet their payment obligations to the NBET for power supplied by the Gencos. The development, according to them, has also made it impossible for the Gencos to pay the gas suppliers. Besides, the Discos have refused to provide their consumers with meters, but chose to rip-off electricity users through estimated billings.

Last year, The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had directed maximum demand (MD) customers not provided with meters to stop paying estimated bills presented by Discos. NERC said that the directive was to make the companies to effectively execute metering deployment for MD customers.

Two of the Discos- Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) and Ikeja Electric were quick to issue a joint statement that residential consumers were not included in the directive issued by (NERC). The estimated billings have continued with a residential consumer in the these two areas paying as much as N15,000 monthly even when there was no power supplied. A recent attempt by some consumers under Ikeja Electric to resist the unfair estimated billings prompted the Disco to invite the police and some of the residents were arrested and detained.

The Discos have often blamed their woes to on non-reflective tariffs, vandalism, inability to access credit facilities from the banks and non-payment of bills by some customers.